Every student should be able to vote in campus elections

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As some Queen’s students opened their inboxes on Tuesday to view this year’s student election ballots, the absence of that email for others revealed a glaring instance of inequality on campus. 

For those who had opted out of their AMS membership fees this fall, their democratic right has been placed out of reach. 

The AMS presides over an expansive range of portfolios: managing hundreds of clubs, employing hundreds of students at services such as CoGro and TAPS, and advocating on behalf of Queen’s students to both the administration and the government at every level. 

To fund the AMS’ activities and services, the membership fee for 2019-20 totaled $52.38 per student. This year, that fee became optional.

Students who choose to pay for their AMS membership become eligible for employment at AMS services, to join clubs on campus, run for office and vote in AMS elections and fee referenda. Those who don’t—or those who are who are unable to—are precluded from these privileges. 

Many students choose to opt out of this fee for financial reasons. University is expensive enough, and not all students are able to pay for additional optional fees. For many, opting out isn’t a choice, but a necessity. To restrict their rights due to their financial capabilities is an alienating miscalculation on the part of the AMS. 

The idea of buying into AMS membership misrepresents the role the Society plays on campus. The term ‘membership’ implies exclusivity. However, regardless, every undergraduate student is impacted by the AMS while they’re at Queen’s. 

It’s hypocritical to bar students who are unable to afford to pay for the full slate of student fees from exercising their right to vote to decide on which of those same fees they are obligated to pay, just as it’s hypocritical to keep them from accessing on-campus employment opportunities that could help bridge that financial gap.

Placing a barrier between students and their right to vote takes away those students’ choices in their representation, and their input in the decisions that are made for them. It keeps them from accessing opportunities that would enrich their time at Queen’s and bolster their chances to enter post-graduate programs and the job market successfully. 

It also perpetuates a culture that marginalizes underprivileged students while opening doors for those who can afford to have those doors opened for them. 

For a society that’s facing a downturn in student engagement, a lack of universal suffrage only further distances students from the AMS. 

Democracy shouldn’t be something that students have to buy into—it should be a right. 

Pamoda is The Journal’s Assistant Arts Editor. She’s a fourth-year political studies student.

 

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