Students, get your heads out of the sand

Queen’s students have basked too long in blissful ignorance about the governing bodies that impact our lives. It’s time to re-engage.

The AMS receives roughly $10 million in student activity fees each year, making up a large portion of their budget. With low voter turnout and little to no engagement at AMS Assembly meetings (which are open to the public), those in student government are virtually free to make policy decisions however they please without students batting an eye. This lack of public accountability has to end.

As a student who used to be completely unaware of the inner workings of Queen’s, I get it. For the longest time, I had no idea what the AMS did, how it was different from the University, and why I should even care. Since I started covering the AMS for The Journal, it’s become evident to me that more students should know about the world of student government.

Every time I skip off to AMS Assembly or journey into the catacombs of the La Salle building, my friends are bewildered as to where I’m going and why.

I’ve had friends tell me they thought the AMS was just another part of the University. Others have said they didn’t know executives and commissioners—who each make between $30,000 to $40,000 annually, thanks to our student fees—get paid. It’s possible I’ve surrounded myself with a particular kind of student, but these conversations can’t be that uncommon.

In 2019, students voted to pay a mandatory $40 fee to support the JDUC renovation for the next two years, after which it was to be raised to $73.92. Only 25.6 per cent of students voted in the referendum. Given how close the vote was to not passing, this lack of engagement mattered.

Since enrolling at Queen’s in 2020, I’ve paid this fee every year, but I will never step foot in the new JDUC. Regardless of whether you agree with the mandatory fee, knowing the small percentage of students who decided something so monumental is shocking.

Last year, the voter turnout for the AMS executive election was 17 per cent. At Western, comparable to Queen’s in many respects, their student government election saw a 34.6 per cent voter turnout.

The choices of student governments impact all of us, but many Queen’s students seem to prefer burying their heads in the sand instead of upholding their civic responsibilities—not only by voting but by holding those who are elected accountable.

Students have a responsibility to inform themselves on current AMS actions. Keeping up with your campus newspaper is one of the best ways to do this, if only to know where your student dollars are going. Then, when election season rolls around this spring, get out and vote.

The AMS plans on instituting in-person voting this year in hopes of encouraging student engagement, but the organization can only do so much. Students must choose for themselves to participate.

Mikella is a fourth-year life sciences student and one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors.


AMS, student government, Student life

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