LAZY STUDENTS. We’ve sorted through three very similar presidential campaigns to bring you this: one-sentence differences on five key issues, from the cost of education to imagining the AMS is a lady/gentleman you’re taking out on a date. Keep our chart open in another window while you’re voting!
All answers have been condensed and paraphrased from debates hosted by The Ubyssey and the AMS Elections committee, with attention to statements made in interviews. We’ve tried very fucking hard to present opinions with great accuracy and no bias, but as always, we encourage readers to read the originals and become EPIC FUCKING HACKS. Our summaries—and background information on the issues—are after the jump.
Really lazy? We’ll be putting up endorsements and semantics in the next 24 hours. Click this amazing infographic below and vote on.
1. Cost of education
Currently, the AMS’s policy is to oppose any increase in tuition greater than 2% (inflation) and support any reduction in tuition that doesn’t mean a reduction in overall funding. Some students like this (keep quality of education high) and some don’t (any increase in tuition is an unacceptable increase).
Policy 72, a university policy, states that no (Canadian) student shall be denied continued studies because of lack of funding. However, the policy does require that students must exhaust all other resources, including the student loan system.
AJ: Let’s work for things we can get right now.The policy sounds appropriate; it’s the follow-through we need to be concerned with. Let’s ensure we’re lobbying the university for their best effort. We need to be lobbying for things that aren’t tuition but which are get-able. “Do students want lower tuition? Yes, of course! … But how can we make change right now? How do we fix the things we have direct access to?”
BEN: We need to lobby for provincial change. One of the biggest issues here is to do with the province’s limitations on financial aid and how it’s disbursed, as well as funding for universities themselves. The AMS has a strong role to play in strengthening students’ voices at the provincial level, so both university and students are supported.
MATT: The university needs to explore different ways to provide ‘financial aid.’ Policy 72 is currently problematic because many students aren’t eligible for all the sources they need to exhaust, and thus can’t get emergency aid. Even those students who have loans are in trouble; if they receive a grant or bursary, that amount will be taken from their loan in the next pay cycle—leaving them right back in the hole, especially when it comes to items like rent and food.
2. Provincial Lobbying
The AMS just left the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), a federal lobbying group for student unions across the country. Our only options now? Re-join a federal group (not on the table), or start a provincial lobbying group of our own. For the past two years, once-VP External and current AMS President Jeremy McElroy has been trying to get a provincial lobbying initiative off the ground, partially succeeding with the joint Where’s The Funding? Campaign. Where do we go from here?
AJ: We’re big enough to do this on our own. Coordinated provincial lobbying is a good idea, but not a top priority. UBC can lobby effectively as one institution—maybe not as well as with others, but well enough. We need to put the needs of our school first rather than waste too much of our time trying to put together a group.
BEN: Now is the time to move forward on this. We’ve always taken on a leadership role in the province by being both large and loud. Jeremy’s plans are a priority for the AMS. Previously, we’d been stalled by other schools which couldn’t join. “I think the time is right, right now, for the AMS to really act as a leader here and move forward to unite students from across the province, to focus on these things that matter.”
MATT: Joint initiatives are a practical start. Creating a provincial group is a lot of work; what we should be doing now, in the early days, is assembling the Big Three research institutions (UVic, UBC and SFU) as a starting point. [Ben pointed out he forgot UNBC.] With their clout, we can establish a group and then start to reach out to smaller schools.
Two years ago, the provincial government took over jurisdiction of UBC from Metro Vancouver in what was supposed to be an interim solution. UBC has yet to propose an alternate solution, and is running on a model of almost complete autonomy, i.e. unchecked power. If you believe the university is a benign and all-knowing organization, a sort of Mother Goddess [Editor’s note: Alma Mater actually means Nurturing Mother in Latin], then you’re probably fine with this. Otherwise, you’re worried about how the university will use provincially-supplied resources, like land in the heart of campus, and how much say students will have in these issues. See also: the debate around Gage South.
AJ: We need to get in on the ground floor. Students make up over half the on-campus residents on UBC, and they absolutely need representation. However, it’s difficult to say what that should look like, both because our residents aren’t permanent, or what an ideal governance model would look like. What’s important now is to start advocating for the student voice, so we’re included naturally. And if that doesn’t happen, we can cite our long-term involvement to argue for inclusion. “What role students play is going to be difficult to figure out, but it needs to be a permanent one with a vote in this governance structure.” Our allies on BoG are also going to matter in this discussion. [Editor’s note: AJ may or may not be best friends with current BoG rep Sean Heisler, who we wish we were dating].
