With the AMS facing steep challenges, Team RTZ is ready to lead

The Journal unanimously endorses Team RTZ for AMS executive

Team RTZ
Photo: 

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.

The AMS executive positions demand Queen’s top student leaders: people who not only have a baseline knowledge of the AMS, but the energy and determination to fix the mistakes of past executive teams. These were the qualities The Journal Editorial Board looked for in the next AMS leaders.

In a 24-0 vote with no abstentions, The Journal Editorial Board voted to endorse Team RTZ for the 2021-22 AMS executive.

While Team TIA—consisting of Presidential candidate Isaac Sahota, ArtSci ’22; Vice-Presidential (Operations) candidate Tabassum Pasha, Comm ’21; and Vice-Presidential (University Affairs) candidate Amelia Cockerham, ArtSci ’22—brought lived experiences and strong values to the table and spoke to issues regarding accessibility in all its forms, they lacked the organization and energy of Team RTZ.

Team RTZ—made up of Presidential candidate Zaid Kasim, Sci ’21; Vice-Presidential (Operations) candidate Tiana Wong, ArtSci ’21; and Vice-Presidential candidate (University Affairs) Ryan Sieg, Kin ’21—came to the Endorsement Board with a clear vision of specific AMS policies they wanted to change and how they would change them. The clarity of their vision for next year resonated strongly with the Board.

The 2021-22 AMS executive will have one academic year to complete their goals. It can’t afford to waste time learning about the inner workings or pre-existing issues in the AMS; coming to the table with a clear vision of which specific AMS policies and problems must be addressed is crucial to get the ball rolling early on.

Team TIA lacked the preparedness the job description demands, and it showed. The tardiness of their platform—sent a mere hour prior to our Endorsement Board—as well as the team’s absence at the initial executive all-candidates meeting was telling.

Team TIA is already struggling to keep their heads above water during the campaign. Running the AMS itself would only be harder, and with another potential year of COVID-19 and remote learning, students cannot afford to vote in an unorganized executive team.

Team RTZ, meanwhile, sent The Journal their platform well in advance and came to the Endorsement Board meeting having done their homework. They cited consultations they’d completed without prompt in many of their answers and were able to delve into the specifics of their platform on the spot.

It was obvious to the Board that Team RTZ took advantage of every campaign day, a demonstration of the seriousness and preparation with which they approach the executive positions.

From the get-go, Team RTZ wasn’t afraid to call out this year’s AMS executive team for its shortcomings.

Citing a lack of transparency, communication, and advocacy within this year’s AMS executive, Team RTZ addressed specific ways they would tackle these issues in their own government. Sieg stressed the team would focus on academic advocacy if elected and ensure student voices were heard.

Wong also emphasized acting proactively, not reactively, to social issues on campus, citing the AMS’ belated response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests as something RTZ would have approached differently.

When asked about the Instagram account ‘AMSxposed’—something also mentioned in their platform—Team RTZ demonstrated a clear knowledge of the account’s allegations as well as the investigation involved.

Team TIA, meanwhile, lacked a thorough knowledge of the account. Pasha said she “[hadn’t] done a deep-dive” of AMSxposed. Sahota mentioned the transparency concerns raised by AMSxposed, but said transparency in the Society was increasing, a claim contradicting the essence of the account.

When asked about student engagement, TIA also lacked foresight into the AMS’ struggle for voter turnout and overall interaction with events like AMS Assembly.

While Cockerham acknowledged that student engagement was a problem her team wanted to tackle, when asked how they might reform the structure of AMS Assembly to help boost engagement, Sahota gave a loose answer without concrete solutions and often contradicted himself.

While he acknowledged that engaging with students was necessary to, in turn, improve engagement with Assembly, he went on to claim next year’s election would be contested and that “students are getting involved,” contradicting his team’s previous statement regarding a need to boost engagement and illustrating a lack of concern or knowledge about the chronically uncontested elections in the AMS.

Additionally, Team RTZ itself appeared the picture of cohesion; by contrast, Team TIA’s platform and answers to the Board’s questions were often hard to follow.

The Board heard frequently from all members of Team RTZ, and the sense that they worked well as a team was evident. Each member appeared knowledgeable about their platform points and often redirected answers to whoever’s position the issue fell below.

Team RTZ was always on the same page. Everyone was equally enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their roles and platform, and true to Kasim’s word, they often “finish[ed] each others’ sentences.”

A cohesive team dynamic was missing from Team TIA. Sahota often dominated the conversation, leaving Pasha, and Cockerham even less so, to chime in occasionally but not often.

The ease with which Team RTZ worked together to answer questions, often running out of the allotted two minutes they were given to speak, highlighted them as a true team.

That said, their platform wasn’t without its flaws.

Team RTZ’s assurance that they would avoid student job layoffs next year if the term was remote again was worrying for the Board, as it didn’t feel fully thought out. When asked in a follow-up question whether the team would delay the hiring period to assess which positions they could guarantee, Wong said the team would get in touch with Public Health authorities prior to making any decisions.

Still, this answer wasn’t promising to the Board. The hiring process is conducted in the time frame it is to ensure outgoing staff can train incoming employees before the summer, leaving little leeway for RTZ to guarantee employment, if elected. 

Additionally, some points of RTZ’s platform weren’t fully fleshed out. They mention wanting to “confront” the University administration, but don’t specify what changes they would make to existing communication channels to accomplish that. The Board worried about this when reading RTZ’s platform initially, but after meeting the team in a virtual face-to-face and questioning them further on these policy points, the Board is confident RTZ would make a compelling presence at Queen’s Board of Trustee and Senate meetings and can make good on their promises, even if they’re not fully fleshed out at the moment.

Team TIA has good ideas, but they lacked the level of clarity held by their opponents. The Board liked that many of TIA’s platform points and actionable items were informed by their own lived experiences—both in terms of accessibility, being a BIPOC student on campus, and experience working with first-year students.

But TIA’s platform lacked the same breadth of ideas RTZ’s did. The Board would’ve liked to see a wider range of thorough ideas for issues like campus racism and COVID-19, which, while mentioned, felt surface-level. Additionally, while Team RTZ clearly laid out which campus groups it had consulted with to inform their platform, Team TIA rattled off a few names when asked but failed to communicate the full extent of these consultations.

Additionally, the Board appreciated TIA’s idea of increased coverage within the AMS Dental and Health Plan. However, TIA lacked logistical details for how they plan to achieve this without raising student fees to cover it.

Team TIA has already achieved great things in their previous leadership roles. The Board believes they will continue to succeed in these roles—their overall lack of preparedness and unfamiliarity with issues surrounding the AMS, however, showed they aren’t the best people for the executive position.

At the end of the day, The Journal’s endorsement came down to who has the clearest vision for AMS reform and specific steps for how to achieve this. In this regard, all signs pointed to Team RTZ.

Queen’s needs an AMS executive who won’t fall into old habits, but instead shake things up. The Editorial Board believes Team RTZ has the confidence, knowledge, and motivation to do just that.

Journal Editorial Board

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.