To make a difference, the AMS must better support their leaders

Making students care about student politics has been especially difficult as of late.

This year, almost every faculty society election—including the AMS, EngSoc, ASUS, and ComSoc—went uncontested. We’ve been without a rector since the last candidate pulled out, while the AMS saw three members of its senior management resign this past September, two members citing the organization’s toxic and racist culture.

As initiatives like Stolen by Smith or AMSexposed have shown, these managerial problems are deeply rooted in student societies, where most leaders face no accountability from anyone other than their peers.

Bad leadership feeds off of itself—when organizations like the AMS underperform, they show students it’s not worth it to work with them. The AMS then suffers as voters dwindle and potentially talented leadership is redirected to other organizations.

Many senior AMS positions involve intense weekly commitments, meaning some will struggle to fulfill these responsibilities while juggling classes, life, and other extracurriculars—sometimes without compensation. As some former members have revealed, this workload can quickly become unmanageable, especially with other higher-ups bearing down on them.

Improving support for student leaders and fostering a collaborative culture rather than a demanding and predatory one is necessary to give your staff the confidence they need to make a difference. The AMS can’t do meaningful work when its leaders are divided amongst themselves. Management shouldn’t be left alone at the top.

In this respect, Team ETC’s plan to hire more permanent staff may alleviate some of the workload. Hiring an external professional rather than a student as a human resources director could combat the AMS’ “cliquey culture.” Likewise, the proposed “whistleblower policy” could protect students in non-managerial roles against abuses of power, if implemented correctly.

Beyond this, the AMS should look at the traditions entrenched within its years of operation.

As a Health Sciences student, I saw a contested ballot for every single executive position in the Health Sciences Society (HSS) elections—including a four-way election for vice president (operations) and a seven-way election for one of the year representatives. Clearly, there isn’t something inherent to student governments making people be skeptical of them.

The HSS may be newer and smaller than the AMS, but it’s also much more accommodating. New commissioner roles are still being introduced in the HSS, and the culture of the society remains flexible and open to improvement.

Student societies like the AMS, which have existed for years, may benefit by adopting a similar mindset, cutting down on the bureaucracy and getting rid of attitudes that hold them back. Being receptive to feedback is essential to encourage students to get involved.

Student government platforms constantly preach buzzwords like “communication,” “transparency,” and “accessibility.” As a new generation of Queen’s students are ushered into executive positions at the AMS and beyond, I hope they’ll show us they know what those words mean.

Anne is a first-year Health Sciences student and one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors.


A previous version of this article didn't specify that only two of three former AMS Senior Management members spoke publicly about their motivations for resigning in September 2021. 

The Journal regrets the error.

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