AMS Fall in Review

The Journal reviews Society’s September platform progress

The Journal reviewed the Society's progress since releasing its September platform.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo, Graphics by Amelia Rankine

As the fall semester draws to a close, The Journal sat down with the AMS executive team to review the status of the goals outlined in their September platform.

President Auston Pierce, Vice-President (Operations) Jessica Dahanayake, and Vice President (University Affairs) William Greene touched on sustainability, transparency, the Society’s finances, student support and engagement.

Graphic by Amelia Rankine

Sustainability

The executive reported their initiative to make all packaging at the Common Ground Coffehouse and The Brew fully compostable in the 2019-20 academic year is still in progress.

The executive is also in the process of phasing out recyclable and landfill food packaging by introducing compostable alternatives at TAPS. Dahanayake said their main concern with the initiative was maintaining TAPS’s financial feasibility, and that the initiative will go forward when more financial information becomes clear to them.

The AMS executive is also in the process of improving short and long-term waste management and waste reduction strategies through information gathered from an internal waste audit of AMS services.

Greene explained the executive had partnered with the Queen’s Sustainability Office and worked with biology classes to conduct the audit. The AMS hasn’t seen the results of the audit, but Greene expressed optimism over how the results may be used to improve how future teams handle waste management.

This September, the AMS also divested from fossil fuels as part of their initiative to work with the University administration and political leaders to work towards a cleaner future.

“We’re the first student union in Ontario to divest from fossil fuels,” Pierce said.

Besides divesting, the executive has also implemented a sustainability loyalty card at P&CC. Every card receives a punch when owners make the store more sustainable through actions like returning products to be reused or returning ink cartridges. When the card is full, it can be traded in for a free custom trashbook (recycled notebook).

There are also sustainability certifications listed on customer service guides at the P&CC which indicate levels of sustainability that allow patrons to choose how environmentally conscious they are while engaging with those services.

The executive’s initiative to implement a sustainable events certification for clubs and conferences who strive to reduce their environmental impact is also still in progress.

“We’re not trying to rush this one because if we’re going to do it, we want to do it right, and in a way that students are actually going to use it and it’s going to make an impact on their events,” Greene said.

Graphic by Amelia Rankine

Transparency

Inspired by a symposium held by last year’s AMS executive, one of Team AJW’s first promises was to hold one student advocacy symposium per semester. “We’re not experts on anything,” Pierce said. “So we see this as a way to get involved.”

However, according to Pierce and Dahanayake, the symposium was stalled with the loss of Brendan Robson as AMS Director of Communications.

“The [symposium] for next semester is planned and budgeted for,” Pierce told The Journal. “And the incoming executive will be there.”

Also completed this semester, was a full update of the AMS Constitution, something Pierce called a “massive undertaking.”

“Policy Manual 2 is going to AMS Assembly [on Thursday],” Pierce said. “And the whole policy will be updated next semester.”

In anticipation of upcoming elections next semester, the Society is in the process of updating its elections policy. According to Dahanayake, the harassment, discrimination and information management policies have been updated.

Another notable platform promise was the redevelopment of the AMS website. According to AJW’s platform, the redesign of the website is intended “to make information more accessible and navigable.”

The website has been completely redesigned, but is yet to go online. “We are hoping to make a big announcement in January,” Pierce said.

In tandem with the launch of the new website, Team AJW plans to publish all AMS Board of Directors agendas to the AMS website, another campaign promise.

Support

Another platform point Team AJW has been working on is the implementation of a medical amnesty provision within the Student Code of Conduct.

Despite meetings with Campus Security and a partnership with Queen’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the project has been stalled due to Lucas Borchenko being away from his job as Secretary of Internal Affairs on medical leave.

The platform item intended to establish a partnership between the Queen’s Student Constables and the Social Issues Commission “to increase knowledge and awareness of the signs of sexual violence” is being removed from AJW’s platform and agenda.

“This was a piece that was lost in translation,” Greene told The Journal.

One platform promise the Society achieved this semester was a partnership between the AMS services and Students for Students (SFS), which raised $3,000 in donations.

AJW’s platform also promised they would advocate to the province for the reduction of financial barriers to accessing post-secondary education. To do this, the executive team has been working with the Ontario University Student Alliance, which included a trip to Toronto at Queen’s Park last week.

One platform promise made by Team AJW was the reduction of appropriate student fees. According to Pierce, the Society is examining fees ahead of the January referendum.

“We’re analyzing services which have student fees, and looking at which places can be cut if there are surpluses that aren’t needed,” Dahanayake said. However, they pointed out that student fees are in limbo due to the recent Divisional Court ruling striking down the Student Choice Initiative.

AJW’s platform also promised to work with other Ontario student unions, particularly focusing on the categorization of fees under the SCI.

“We’ve been having a lot of conversations with our peers, especially other presidents,” Pierce said. “We were going to share all the data this week, but with the court ruling, it’s been put on hold.”

Team AJW also promised to advocate for the release of the full data set collected in the 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey.

“We’ve already been reaching out to provincial government cabinet ministers to articulate [that] we need this data in order to advocate for action banning sexual violence,” Greene said. “This is a non-partisan issue, and we hope it is recognized as such. We need this released before the data is stale.”

The platform promise to raise money for the AMS membership bursary has been completed in partnership with the University. Funds were raised, and the AMS donated $13,000.

The introduction of weekly executive office hours, which are held every Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. has been a success, the executive report.

Student engagement

As student elections quickly approaches, Team AJW said they’ve been promoting and reaching out to students through ads for the executive and rector elections.

“Our hope is that we’re going to have a lot of people running because the strength of everything that we do here is through the students,” Pierce added.

The AMS also officially reintroduced the Queen’s Day tradition, and plans to establish an official Frost Week in January.

Finances

According to the executive, TAPS has also increased in revenue with a more financially efficient policy directing staffing shifts and service procedure.

“TAPS has so far a 4.1 per cent increase in the Gross Margin, as a result of their controls on Cost of Sales, for the May-October term,” Dahanayake wrote in a statement to The Journal.

“With a 66 per cent Gross Margin, it is the highest margin for this timeframe that we have recorded, with our records going back till 2013. We are exceeding our budget of 65 per cent, which is great since we are budgeting for a 65 per cent margin for the end of our term.”

Corrections

This article has been corrected to reflect the attribution of Greene's quote on the Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey.

The Journal regrets the error.

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