‘The best shot that they could’: AMS Year in Review

Team AJA reflects on accomplishments, challenges, and COVID-19 

Team AJA began their term on May 1, 2020.

As their term comes to a close, The Journal sat down with Team AJA to reflect on their experiences as AMS executive in the 2020-21 year.

Jared den Otter, AMS president, Alexia Henriques, AMS vice-president (university affairs), and Alex Samoyloff, AMS vice-president (operations) came into their roles on May 1 of last year, shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak of the pandemic had them learn a new portfolio and, consequently, put some things on the back-burner.

“Clearly it’s been a very difficult year for everyone at Queen’s [...] and I think that our team has really, really taken a lot of the hurdles that were put in our path and taken them in stride,” den Otter said.

Samoyloff said the pandemic had the team do a lot of “quick learning” and “quick problem solving.” She said that, when it comes to the AMS services, the team planned for the worst-case scenario—Queen’s being under lockdown for the entire year—and were “really lucky” they were able to open at all.

Henriques spoke to the difficulty of completing advocacy work remotely and the need to reassess the team’s priorities in light of the pandemic.

“Trying to connect with students and do consultations and implement programming and initiatives in an online world has proven to be more difficult than anticipated, and there was a lot of adapting and flexibility that needed to be had,” she said.

In speaking to the projects they were able to achieve as an executive, the team agreed their goal of increasing student engagement on campus was a success.

“It’s very exciting to see that we had a contested election this year,” den Otter said. “The next step is to keep that momentum going and to really look at the gaps that are still visible with the election process and engaging students on campus in general.” 

From a services standpoint, Samoyloff said transitioning the Printing and Copy Centre (P&CC) and the Tricolour Outlet to remote operations was successful, and cited the renovation of Common Ground Coffeehouse as a major accomplishment. 

“It’s really exciting to refresh that space after 10 years and make it a better space for students on campus,” she said. 

One of the team’s projects that didn’t come to fruition was a partnership with the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (SACK).

“We definitely came into the year with a lot of big goals and big dreams, and COVID changed some of them,” Henriques said. “We weren’t able to move forward in advocating for an in-person satellite SACK location because nobody was on campus and we couldn’t have a safe space on campus.”

Despite COVID-19 hampering the project, Henriques said the AMS was able to continue strengthening its relationship with SACK.

“They are an incredible and very important part in the community, and they fill a very large gap that Queen’s currently has for support for survivors of sexual and gender based violence,” she said. “I’m looking forward to continuing the transition period with my [Vice-President (University Affairs)] elect.”

Den Otter spoke to the “immense” internal changes the team was able to make within the AMS. They restructured their Human Resources Office, their Advancement Office, and their Information Technology Office, hiring more permanent staff members to make them supportive and efficient.

“There was a big need for a huge magnifying glass to be put on the organization and for us [...] to figure out where those gaps were internally and to try and ameliorate them,” he said.

Henriques noted the work that was done to affirm the AMS’s commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion through the report they published over the summer.

“I think that that work is really important,” she said. “We were really, really humbled to begin that work as a team and [...] really see the ripple effect with all the faculty societies and clubs on campus all working towards making campus and our community safer for our students.”

Team AJA agreed that completing their term remotely presented significant challenges.

“I found it difficult to reach as many people,” den Otter said. “In the online setting, it’s been difficult to shift our priorities and chat with students, either online or through feedback forms. It works, it gets the main points across, but it’s difficult to engage online.”

Henriques noted another major challenge: addressing the historical accounts of the lack of safety students feel in the AMS.

“I think a lot of challenges came from the historical impact of the AMS and how safe our spaces were, but [...] a lot of really meaningful changes [were] made by our team this year that I’m really proud of, and I hope they will help the AMS continue being a sustainable and safe organization, and hopefully be more welcoming for all students.”

Den Otter, Henriques, and Samoyloff all thanked their executive team, AMS volunteers, and all AMS club members for their hard work this term.

“Everyone really stepped up,” Samoyloff said. “[I’m] definitely very thankful for the AMS team and everyone for really getting creative and giving it the best shot that they could.”

In looking ahead to the next year at the AMS, team AJA hopes team RTZ is able to continue filling fill the gaps in resources offered by the AMS.

Team RTZ consists of President-Elect Zaid Kasim, Sci ’21, Vice-President (Operations)-elect Tiana Wong, ArtSci ’21 and Vice-President (University Affairs)-elect Ryan Sieg, Kin ’21.

“Something I’m hopeful for is to see the continued efforts to increase engagement on campus,” den Otter said. “When campus starts to open again, seeing the different gaps that come from a year of remote work and having students come back to campus and allocating resources to gaps that are seen and to fill those.”

“Continue listening to students, continue to make their voices heard, and continue to make the changes you would like to see on campus.”

In leaving words of advice for RTZ going forward, Samoyloff hopes the incoming executive is able to lean on each other. 

“That’s the biggest advantage you have as an executive. You run together and you build such a close relationship. Nobody else really knows what’s going on and what your job means except for the three of you,” she said. 

“Lean on each other for support, be honest in the work you’re doing, and keep a positive attitude and remember why you’re here and why you’re doing this.”


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