Team ERA campaigns to provide value to students

‘We want to bring on a new ERA of student government’

Image by: Curtis Heinzl
All candidates have years of experience in student government.

Team ERA wants to “revitalize” the AMS through advocacy, financial accessibility, and student wellness.

Their platform was developed after consulting over 100 people, including students, club heads, members from each faculty society, and various university representatives.

Elisabeth McHarg, ArtSci ’23, is running for vice-president (operations). From working on the AMS Orientation Roundtable to being a barista at Common Ground (CoGro), McHarg has held seven roles within ASUS and the AMS.

“I definitely found a passion for the AMS in my time at the AMS, and that inspired me wanting to run and continue to make a change and impact students’ lives,” she said in an interview with The Journal.

ERA’s presidential candidate Ryan Chen, Kin ’23, and current Physical Health Education and Kinesiology Student Association (PHEKSA) president, said getting involved in student government helped him adjust to university.

Vice-president (university affairs) candidate Alicia Parker, ArtSci ’24, was a first-year intern at ASUS, class of 2024 representative, and current Academics Commissioner. She said student government has been a “highlight” of her time at Queen’s.

Accessibility, transparency, and advocacy—the current AMS executive’s platform—will “permeate” through ERA’s pillars, according to McHarg.

They believe their pillars and shared passion for advocacy bring ERA together.

Revitalizing Community

The AMS provides students with various jobs, and ERA wants to ensure these roles are safe, pay well, and translate to the workforce by working with AMS permanent staff and Queen’s Career Services.

“[We want] to make sure that we’re providing meaningful wraparound and staff are getting positive experiences out of it, and being able to grow in their professional lives,” Parker said.

Developing a positive perception and awareness of student services at Queen’s—like the perception of CoGro—is something McHarg addressed as a focus point.

McHarg said she would be excited to work with Queen’s Student Constables (StuCon) to highlight the “incredible” work they do on campus, despite their image of being the “fun police” throughout COVID-19.

The team wants to increase compensation for volunteer roles, like faculty-head Orientation leaders.

“It’s a ton of work, a commitment for the summer, and a lot of times, it precludes you from taking other summer jobs because you need to come back in person for August. It’s a huge financial barrier,” Parker said.

ERA wants to improve relationships between the AMS, faculty societies, and the University for Orientation Week by increasing student voice on the Deans and Designates board.

The idea for a five-year plan arose in team ERA’s consultations with the University, and they believe AMS has the capacity to compensate students for leadership roles during Orientation.

“I think little bits of compensation will eventually hopefully add up to getting those Orientation heads that proper compensation they deserve,” McHarg said, using the example of providing leaders with lunches.

The team is passionate about advocating for faculty societies and wants to find a way to serve them during Orientation and beyond.

Chen acknowledged the “unique” relationship between faculty societies and the AMS, which falls under the presidential profile. Strategizing and working directly with faculty societies is the approach he would take.

“It will be a fine line, knowing where their expertise lies and maybe where some of our support might be beneficial,” Chen said.

Initiatives the team has in mind are providing clubs and services with new equity training and better resources and supports. Team ETC enacted club training this year, but Parker said it didn’t live out the way it was proposed due to the capacity of the Clubs Commission.

“For newer clubs, it really sounds like they’re struggling. I think it’s just an evaluation of how the funding is, is right now and what we can do to support new and blossoming [clubs],” Parker said.

With 16,000 students involved with clubs, new clubs feel a “lack” of support. Parker said it’s important for clubs to have standard training on mental health crises, disclosure of sexual violence, and inclusivity issues.

“We do need to rely on Queen’s and the Kingston resources and supports available—that’s a little bit of what that training is,” Parker said.

She referenced microaggressions as an example of how equity training can provide awareness and support. The team said they would educate and protect students while not making training “cumbersome.”

Financial Accessibility

To “revitalize” the community, improving financial accessibility on and off campus is necessary, according to ERA. The expenses surrounding event, food, transportation, and housing makes it expensive to be a university student, Chen said.

“One really big issue is that financial accessibility, a lot of the times, the power is put in someone else’s hand,” he said. “Giving [students] the power and making their student card work for them and be more powerful is just, it supports everyone, no matter who you are.”

The team is handing out index cards in various spots around campus as a part of their campaign, which outline student discounts—for example, for Amazon Prime, Food Basics, and Nike.

Parker spoke to rising inflation rates, saying in the midst of a financial crisis, it comes down to lobbying on a provincial level with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA).

Creating access to facilities on campus—such as providing microwaves for students bringing lunch to campus—is another way ERA wants to bring the community together.

“Accessibility is access,” Parker said. “We’re really focused on getting rid of barriers.”

The team doesn’t want to see the rising cost of living—and potentially tuition—disproportionately affecting students.

“We’re committed to seeing what we can do because some [bursaries] are underutilized. We’d like to see more support go to students,” Parker continued.

Student Wellness

Around 5000 hours of appointments per year at Student Wellness Services (SWS) are “no shows,” according to McHarg. As the staff is paid per completed appointment, the services lose almost one individual salary per year.

“It’s going to take a lot of collaboration with [SWS}],” Parker said.

Team ERA would reassess AMS’s insurance plan, StudentCare.

“I hear they’re excellent marketers, and very nice, but we just want to make sure that that is the best plan.”

Health services at Queen’s are currently set up to address primarily “crisis” and short-term care, but for long-term care, the services recommend students stay with their family physician from home.

“It’s a huge issue right now,” Parker said. “We’re interested in working with students, we’re interested in working with Kingston resources, and seeing what we can be doing to make sure that students are going to help they need when they need it.”

Student health and harm reduction strategies should be at the center of “the festivities,” Parker said, referring to Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day street parties.

ERA would like to see the AMS implement year-long harm reduction policies. When it comes from the University, they said it can seem “condescending.”

“The festivities are really high-tension points. It causes tensions between [students and] the University. It causes tension in the Kingston community. It’s a security concern,” Parker continued.

“We would like to see more on-campus opportunities for students to engage in programming that is still fun, but just a little bit safer.”

The AMS election is happening on Feb. 6 and 7.


AMS, Elections, Elections2023, ERA, Executive

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