Kanivanan Chinniah, Kyle Beaudry and Catherine Wright became the incoming 2015-16 AMS executive thanks to an uncontested run, but despite the atypical circumstances of their election — the first acclamation in 25 years — they say they intend to retain continuity with past AMS leaders.
Chinniah, ArtSci ’15, was acclaimed as president; Beaudry, Comm ’15, was acclaimed as vice-president of operations; and Wright, ArtSci ’15, became vice-president of university affairs.
The election by acclamation — declared by AMS Chief Electoral Officer Chris Casher last Wednesday night — came as a surprise to the team, but Beaudry said it “serves as an opportunity for us to restructure how we are going to spend the next 10 days for the campaign”.
“We’re taking it as an opportunity to rollout just as we originally planned, and frame it in a different way to gain as much feedback from students as we can,” Beaudry said.
Traditionally, platforms are released at midnight on the second Friday of winter term, after Thursday night’s AMS Assembly.
CBW released their platform online on Monday. Chinniah said there was a need to “change the language” of the official platform in order to “turn it into a two-way conversation”, recognizing that it was an unusual situation.
Chinniah and Wright have known each other through mutual friends since 2012, and as this year’s election nomination period approached, the two began casual talks of running. They were later introduced to Beaudry, and after discussion, felt that they would be a strong team to take on the exec position.
Chinniah currently serves as AMS Campus Services Director, where he oversees the , Queen’s TV, Yearbook & Design Services and Convocation Services — what he says is a collective budget of over $1 million. Prior to his current position, he was an ASUS representative to the AMS, which he said gave him an external view of the AMS.
He said with his experience as a service director and his oversight of a $1 million budget, he has a strong knowledge of finance to ensure the AMS is operating smoothly.
Wright served as AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner in 2013-14 and said she’s seen the impact student leaders can have on campus life. She was a residence don in 2012-13, and said seeing the changes made on campus has made her passionate — especially as enrolment increases — about making sure all services are still high quality.
Chinniah said the team is “humbled” by the acclamation, but is willing to consider changing election policy, keeping in mind “that any policy that the AMS does put in has to be thoughtfully thought-out”.
“We support movement towards more transparency and more student consultation that may be part of it, through a proper consultation process,” he said.
One of the reasons Chinniah said there’s been a decreasing turnout for exec positions — down from three teams in 2013 to two in 2014, and one this year — is because of an increased “corporatization” of the AMS.
“There’s an expectation that you need to be professional, you need to have your collars up and you need to make sure your top button is done and that’s obviously a perception that the AMS has,” he said.
“It’s a perception that I had before I came into the AMS, and it’s a perception that I think we need to work on.”
The team’s platform mentions the need to uphold the AMS principle of “no experience necessary”, which Chinniah said “isn’t necessarily held up in the AMS and that’s something we want to change”.
Team CBW’s platform doesn’t feature any flashy projects, but instead builds on existing projects.
Chinniah added that they intend to consult students as much as possible when working on their projects.
Chinniah said he was disappointed with the consultation on the JDUC revitalization project carried out by the current executive, which he said “wasn’t fully consultative for students”. He added that the new long-term plan has taken a good first step in presenting the project to the AMS, but there still needs to be more consultation done.
“We need to make sure that any project that we pursue is done with adequate student consultation,” he said.
Part of the purpose of not creating new projects is to maintain continuity with past executives, Beaudry said.
“Coming up with all these new, maybe great, grand ideas – such as a bridge or such as what has been proposed before – might actually detract from the continuity the AMS needs to have year over year,” he said.
The team stressed that they plan to carry on work from previous executives and make smaller changes.
One of the ideas in the platform is an initiative to track how busy the ARC is, something the team said is feasible because the gym already collects data — students swipe their student cards to enter the facility. The team also said they’ve discussed the idea with Athletics and Recreation, who have already been working on a fitness app.
Another project the team wishes to look into is increased seating at Common Ground, to create more study space and bring in more business.
“It’s not the most exciting idea, but from every student we spoke to, this is something they really value from their CoGro experience,” Beaudry said.
The team has begun talking about funding for increased seating, but said it’s something they’ll have to look into more. As of now, the options are either using Student Life Centre funding or CoGro capital.
The team is also looking to optimize Bus Route 17, the shuttle between main campus and West Campus. The shuttle, they say is under-utilized, so they’re looking to help students get more use out of it and improve ridership rates.
The common theme in the team’s platform is an emphasis on adequate student consultation, which is seen in the platform’s mention of the Richardson Stadium revitalization. CBW advocates formal student representation in the Richardson Stadium Working Group so that students can have input in the stadium’s development.
One topic that’s frequently an issue in recent executive campaigns is AMS-operated nightclub The Underground, which wasn’t a focus in this team’s platform.
“The business itself in which The Underground is operating in is very cyclical,” Beaudry said.
“We’re not specifically convinced that there is a trend there that needs an immediate action or solution.”
The approach the team’s taking is that the club needs to organically grow in popularity, and making constant changes won’t help that process.
Overall, the newly acclaimed executive is mainly preparing to take over as the AMS’s new leaders for 2015-16.
“It’s going to be a tough road ahead, but obviously, our work begins now,” Chinniah said.
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