LSS SURPLUS SURVEY: WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?
Juris Diction’s Ethan Gordon sat down with the brains behind the four options that Queen’s Law will choose from on the March 23rd survey vote. He asked Tyler Brent, Bryan Flatt, Ian Moore, and Michael Scott why they felt their option was best suited for not only Queen’s Law’s present needs, but also future needs, and asked them to address questions surrounding each of their ideas.
Proposal #1 – Option Plan, proposed by Tyler Brent
This proposal would create a survey for the entire student body, where students would choose between one or multiple options, and instead of ranking each option, would allocate a certain amount of dollars to each option chosen. According to Brent, the actual options will be chosen with a high amount of scrutiny, and there would be a threshold of a certain amount of votes or dollars allocated to a cause before it could be considered a viable option.
Ethan Gordon (EG): At the Bi-Annual General Meeting (BAGM), your plan came under some scrutiny for the slim time guidelines left in the school year to implement the option plan, how would you respond?
Tyler Brent (TB): The actual mechanics of the plan are clearly written out in the BAGM agenda, and while the actual red tape of the proposal might prove more complicated, we could hold a council meeting to pass options, and as long as they pushed these options forward before May 1st, which is incredibly do-able, it would take no more than two minutes to actually vote on the options. With so much talk already had about the plan, there wouldn’t be any confusion on how the voting actually worked.
EG: What would you say to those who feel this would spread the surplus too thin?
TB: I think it’s good that we would spread out the money, just because there is a particularly vocal minority of the student body that dominates a particular issue doesn’t mean all of the surplus money should go to the cause. It’s a fallacy to think we can’t have the Aboriginal scholarship and still have surplus money left over to help with other issues, especially since the scholarship already has support from the administration. We law students are all smart and creative people, and we can petition to get things done in multiple ways, not just settle on one. I personally like the scholarship idea, but we still should have more choice and flexibility. My main worry about this surplus would be that a decision would be made at the BAGM that wouldn’t represent the student body as a whole; I feel my proposal addresses that.
Proposal #2 – Grad gift collective – Proposed by Bryan Flatt
This proposal is that the LSS surplus should go towards a grad gift collective, where each year if a graduating class needs some extra financial aid to go towards a truly worthwhile and helpful gift, they can advocate to the LSS to use a portion of the surplus to help pay, and future grad classes can do this until the surplus is depleted.
EG: What made you decide to propose this option?
Bryan Flatt (BF): The biggest issue I saw when the other three proposals were introduced was that none of them really help students as a whole or as a group. Each one is great and helps Queen’s in various ways, but this proposal addresses needs that actually help the school as a structural entity, which without any debate would help each student who walked through these doors.
All four proposals help students needs, but these help identify both present and future needs for all students. Queen’s is a great place, and we want to keep student satisfaction high, and best way to do that is improve the school physically through students
EG: What are the biggest issues that you feel people might bring up about this proposal? Some have brought up the fact that a future LSS council could allocate these uses for something else other than grad gifts.
BF: The issue at first might seem to be how best to allocate the surplus year to year, the best option I have come up with is not making surplus a yearly percentage based allocation, but make it on need basis, and have a board chaired by the VP Admin or someone of that nature, so that a graduating council can propose a reason for using part of the surplus, and have the LSS either approve or deny their request.
As for its continued use year to year, I could definitely foresee a need where an issue or emergency may arise, such as the memorial tree for the student who passed away last year, and would be taken out of the fund approved by the committee. Ultimately if the proposal passes, there should be a commitment for this allocation to remain for this purpose, with obvious exceptions or emergencies when it is felt that the fund may go towards a good cause.
Ultimately I believe this proposal has support. When I was debating putting it forward I approached students from all years with this idea, and the overwhelming reaction from people was that it would be something they would consider. Now, this does not mean they would 100% vote for it, but there is definitely enough support from student body that there lies a need to improve school infrastructure and that this will help the school as a whole.
Proposal #3 – Aboriginal Student Entrance Scholarship, proposed by Ian Moore
This proposal would create an entrance scholarship for aboriginal students who have been accepted into Queen’s Law. It will be created using the $25,000 from the LSS surplus as well as $25,000 from faculty, alumni, and other donors and will be administered every year to a student who declares Aboriginal status, and will be based on both academic achievement and their need for financial support.
EG: Why do you feel this proposal is important?
Ian Moore (IM): The proposal addresses big barriers felt by Aboriginal students in general. While Aboriginal students receive government funding, that money has been capped at a 2% increase per year, which has not kept up with inflation, ultimately decreasing as the Aboriginal population increases. Practically this is actually the most sustainable use of the surplus, as it would create an endowed fund that gives us a scholarship every year, and we would be gearing it towards something else that will bring back returns.
EG: How do you communicate to QL students who don’t feel a connection to this cause why you feel that this proposal should affect them?
IM: The recent release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action #28 calls on Canadians to have mandatory education on Aboriginal peoples and the law, as well as to work on intercultural competency. In fact, all the calls to action deal in some way with the law, and this is an important opportunity for Queen’s Law to welcome Aboriginal students, a sentiment that is not being broadcast right now
In addition to this, our proposal is the only one that truly helps students right now. All the other proposals are incredibly admirable but the general bursary helps people who are already getting huge amounts of aid, the option plan has no tangible proposals on the table for how it will be used, and the grad gift option is not feasible, as future LSS councils have no obligation to retain the money for that use.
Ultimately, one of the most important and significant developments in Law has been the emergence of Aboriginal law, and how much influence Indigenous peoples have on every aspect of society. You might not feel passionate about Truth and Reconciliation, or De-Colonization, but in reality, having an education in Aboriginal culture and Law by welcoming more Aboriginal students will prepare you for any area of Law.
Proposal #4 – General Student Entrance Scholarship, proposed by Michael Scott
This proposal would establish a needs-based bursary for Queen’s Law students through the contribution of $25,000 by the Law Students’ Society (LSS), and matched by the Faculty of Law.
EG: Why do you think your proposal is the best option for Queen’s Law?
Michael Scott (MS): We know that financial need is a significant barrier to law school attendance. Large debt loads add significant stress to many students’ law school experience. While I don’t think any of the proposals will benefit anyone who wasn’t already planning on attending law school, a needs-based bursary will, in a small way, reduce the burden for some students.
EG: What do you say to those who think that we already have needs-based scholarships and this would take away from a more unique or distinctive initiate?
MS: While we do already have some needs-based bursaries and scholarships. I don’t think the quantity is sufficient to meet the demand. The LSSO released a report (while it didn’t include data from Queen’s, I think it is largely representative) which demonstrated the significant financial barriers in law school. Among third-year law students with debt, the average debt-load was $71,444. That’s a tremendous amount of debt at the start of your career. I don’t think we can say that our financial aid system is sufficient when it results in such heavily indebted students.
EG: Would this scholarship differ at all from other alumni sponsored scholarships?
MS: As I think is abundantly clear, there is a need for further financial aid at Queen’s Law. Law students graduate with enormous debt loads. We can help reduce these debts for students today and into the future.