The future of AMS commissions

With AMS elections looming, the Journal spoke to each comission about what they’d like to see next year’s executive do and how they can improve the society

Academic Affairs Commission

I can say with absolute certainty that the single most important priority for next year’s Academic Affairs Commission will be the provincial election taking place in the fall.

Our provincial government is responsible for all matters pertaining to post-secondary education, from OSAP to tuition fees and institutional funding, and the parties will differ significantly in their visions for the future of the sector.

The Progressive Conservatives favour deregulation of tuition and a shift from need-based to merit-based scholarships; the Liberals favour a cost-sharing model between the province and students; the New Democrats favour increased institutional funding and lower tuition fees.

But what’s common to all three parties is that they don’t take the student vote seriously, because it’s well known that our age group is not politically active.

If we continue to remain apathetic to electoral politics at the provincial level, we could see the same nightmare scenario that students in the UK are now facing: a 300 per cent increase in tuition fees.

Unless the Academic Affairs Commission, and the AMS as a whole, takes a prominent role in blanketing the campus with targeted advertising advising students of the grave importance of this election, we could see a similar downloading of university costs to the students.

Chris Rudnicki

Campus Activities Commission

The Campus Activities Commission (CAC) is a unique body within the AMS. Essentially, its purpose is to entrench a set of activities that the students find particularly valuable and provide them with consistent AMS funding.

As we’ve seen in the past five months, however, the value of these events is not always clear to all students. This does not mean that the CAC must fundamentally re-think its role, but it does mean that it must find a way to constantly solicit the input of the general student body regarding its events.

Next year, finding a way to meaningfully involve students in decision-making regarding CAC events will be its greatest challenge.

There are a number of ways to do this, from inviting more involved Assembly oversight to engaging the general student populace in a process of participatory budgeting for CAC activities.

Regardless of how the next year’s executive chooses to move forward, this must be an area of focus.

Chris Rudnicki

Municipal Affairs Commission

Looking forward for the Municipal Affairs Commission (MAC) in 2011/2012, the single greatest challenge I see facing the portfolio is student apathy and disengagement.

Arguably, these same issues have faced the commission for the better part of five years. If experience has taught me one thing, you cannot (and will not) be successful as the municipal affairs Commissioner or Vice President (University Affairs) if you attempt to target every issue involving students living in Kingston.

Instead, I would urge the incoming commissioner and VP (UA) to set their sights on tangible goals they can accomplish in their 12-month terms. This portfolio is massive and at times feels literally all-encompassing.

It’s in the best interest of the MAC, Queen’s students and the commissioner’s sanity to prioritize aspects of this challenge and focus on a handful of strategies.

“Fixing” the complicated relationship between the City of Kingston and Queen’s cannot be shouldered by one year’s executive.

Rather, I would encourage incumbents to focus on dealing with student housing and facilitating opportunities in Kingston for students to seek employment in the summer and after graduation.

One year cannot change the negative view some students hold of their AMS. However, the commissioner next year must prioritize creating and implementing a new marketing scheme and branding for the commission.

Despite the negative rhetoric Queen’s student sometimes use in regards to the City, I have found students incredibly grateful for the services the MAC can provide. The trick is, then, increasing visibility of these services and information. Student apathy is rampant simply because most students don’t feel they have a voice on so many issues involving town-gown relations.

For the incoming MAC commissioner, it will be essential to increase the visibility of the services and support offered and work to both empower and represent Queen’s students.

Hilary Windrem

Social Issues Commission

The Social Issues Commission’s biggest challenge every year is that it lacks autonomy within the AMS.

Being the only commission within the AMS that is tasked with keeping the rest of the society accountable when it comes to equity, it’s imperative that the SIC’s influence is reflected in its ability to advocate for issues within Council, AMS Assembly and the student population as a whole.

The SIC is often seen as the part of the AMS in charge of every social “issue” in the university.

This is done to relieve the rest of the society, and other university actors, from the responsibility to be committed to anti-oppression and equity but there will need to be a clear and concrete plan to de-tokenize the Social Issues Commission.

To continue, the SIC will need the support of the executive, and the executive’s commitment to bring issues of equity to the forefront of the AMS agenda. Only in this way will the SIC be able to truly fulfill its role and influence the AMS.

Without an open and clear commitment to address these issues, and a strong desire to see equity and anti-oppression play a role in every decision made by the AMS, the SIC will continue to be tokenized, and its potential to keep the university and the AMS accountable will be hindered.

Daniella Dávila

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