In internal emails, administration called Student Choice Initiative a “significant risk” to Queen's

Emails obtained by The Journal detail University administration’s response to policy’s rollout, AMS fees 

Tom Harris, interim provost and vice-principal (Academic) addressing AMS Assembly.
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Members of the University’s senior administration expressed marked concerns about the Student Choice Initiative and its potential impact on Queen’s, according to dozens of emails obtained by The Journal through a freedom of information request.

In an internal draft presentation prepared on Jan. 23—five days after the province announced the Student Choice Initiative (SCI)—Tom Harris, interim provost and vice-principal (Academic), wrote the policy poses a “significant risk for Queen’s.”

“Results in Australia and New Zealand where fees are opt-in and not opt-out have shown a dramatic decrease in student clubs,” Harris wrote. “An important component of the student experience is defined through their experience through clubs, conferences.”

The SCI will make most post-secondary student fees non-essential and give students the choice to opt out of them. A narrow slate of fees the province deems “essential” would remain mandatory.

Several fees at Queen’s, which previously had mandatory status, and which were established through democratic referenda and support an array of student-led services, will be categorized as non-essential going forward.

In the week following the policy’s announcement, student groups had already begun to request assistance from the University, emails show. 

“I don’t know the volume yet, but we have already been fielding some calls about student fundraising for student clubs as well as student aid,” Karen Bertrand, vice-principal (Advancement), wrote in an email to Harris on Jan. 23.

Administration pushed back on AMS proposals, citing ministry guidelines

On May 10, the Board of Trustees approved the AMS’ and SGPS’ updated slate of fees for the 2019-20 academic year, accounting for the Student Choice Initiative guidelines. 

In the lead-up to the AMS’ fee slate being finalized, negotiations with the University about how to protect as many fees as possible were rocky at times.

According to emails from the Provost’s Office, the University pushed back on some AMS proposals to preserve certain fees, causing negotiations with the University to stall in late April.

The University was concerned a mandatory fee proposed by both the SGPS and the AMS called “Risk and Safety Management”—aimed at mitigating financial risk to both societies following the policy change—wouldn’t meet the Ministry’s guidelines for a mandatory fee. 

Following the Board’s May 10 approval of the AMS and SGPS fee slates, the AMS voiced concerns in writing to the University over its handling of the process to finalize the Society’s fees, The Journal has learned.

In the Board’s motion on society fees, it will require both the AMS and SGPS will be required to turn over financial documents so the University can ensure their compliance to the SCI. 

According to the motion, the AMS “shall provide full access to all financial records and other information” to the University to determine whether the Society is meeting Ministry guidelines.

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