The downward trend in student engagement matters

Student involvement on campus is imperative to the student experience

Caroline Hart is the AMS Secretary of Internal Affairs.
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Student engagement has been trending downward for the last 10 years. 

This trend encompasses many things, from attending conferences to applying for positions, running in elections, and voting when applicable. While being aware of the opportunities on campus can be taxing, it’s an opportunity to put yourself out there and open a lot of doors. 

Unfortunately, reported AMS elections data shows voting for the last election was down three per cent, and in terms of AMS elections, only 28.3 per cent of eligible voters cast their online ballots this past January. For the last three years, AMS elections have been uncontested races. 

Diminished engagement is not limited to the AMS, as other faculty societies and campus clubs are facing its adverse effects. Worst of all, this downward trend began long before COVID-19 uprooted the Canadian way of life. 

It seems students are unaware of how disengagement will impact the future of this institution. The AMS, along with other faculty societies and clubs on campus, contributes positively to the experience of being a Queen’s student and provides benefits to its members.

Student leaders are advocates for the Queen’s community. Starting last year, they advocated for the implementation of a proper fall reading break. Student advocacy isn’t limited to the University itself, either; it pushes the City of Kingston, along with our federal and provincial governments, on issues like funding, accessibility, and the environment.  

Student leaders are the reason there are so many services, opportunities, and initiatives available on our campus. For example, students within the AMS run everything from the Food Bank, the Printing and Copy Centre, and Common Ground Coffeehouse to StudioQ, the Tricolour Outlet, and the Peer Support centre. These initiatives wouldn’t operate without student engagement. 

Without the engagement of student leaders, there wouldn’t be clubs, conferences, or events. Conferences like Queen’s Model Parliament are completely student-run and therefore depend on the AMS Clubs Commission to oversee their funding. 

Although it looks different during COVID-19, the Clubs Commission is fundamental to ensuring clubs at Queen’s can operate. It provides clubs like Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change, Queen’s Women in Leadership, and Queen’s Players with the on-campus space they need to operate and assistance in funding student opportunities. 

The best part about volunteer and paid positions within the AMS is their flexibility. The environment is student-centred and prioritizes going to class and doing schoolwork, unlike a traditional corporate setting. The student government is also a great place to make meaningful friendships while working. 

Even during COVID-19, there are still countless opportunities available. Within the AMS specifically, there are many positions related to advocacy, marketing, equity, and more. Although the pandemic forced services to limit their available jobs, many spots were not filled on the government side simply due to a lack of applications. 

These student government positions look great on a resume. They’ll also allow you to develop valuable skills like email etiquette, budgeting, teamwork, and communication. Many positions across student government don’t require experience, making it easy to gain employable experience, build friendships, and better your skills.

Over the past few months, cultural changes have incited a pivotal reshaping of the Queen’s framework and student experience; those wanting to play their part should seek out roles in student government. Queen’s and the AMS have been in need of change for a while, and the pandemic has emphasized these problems. To ensure this year’s efforts continue developing, the AMS needs student leaders to continue the work.

The first step is applying for positions, showing up to information sessions, or running in elections. If reflecting on your university experience so far draws thoughts of desirable changes, know that student leaders can make those thoughts reality. 

AMS Executive positions are influential. The President, Vice-President (Operations), and Vice-President (University Affairs) all meet with important University administration, sit on different working groups, and oversee the operations of the services, advocacy bodies, and the AMS offices. 

When working in the student government, making changes is easier than you may think. This year, our team has made it a priority to amend, revise, and draft new policies on topics such as compensation or AMS organizational stances to ensure they are up-to-date and fulfill the AMS mandate of serving all students. Seeing room for improvement is a window to collaborate, propose changes, and be a leader. 

There are also changes being made to elections during this remote year. The AMS team is working diligently to ensure running for elections is as accessible as possible through an online platform. Each step in the process will be accessed remotely and available anywhere in the world. 

If you have any interest in leadership, advocacy, gaining unparalleled experience, or the student government, consider running for AMS Executive. There is an online information session on December 2 from 6 to 7 p.m. All of the information you need to run can be found here, including the how-to-run guide and the elections timeline. 

Read More: The AMS guide to running in an election 

The downward trend in student engagement risks the legacy of these opportunities and jeopardizes the role of the student voice and representation within the important University stakeholder meetings. Now, more than ever, is the time to get involved—this is your sign to try something new and make an impact.

Caroline Hart is a fourth-year Geography student. She is the AMS Secretary of Internal Affairs.

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