AMS Annual General Meeting grapples with low student engagement

Li said student engagement has hit an “all-time low”

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At the AMS’ Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Monday in Wallace Hall, one topic dominated discussion. According to President Jennifer Li, student engagement within the AMS has hit an “all-time low.”

Each year, the AMS hosts an AGM where any student is able to attend, participate in discussion and vote on matters affecting the society. At a typical assembly, voting rights are reserved for elected AMS Assembly members. For one night a year at the AGM, this right extends to all students.

While the meeting acts an opportunity for students to increase their engagement with the AMS, the March 5 AGM saw no motions or questions brought forward by students. On top of this, there was minimal discussion. The meeting — which lasted just over 30 minutes — was also live-streamed on Facebook.

The state of the AMS

The meeting began with a speech regarding the current state of the AMS delivered by President Li.

“It’s no secret that engagement with the AMS hit an all-time low this year with the Executive elections,” Li said. “This was an unprecedented situation in the long history of the AMS and a few lessons have been learned.”

According to Li, amongst these lessons was the realization that the elections process can be confusing and pose a barrier to students getting involved. In response to this, she said the AMS has “reduced requirements of candidates and streamlined our internal elections team structure to make it easier for students to get the information they need.”

Li went on to discuss the AMS executive appointment process that occurred in February. According to Li, the fact that more teams came forward for appointment than during the campaign shows students may not be willing to submit themselves to the campaign process, which can be intimidating and intensive.

“In the past few years, campaigns have become more vicious and personal privacy has been increasingly violated in large part due to social media,” Li noted. “There seems to be an expectation that those who seek positions of power must also sacrifice their privacy and personal dignity.”

Li then spoke about the society’s failure to secure a student fee for the redevelopment of the JDUC.

“What was missing to make the [JDUC] project a definitive success was the engagement from students at large who were unwilling to ask questions and make an informed decision,” Li said, referring to a low voter turnout in the special referendum.

Li ended her speech on a note of cautious optimism. She said she trusts students will continue to foster a positive Queen’s spirit, but warned “if we stop showing up, we will lose our seat at the table [with the University].”

Non-Academic Misconduct (NAM) report

AMS Judicial Affairs Manager Seema Sidhu delivered a report on the state of the NAM system — the 120-year-old judicial process that identifies and addresses cases of misconduct among Queen’s students. While students have always been the drivers of the system that was built on the principle of peer-to-peer justice, the University has become increasingly involved in handling NAM cases since updates to the system occurred in 2016.

This year, the AMS Judicial Affairs Office has handled 13 cases in the NAM system. By this point last year, the office had seen 53.

“The reduction in case load is due to a smaller number of cases being diverted from the Queen’s NAM intake office into the AMS,” Sidhu said. She added this year also saw a decrease in the number of complaints being filed in the first place. According to Sidhu, this shows that students are likely less inclined to report incidences to NAM.

In an effort to adapt the system to current student needs, Sidhu conducted a comprehensive review of the sanctions currently being used by NAM. Following this, she and her colleagues decided to remove mandatory minimum sanctions to ensure that each student’s individual circumstances are considered when going through the NAM system.

Sidhu ended her speech by urging students to remain engaged with the NAM system.

“Student wellbeing has always been the motivation behind our system, and student involvement in the system has always been the driver of that motivation,” Sidhu said. “Students must care. They must show that they care and they must engage with the system.”

 

 

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