For Team AJA, an uncontested race doesn’t equal an endorsement

Our Process: The endorsement is the result of a vote by The Journal Editorial Board. The Editorial Board considers prior interviews, debates, platforms, and a private questioning period with the teams before making a decision.

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Although the upcoming AMS executive election is uncontested, students must demand the same commitment, integrity, and diligence from candidates as they would expect in a contested race. They don’t need to settle for less.

In a 15-2 vote with one abstention, The Journal Editorial Board voted to not endorse Team AJA for the 2020-21 AMS executive.

A vote of non-confidence is not a decision the Board makes lightly. This is only the second vote of non-confidence in three years, and the second non-confidence vote in The Journal’s history. But AMS executive office is a significant responsibility, and the team, comprised of Alexia Henriques, Jared den Otter, and Alex Samoyloff, were unable to assure the Board that they were up to task.

As of the time of the Jan. 21 endorsement board, Team AJA had yet to release their full platform, despite being two days into the election campaign period.

This isn’t typical. Traditionally, The Journal’s Editorial Board has sufficient opportunity to examine a team’s full platform prior to the endorsement board.

Without a full platform to review, left instead with an initial platform representing a bullet-point list, it was difficult for the Board to evaluate the full scope of Team AJA’s goals and commitments. It’s unclear what they hope to accomplish on a specific, day-to-day basis in their potential tenure. 

The Journal can’t be asked in good conscience to stand behind a team whose vision remains undefined based on a lack of consideration of student perspectives.

Team AJA hadn’t begun any formal consultations prior to the campaign period, despite their commitment to making student voices heard. Without sufficient consultation with student stakeholders, Team AJA’s initial platform is based on what Henriques explained were “offline, off-the-record conversations with, for example, housemates and friends and coworkers that do work in various student-run services”—and the team’s personal experiences on campus. 

This lack of formal consultation didn’t convince the Board of the team’s authenticity. Team AJA’s initial platform includes policy proposals affecting Indigenous students, though no Indigenous students were consulted prior to the platform’s release. When questioned by the Board, Samoyloff said the team would amend the policy if it didn’t suit those Indigenous students after consultation.

The Board can’t accept the sincerity of the team’s current commitments, given their failure to responsibly consult the students they plan to represent before crafting their initial platform, along with their apparent willingness to backtrack on what little proposed policy they’ve made public.

This is the third consecutive uncontested executive election. When asked what they might have done differently in a contested election, Team AJA responded that they would have considered rolling out their platform throughout the campaign period to keep students updated on their ideas as they completed their consultations, as opposed to their actions in reality: releasing an incomplete platform without consultations before their final platform’s release five days into the seven-day campaign period.

This slapdash response demonstrates a lack of commitment to the election process. Contested or not, students deserve transparency and dedication from all prospective teams in enough time before the election to inform their votes, regardless of whether or not they’re contested. Team AJA’s answer indicates they didn’t put their best effort into their current campaign due to their lack of competition.

Beyond issues relating to their platform and consultation, the candidates struggled to present themselves as a cohesive unit. Individually, Henriques and Samoyloff have sufficient experience to convince the Board of their ability to succeed in their prospective positions. However, as a whole, Team AJA often appeared to be on different pages on key issues.

When asked about the team’s response to the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), den Otter, presidential candidate, said he was “glad [the SCI] happened, because it let [Queen’s] students actually think, wait, we actually should be having more of a say in the money we're spending [on fees].” After follow-up questions from the Board, Jared walked back that answer, saying he spoke “purely from [his] perspective,” and he recognized that the SCI was detrimental to many student-run initiatives across the province.

This was symptomatic of the team’s dynamic throughout the endorsement board: they responded to prompts based on their personal experiences rather than one cohesive vision, and frequently retracted statements when questioned.

The team’s inconsistent responses led the Board to believe AJA’s lack of platform extended to a lack of time and effort devoted to creating an informed plan to lead the student government. 

Clearly, Team AJA’s campaign has suffered from the uncontested nature of this year’s election. 

While they’re individually competent, as a unit, AJA lacks the cohesion and preparedness to present themselves as strong AMS executive candidates.

Although they have good intentions, without a much-needed push from competing teams, the candidates haven’t stepped up to present themselves to The Journal as a conscientious team our board can endorse with confidence.

Unfortunately, an uncontested election doesn’t equate automatic trust in a team’s abilities—which Team AJA’s endorsement board made all too clear.

—Journal Editorial Board

 

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