Following ratification of the uncontested AMS executive team on Jan. 18, Team ECN has initiated a campaign they hope addresses students’ needs and invites them to increase their engagement with the AMS.
The team consists of Presidential candidate Emily VanderHeyden, ArtSci ’18, Vice-Presidential (University Affairs) candidate Natasha Kornak, ArtSci ’19, and Vice-Presidential (Operations) candidate Craig Draeger, ArtSci ’18.
The team boasts an extensive cumulative resumé with experience from all levels of the University. VanderHeyden, who currently serves as the Head Manager for Tricolour Outlet, began her career as an Assistant Director of Marketing at Tricolour and member of the TAPS service staff team. Draeger is the current Director of Communications for the AMS and has also been the AMS Clubs Manager and a member of the Queen’s Board of Directors. Kornak has worked with clubs including the Queen’s Native Students Association and Queen’s Female Leadership in Politics. She currently is a member of the AMS Board of Directors.
The AMS Executive all-candidates meeting saw minimal turnout on Jan. 9 with no announced candidacy. But Kornak, who was present, said their team’s configuration was in the works “for three weeks” prior to the meeting.
One of the focuses of their platform will be on the AMS’ budget. Draeger believes the $16-million budget to oversee student services relies on a model of “economic sustainability,” where the function of the AMS Corporation is to maintain and increase student services while remaining within the budget.
He believes his team will be able to successfully approach the budget with their “understanding of the corporate structure of the AMS.”
Draeger further believes the province is looking forward to making “monumental change” in incorporating a higher wage, OHIP+ coverage and the federal decriminalization of marijuana. As a result, he said the AMS will focus on maintaining the budget and the social mandates of the corporation. “Fundamentally, its mission is to maintain its double and sometimes triple bottom line of financial sustainability and to also maintain [its] social goals and mandates,” Draeger said.
The team shared the sentiment that they were ready to tackle the issues that would be affecting students from outside the University. “With the increase of OHIP+ coverage, we will be seeing less claims,” Kornak said. “We will be using that money to ensure more mental health coverage.”
Kornak added the AMS’ current mental health coverage for students isn’t “meeting student demand.” She stated her team would be in support of a referendum student fee brought forth by the Peer Support Centre, noting this fee would support the Centre’s ability to address issues like addiction on campus.
For VanderHeyden, a priority following the minimum wage increase will be working to ensure that despite this increase, student jobs are protected. She added working with University administration will require “negotiating with tangible goals.”
Issues surrounding mental health, inclusion and sustainability remain at the forefront of student concern at the University and the candidates believe they’re ready to confront that.
This school year, an issue for the current Executive was the allocation of the $22,000 Sustainability Fund following the dissolution of the Commission of Environmental Affairs in January of 2017. The fund, which was recently allocated this month, was requested throughout the summer and in the fall without response from the Executive.
Draeger affirmed sustainability school-wide would be “a focus” for the Executive if elected.
“We’re looking at ways we can integrate environmentally-friendly printer ink and biodegradable cutlery in cafeterias,” Draeger said. “We want to integrate this at all points in the JDUC revitalization and we’ll have a stand-alone document for this.”
A common theme following the disappointing AMS all-candidates meeting was “the lack of student engagement that exists” on campus, a sentiment expressed by Draeger at the meeting. The team believes this can be rectified by ensuring “students are engaged with their Executive.” They suggested remedying the situation with town hall meetings with the team and open office hours where students could drop into the offices to express their thoughts with their Executive.
“We want to breathe new life into the AMS,” Kornak said, followed by VanderHeyden’s affirmation: “we want to be that voice for students.”
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