AMS council trying to abolish defunct oversight body for second year in a row

The AMS is once again trying to kill the Student Court.

At its February 6 meeting, AMS Council approved putting forward a referendum question that will ask students if they are in favour of abolishing Student Court. On paper, Student Court is the society’s neutral third-party decision-making body in times of disagreement — in practice, it is hasn’t been functional in 10 years.

This is the second year in a row that the AMS will be putting a similar question on the referendum ballot. During the 2018 AMS elections, the question got approximately two-thirds “yes” votes — but too few people voted and it did not meet the required 8 per cent quorum.

AMS Code Section XV Article 1 states that “the Student Court shall be a standing body which serves throughout the entire year.” If the society wants to stop violating its own rules, it needs this referendum to pass.

Student Court has a contentious history.

It hasn’t been regularly convened since 2009/10 academic year, and it was last filled in any capacity in the 2014/15 school year, under Tanner Bokor’s presidency. At the time, Bokor insisted that Student Court would become a regular entity again and Council appointed judges in early 2015, but the court never sat. No judges have been appointed since.

In January 2017, a motion to reconvene Student Court specifically for the purpose of ruling on the wording of a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions-related referendum question failed by a slim margin. Opposing councillors argued that convening a body to rule on a specific issue was unethical.

In November of the same year, the AMS put the wheels in motion to abolish Student Court because of its “uselessness.” That came forward in time for the 2018 elections — where the vote didn’t reach quorum along with one other referendum question.

The court’s official role is to serve as an advisory body to the society, meaning they never had the power to mandate specific actions or decisions. AMS Council still needs to vote on whether to act upon any recommendations made. In 2010, Student Court ruled to invalidate an Arts Undergraduate Student election, and AMS Council immediately overturned that decision and stopped filling the court.

Law Councillor Dylan Braam noted at Wednesday night's Council meeting that these workarounds make Student Court particularly useless as an oversight body.

The AMS also has an official ombudsperson for conflict mediation and resolution.

Now that the referendum question has been approved by Council, students will see it on the ballot from March 4 to 8.