The AMS has a transparency problem, and it’s getting worse.
The AMS Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing the AMS’s strategic, fiduciary, and human resource direction on the corporate side.
In my time at Queen’s, I’ve been to numerous AMS assemblies. Every year, I’ve noticed the number of motions, reports, and general critical discourse from assembly members dwindle.
Something I’ve never covered for The Journal is an AMS Board of Directors open-session meeting. In fact, no Journal staffer has since 2015—not because we don’t want to, but simply because guest passes are not granted to anyone.
This is a problem.
Corporations do require some confidentiality, especially when dealing with human resource matters and supplier contracts with non-disclosure provisions. Most corporations don’t, however, collect student activity fees to run the majority of operations.
This puts an onus on the AMS to be responsive to demands of their constituents—Queen’s undergraduates—when it comes to understanding the use of their money. On numerous occasions, The Journal has requested—per policy, and courtesy—through the Chair to see open-session minutes. The Board has failed to release documentation in every instance.
Shareholders of the AMS have the right to ask for this information, but the average student is not considered a shareholder—only those who sit on AMS Assembly are. This is a deep inequity.
AMS executives love the word “transparency.” They love using the word as a campaign pillar and make it a mainstay in their marketing. Despite this, there’s little evidence to show they care to implement it.
On a technical level, the AMS is failing students. Past executives had the gall to tell student journalists, students would be incapable of comprehending corporate information, and they withhold such documents for that reason. Past AMS executives justified their lack of transparency by indirectly insulting the intelligence of students to other students. Students have the right to know what their elected leaders—whose salaries they pay—are doing behind closed doors.
The media, particularly publicly funded media, such as The Journal, has both a right and an obligation to provide coverage to institutions that collect mandatory fees.
By leaving the media and students out of the conversation, the AMS is shooting themselves and their engagement levels in the foot. A public record in the media is better than any source of institutional memory.
My co-editor and I learned this when we found the AMS Board of Directors hadn’t updated The Journal’s financial probation operating guidelines for the next two years. This oversight was caught in time, but it’s emblematic of how much can be missed without a public record.
AMS services, whether it be The Journal or any other AMS office or commission, are accountable to students. They should be able to question and receive answers about decisions made in these divisions of the AMS.
They can’t be expected to engage with them otherwise.
Denying both the media and students information isn’t a strategy for success—it creates a harmful distance from the everyday lives of constituent students.
From a student and constituent, do better for transparency, AMS.
Asbah is a fourth-year Biotechnology student and one of The Journal’s Editors in Chief.
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