AMS Fall-in-Review

Team RTZ recounts Fall 2021 initiatives 

RTZ sat down with The Journal to chat about their progress.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Zaid Kasim, Vice President of (Operations) Tiana Wong, and Vice President (University Affairs) Ryan Seig sat down with The Journal to reflect on their progress and discuss new initiatives.

Team RTZ was excited to return to more in-person activities as some COVID-19 restrictions were eased.

“Returning to full operations means we get to provide a lot more student jobs.” Wong said.

“From our services, there’s over 350 Student positions this year and that just wasn’t possible
last year when the operations were so significantly reduced.”

Student Engagement

The Compass app is a new initiative introduced this year that allows students to browse
through campus clubs and event calendars. 

Seig encouraged students to make use of this resource as it’s beneficial for those wanting to get more involved in the student community.

“I also really want to note that we’re really proud that we now have the highest number of clubs that we’ve ever had ratified the AMS,” Kasim added.

Sieg said there are now 336 AMS-ratified clubs.

“We’ve really brought back student life, close to where it was before COVID-19 hit us,” Kasim said. “I’m really proud of us there.”

When asked how the AMS will increase student engagement, Wong said Team RTZ has expanded student jobs within the student society. 

“It’s a really great way for students to understand what the AMS does,” Wong said.

Though voter turnout for the Fall Referendum has been lower this year than the AMS anticipated, Kasim believes engagement comes in forms other than voting in student government. He added the AMS’s social media traction reflects that.

The Role of the Rector 

When asked if the AMS would facilitate another rector election, Kasim said they wouldn’t.

“The rector position is an unhealthy role. Objectively, it is a role that sets students up for failure that has no support,” Kasim said.

“I will not put a student in that position.”

Kasim also pointed out to the lack of transition material currently available to a student entering the Rector role.

“Right now, students go in and there’s no transition material.” Kasim said. “I know, because the transition, they had a hard drive—and it got lost.”

Kasim critiqued the University’s lack of accountability in ensuring the rector is supported and valued for the work they do. He added it’s not feasible for the AMS to facilitate another election and that responsibility should be on the University.

Homecoming 

Regarding the student voices who spoke up about disproportionate policing over homecoming weekends, the AMS has done little to aid students in navigating fines going up to $2,000.

After the Social Issues Commission (SIC) released a survey to gather student experiences on policing, the AMS presented these findings to the Police and City Council rather than directly aiding those who suffered the consequences of unfair treatment.

“With the donation from the University of $350,000, we’re continuing to try and follow up at City Council as well as with the principal’s office in tracking down exactly how that money is being spent,” Seig said.

The AMS plans to insert themselves as key stakeholders in the City Council to advocate student interests. RTZ added they’ve actively attempted to mend relationships with Kingston residents.

“We found out about a community member who has a private library in their front yard that was broken by students during homecoming,” Seig said.

“We reached out individually to best support them. We purchased them more books because that is what they wanted.”

Transparency 

During the Winter 2021 AMS executive election, RTZ’s platform emphasized transparency. One way they wished to achieve this was through policy papers.

“We are in the process of working through our first policy paper. This will then be run through assembly,” Seig said.

“The key idea is to have assembly’s input on the document, rather than it being an internal position piece.”

The AMS also hopes equity-related events can improve transparency and accountability to students.

“We recently had an equity townhall, and that was a great opportunity for people to ask us questions with regards to equity work,” Seig said.

Kasim said the AMS has been extremely transparent, but student engagement is the key focus to making the AMS more open.

“The issue is not transparency. The issue is students actually going and accessing the information that we do put out,” Kasim said.

“We will be transparent, but oftentimes students don’t engage.”

Wong added part of transparency is having a fair evaluation system in place for leaders across AMS. This year, Team RTZ is asked for evaluations from their staff, hosted by the HR department.

“They are completely anonymous. We didn’t see any names or direct quotes,” Wong said.

 “We also have evaluations for the senior management teams.”

Changing the Culture

One of RTZ’s key campaign promises was to reform the culture at AMS. Recent allegations of ‘cliquey culture’ have threatened this goal.

Wong said a permanent HR staff member is working to ensure a safe working environment for AMS employees.

“The introduction of the permanent staff HR position is important because they oversee a lot of sensitive matters,” Wong said. “It is important to have a professional working to guide the HR team.”

Wong said AMS positions being “no experience necessary” could potentially explain the recent resignations.

“Coming into [these positions] with very little knowledge of the position is very difficult when trying to finish a degree,” Wong said.

AMS Fee Referendum 

RTZ pointed to the importance of the AMS membership fee raise, which was not passed this semester.

“It was very unfortunate that the fee was not passed, we rely on student fees to provide the services that we do,” Wong said. “A good percentage of the operating budget goes to student wages and goes back to student’s pockets.” 

Kasim said Queen’s student life is in a dire position due to the fee increase failing.

“The future and security of student life needs the fee."

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