AMS Symposium sees low turnout

Few students gather to provide feedback to AMS

Student discussion will inform future AMS policy development.
Credit: 
Supplied by AMS Communications

The inaugural Student Advocacy Symposium saw a low attendance rate despite mandatory registration in advance.

On Sunday, the AMS hosted its first-ever symposium in which students were invited to the all-day event to discuss and provide feedback on topics they felt warranted the Society’s attention.

The event aimed to facilitate a dialogue between students and student government in hopes of encouraging engagement and informing the strategic planning goals of the incoming AMS executive.

Although the event saw a handful of walk-ins, the number of students at the event didn’t match the amount who registered to attend.

Facilitator of the events and Marketing Research Manager in the AMS, Chauntae De Gannes, ArtSci ’20, said the numbers further decreased moving into the afternoon session.

According to De Gannes, registration numbers were in the mid-40s, but little over 10 students were present by the afternoon.

De Gannes speculated attendance was affected by inclement weather and daylight savings.

“In terms of attendance, I strongly believe in the ripple effect,” De Gannes said. “I think what really matters is that this is a starting point.”

AMS Communications Director Rachael Heleniak attributed the low numbers to midterm season and insufficient advertisement but was optimistic about the number of students who were present.

“Even the students that are here giving ideas [are] better than nothing. Any kind of feedback, any kind of student advocacy is better than none,” she said.

The event commenced with guest speaker Nadia Guerrera, ArtSci ’01 and Ontario liberal candidate for Parkdale-High Park. Guerrera spoke about the power of student advocacy and her experience with advocacy and the AMS as a former Queen’s student.

Students were then divided into smaller groups.

Recurring themes in the discussion were equity and equitable space, transparency within the AMS, improvement of the Society’s services, and feedback mechanisms—specifically how students should be able to give feedback and how the AMS should take it.

Concerns about the Student Choice Initiative did arise in the discussion. However, AMS President Miguel Martinez said the topic didn’t frame much of the day’s conversations.

“The Student Choice Initiative isn’t something we’re necessarily looking for students to consider,” Martinez said. “Right now, we really want to hear them and their ideas. We’re not asking them to focus on the budget.”

De Gannes wants to make information from the report public, but has no timeline on the release of that information as of yet.

Notes from each student discussion table will be compiled into a report which De Gannes hopes to incorporate into the goal plan for next year’s executive team. Ultimately, she hopes the discussions will inform future AMS policy.

“I think it’s so valuable letting people set their own agenda,” De Gannes said.

 Martinez sees the symposium model as a way to direct the AMS towards topics of student concern.

“If we can get a high volume of students to come and participate, it will start forming the strategic framework that the AMS takes on,” he said. “Obviously, today we didn’t get the attendance that we wanted. Unfortunately, I just don’t think we started advertising the event early enough.”

Incoming AMS President Auston Pierce said he plans to use the symposium model again multiple times next year.

“I think that the AMS can do a better job of doing events like this,” he said. “Not only for us to talk and engage with students, but to listen.”

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