BEN: This is the time when our relationships matter, and this is going to be my priority. There’s a lot of uncertainty around the model, but we know what needs to be done in general. Coordinating our efforts is really important. We need to make sure our relationships with the province—who will make the actual decision—the University Neighbourhoods Association and the university are all strong, so we can justify our position. And we need to consult with students on what they want, and provide an effective way for these concerns to be heard—which I did while VP Academic. Our strength is in our unified voice, and I plan to make this a priority of my term. “At the end of the day, this university exists for the education of our student body; not for residents, not for our professors, and not for the UBC administration.”
MATT: The status quo is not acceptable, and we cannot do this alone. Where I differ is in that this conversation has already started. “This is, right now, an interim solution. UBC needs to provide an alternate form of governance, and to think that they’ve just been putting this off is foolish.” We need to put pressure on the university, and we need to put a lot of it on the province. The best way to do this is by pairing with other groups around campus: residents, faculty and staff, ideally in a working group. “… once that critical mass is reached, it’s bringing in faculty and staff so we can go to the province and say, ‘Listen, the people who are going to be governed by this eventual model currently are not being consulted, and need to be so.'”—because it will be UBC’s proposal to make, and they’re already moving on it.
5. “Student Engagement”
UBC students are often criticized for being apathetic, and AMS events are regularly poorly attended. In the first debate, candidates talked about how to get more people out to AMS events, and whether it’s in the mandate of the Society that these events should break even or be subsidized fun. Here, they talk about what new approaches they’d bring to reaching out to students.
AJ: We need clear and collaborative communication. Our website is hard to manage and rarely updated; communications from the society itself are often late and hard to understand. We need to give students the most time possible to react to proposals we make, like the upcoming referenda. Collaboratively, we should be trying to reach more students and reach out to students who are already engaged in different ways, asking “How can we better support you?”
BEN: We need to reach students in new ways, with new tools. Communication is an ongoing issue. We have more and more tools to reach students, but it seems that students are less and less connected. We need to collaborate with groups on campus and have the AMS act as a focal point. Some things we could try are video to talk about what we’re doing at AMS Council. Currently Council meetings are shared as formal minutes, which are dense and hard to understand. Let’s look at how students are engaging with media across campus, and try to reach them in the ways they want, with the info they want.
MATT: I’ve got a pledge for that. Student engagement is a classic question. It’s always brought up, and always from a top-down perspective. Recently, that’s been the supposedly paradigm-shifting social media approach: like this page, follow this stream. I really toiled with this and in coming through the thought process of how to address engagement, I realized how little time we spend talking to students. My campaign pledge is to talk to four new students every day, one thousand students in my term. If I don’t meet my weekly goal, I’ll forfeit one third of that paycheque. If I don’t meet my yearly goal, I’ll forfeit $5,000 from my overall salary.
5. Imagine you’re taking the AMS out on a date. Describe the date. (THIS WAS AN ACTUAL QUESTION, HELLO.)
BEN: Hey, girl. I’d send her a text that said, “Hey, girl. What are you doing tonight?” I’d take her to an Italian restaurant, because I’m Italian, and we’d eat some pasta. Vegetarian or not, whatever the AMS is. Beautiful red wine. And we’d talk about things that are important to her.
AJ: We’d explore all that UBC has to offer. I guess for my date, the AMS is a guy. We’d start the day at the Museum of Anthropology, then trek down to Beaty [Biodiversity Museum] and stare at the whale. Then we’d go to Sage and order some wine on our meal cards, because I’m assuming the AMS lives in a residence? And is a first year? No, I take that back, I spoke too soon. I don’t want to date the AMS any more. Um, and then we would go to a Council meeting together.
MATT: Tea and cribbage? Considering how old the AMS is, I don’t know what I old take her out to. Maybe some tea and cribbage? and then, after that, maybe take her back to the frathouse. [Ed. note: for what, Halo 3?]
This post painstakingly compiled by Kai, who occasionally puts her liberal arts education to “good” use. Graphic by Ekat, who is currently applying to Architecture programs and should you come across this post in a Google search, totally deserves that job.