Deane talks Student Choice Initiative, Wellness Services at Special Assembly

Deane acknowledges potential danger of the SCI

Patrick Deane visited AMS Assembly on Nov. 25.
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When Principal Patrick Deane appeared at AMS Special Assembly on Monday, the first question he was asked was about the Student Choice Initiative (SCI).

Deane visited Assembly on Nov. 25 to expand his Conversation initiative, a series of open forum meetings he’s hosting this year to inform the University’s next strategic framework, a long-term plan developed by the administration.

The SCI was unanimously struck down by a Divisional Court of judges last week, a decision that deemed the policy unlawful and rejected the Ministry’s authority to interfere in relationships between universities and their respective student associations.

Liam Tharp, chair of the AMS Board of Directors, asked Deane about the political situation currently surrounding the SCI.

“I wanted to get your opinion and thoughts on the [policy] overall,” Tharp said.

Deane said he was expecting a question about the SCI.

“It’s too early to really understand what that means, what that means for us right now,” he said. “Services are not being provided that would otherwise have been provided.”

He added it’s “almost certain” the Ministry will appeal the court’s decision in some way.

In his personal view, Deane said he thinks all students should support services, even if they don’t benefit from them.

“That’s one of the basic principles of a good and just society, that we contribute even when we’re not expecting to derive immediate, personal benefit,” he said. “That’s where I am personally on it. I think the Student Choice Initiative may have delivered some results to this government that were unexpected, and it has certainly been challenging for student societies and organizations.”

Deane said once the University understands what the government chooses to do next, the administration will know the next steps to take.

“The position of the administration has been to be mindful of the importance of the services that are provided by student government, and where possible and permissible under the regulations of the government, to support that.”

When Deane asked Assembly members to talk about why they’re proud of Queen’s, one student referenced the level of student engagement and opportunities on campus.

“Students have influence at the highest levels,” Deane said. “I think that’s fantastic, and I would say, by the way, that’s one of the things that’s potentially dangerous about the Student Choice Initiative, that it does run the risk of undermining that capacity for students to carry responsibility and exercise it.”

Student Consultations

Referencing controversy around the alcohol and sexual violence policies, Engineering Society President Delaney Benoit asked Deane to comment on the role he believes students should play in consultations and, additionally, how he would ensure consultations between the administration and students would happen.

“I think in both of those policies and many others which bear heavily on the experience of students in the university, students have to have a major role in the formation of those policies,” Deane said. “There has to be real dialogue about policies of this sort.”

Deane acknowledged the University should be more deliberate about seeking out student input and “reckoning with it.”

“However you end up, the process has to be sound,” he said.

Mental Health

A student in attendance told Deane about his struggles accessing counselling at Student Wellness Services and asked whether the University had any plans to change its structure in the coming years.

“This is a huge issue, and has become over the last 15 years at universities, a massive, massive challenge. Absolutely, the University sees the need to continue to improve what is available to support students.”

He added that while the University should improve upon meeting individual needs, it should ask whether it’s responsible for creating those needs.

“We also have to ask to what extent is the way in which we habitually do business contributing to the problem.”

Another student referenced the same-day counselling appointments introduced at SWS over the summer and the stress it’s causing students. She pointed out that she recently called to make an appointment and was told all the appointment slots had been booked before 8:03 a.m.

“The experience you had trying to secure one of those same-day appointments, that’s upsetting to hear,” Deane said. “That, I have to take away with me and talk to the people over in charge of the provision of mental health support to people who need that immediately.”

Town-Gown relations

Undergraduate Trustee Tyler Macintyre asked Deane how he views Kingston’s relationship with students.

“I think, at the moment, and this is a longstanding problem which goes back to when I was at Queen’s, that relationship is slightly obscured by the [issue of] street parties,” Deane said.

Referencing his Nov. 5 appearance at City Council, Deane said students are actively engaged in the community beyond Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day.

“All the council wanted to talk to me about was the street partying. On the other hand, that is not all students do in this community,” he said.

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