AMS executive open forum recap

Candidates pressed for details about late-arriving platform

Team AJA at the AMS open forum Saturday night.
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Team AJA, the uncontested AMS executive candidates, fielded questions about sustainability, City relations, and accessibility during an AMS open forum on Jan. 25.

The team, made up of Presidential candidate Jared Den Otter, Vice-President (University Affairs) candidate Alexia Henriques, and Vice-President (Operations) candidate Alexandra Samoyloff, was asked questions by audience members and live stream attendees.

Running uncontested, the team published their full platform on Jan. 24, several days into the campaign period, with five pillars: health and wellness, sustainability, equity, external affairs, and student engagement.

Samoyloff was asked about her qualifications for handling a multi-million-dollar non-profit corporation. In response, she referenced her experience as an ASUS commissioner.  “I oversaw 10 different committees,” Samoyloff said. “Much like the services, they each had their own goals or own ideas.”

Henriques was pressed on what she believes are the most significant issues facing the University’s relationship with the City.

“In regards to the housing crisis in the City of Kingston, it’s definitely a large issue that can’t necessarily be tackled within one term,” Henriques said.

“We want to work with Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA),” she added, “[We want] to work and strategize on ways to work with the provincial and municipal governments on those bylaws that govern building permits and work on creating livable spaces for our students.”

When Team AJA was asked what they believe the current AMS executive’s biggest downfall and biggest success are, all three candidates praised the accomplishments of the current team. Den Otter named the difficulties surrounding the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) as the most significant obstacle to their goals of greater student engagement.

One question posed to the team was about their platform’s promise to create a sustainability office and hire a director for it.

“We’re still not sure how we’re going to be able to structure [the position of sustainability director] into the AMS,” Den Otter said. He added the team was inspired by QBACC and their efforts to get Queen’s to divest from fossil fuels.

“We’re looking at a position that was dismantled in recent years and trying to sustainably bring one back, not necessarily in office,” Den Otter said. “We want to continue sustainable efforts.”

Team AJA was questioned on what they would do if a student with accessibility needs came to the AMS with a concern about the accessibility of the new residence building, scheduled for construction later this year. 

“We want to advocate and listen to our students now so this is not an issue,” Den Otter answered. He mentioned their platform includes promises to speak with the City, University administration, and others involved with the design of the new residence. 

The forum also touched on AJA’s proposal for a wellness caucus within the AMS, which the team said was inspired by the Society’s current equity caucus and consultations with groups like Step Above Stigma, the Queen’s Mental Health Initiative, and Raise the Bar. 

“Through these various conversations, we realized so many of our 340 clubs are currently doing amazing and fantastic work advocating for health, whether it’s sexual, mental, emotional, physical health, or all of the above,” Henriques said.

“Having one united space, a roundtable where all these students [and] representatives from a couple different clubs, that are looking at these health issues on our campus, can work together to discuss the issues they’re seeing, create initiatives and collaborate with the AMS’s support.”

Henriques said she hopes the proposed wellness caucus will be able to draft a report once per semester which will be brought to Student Wellness Services and the administration.

In his closing statement, Den Otter spoke to how much the team learned during the campaign period.

“We have some big plans for the upcoming year, if elected, including a framework for a sexual assault centre on campus. It is not breaking news that sexual violence is a major issue on our campus, and it is time our Society begins the proper initiatives to put in place to protect our students,” Den Otter said. 

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