AMS meeting, may 30

Posted by: | May 31, 2007 | 8 Comments

Yesterday’s council meeting was a picture of brisk efficiency. A colossally long list of agenda items was faithfully plodded through to general satisfaction, though not fascination. Here’s a summary of the things I didn’t sleep through:

  • U-Boulevard efforts were successful, and monumental, said the president and VP academic. They reviewed the outcome (the plan is being redesigned) and noted that “from scratch” is not a wild interpretation according to conversations with President Toope and others. Noted that this affair is a good example of students using the AMS for their needs, sand congratulated the petition team. Check out the stories about the petition and U-Boulevard campaign that ran in the Hampton Journal community paper here, and in the Courier here.
  • The VP academic talked about re-launching Yardstick, an AMS publication which used to list teacher evaluation results. The new permutation of it will be more fun to read, more controversial, and more political, with less numbers. Articles about pedagogy, professor profiles, students’ personal essays about UBC, student surveys regarding academics, as well as some teacher evaluation results. Perhaps more comprehensive evaluation results will be available in an online supplement. An innovative idea was to create a list of criteria for what a good lecture should contain, then randomly drop in on some of the largest lecture courses and evaluate an average lecture. Results from such a survey with names of profs included would be published in Yardstick. That, and including lists of profs that refused to release their evaluations would comprise the more ‘controversial’ portion of the publication.
  • SA link was passed – this is basically an integrated website for clubs and constituencies to both socially communicate, as well as conduct their financial and administrative obligations with the AMS. These are things like executive and member lists, room bookings, financial accounting, elections, and so forth. It is a new system being purchased from a young IT company called Collegiate Link, which was developed by ex-student-government hacks who realized the lack of centralized club/constituency administration – currently, club administration is a dark web of confusing and unintuitive websites that are totally unconnected. The AMS will be purchasing a new uber-server to power the new system, as well as dishing out 42 grand for the program itself. Some of the administrative roles of the finance commission and SAC may be slimmed down when the new system cuts their workload.
  • Pi R^2 renovation was approved. A new serving counter, different types of seating, and a more open design is being put in. Apparently line-ups will be better organized, and it’ll be prettier all around.
  • Pit Pub renovations were approved – $160000 is being spent to make the place slightly less dingy, but still dingy enough to retain true pit character. New seats, new paint (colour undecided), refinished tables, new railings for the dance floor, new ‘memorabilia wall, a new bar surface, new sounds system, fancy new lighting (that may or may not be energy efficient), and some new booth seats are all in the plan. This should all be finished before everyone is back for September. Since there’s no structural work being done, the bill is fairly reasonable, and it’s not expected that the pub will have to close.
  • SUB renew – the process of planning for a new, expanded, or majorly renovated SUB has taken a surprising direction. With the U-Boulevard plan being re-designed, the AMS has begun informal talk about the SUB expanding into the development itself – perhaps taking ownership of one, or part of the buildings (in whatever form they take). This integration of SUB with the development is quite exciting – and exactly what was totally lacking in the previous design. The AMS has begun consultation with architects and plans to bring a referendum to student on the topic by the end of the year. However, if integration into U-Boulevard is a direction the AMS wants to go with SUB renew, it’ll be interesting to see how the referendum’s timing can work with the BoG timeline for approval – which is around late fall 2007, immediately after the consultation and redesign are completed.
  • U-pass service is being expanded to co-op students come September. Co-op students will be considered full AMS members. This is based on a survey that went out to coop students which asked if they would like to retain full AMS membership. They were in favor by a good margin – 87%.
  • AMS website is being re-designed for a new look, and a better administrative interface. Now every little update won’t need coding, rather a simple interface (like blogger, for example) will allow normal technology dunces to update the site. A web design company called White Matter has been hired for this task. GSS president Matt Fillipiak asked why students aren’t being hired to do this type of work (or generally, why students aren’t used for design and architecture projects). The VP Finance said it was because they would cost almost as much, and the president said it was because they had really liked the product this company offered. What do people think about student vs. professional hiring for AMS projects?

A theme of both the SA link project and the AMS website redesign was making the AMS brand consistent and recognizable. These two sites are to have a common “look and feel”. Maybe having a branding design contest would be a good way to get students familiar and involved with making the AMS better recognized? Thoughts on this topic?


8 Comments so far

  1. alougheed on June 1, 2007 7:24 pm

    “What do people think about student vs. professional hiring for AMS projects?”

    I think the AMS falls short on this in some areas where we could be using students where we’re not. I’m likely to write a long, ranty reply in the near future about it. In the meanwhile, reflect about this, and what SA Link is:

  2. Alex Lougheed on June 2, 2007 12:52 am

    Text field blocked it off. Same url below.

  3. Maayan Kreitzman on June 2, 2007 1:35 am

    Why don’t you tell us what you think now!?

    Also, what should we be reflecting about? it seems like the course is a good place to develop things, but maybe not sustained enough to enable students to supply, service, and upgrade a system over the long term. Student get bored, go away, graduate, etc. Companies don’t.

  4. Blake on June 2, 2007 2:24 am

    I was looking through the archives the other day and noticed that the AMS website’s design is different every single year. If hiring a company to redesign the website will mean an end to that, I’m fully in favour. If we’re going to continue to redesign it year after year, then it would make much more sense to get some students to do it.

  5. Anonymous on June 2, 2007 11:40 pm

    Whitematter’s tightly linked with the U of A SU: they handle all the SU’s tech services (and have for at least 7 years), along with the housing registry. They do good work. — Jones

  6. Alex Lougheed on June 5, 2007 10:21 pm

    I do not buy the argument that a web service is impossible, or even hard, to maintain with frequent turnover. With technical documentation, proper oversight, and a desire to improve, the AMS could be not only employing more students, but cutting costs as well.
    The reason I have been given why internal student maintenance is unreliable is because we tried it once with a part-time webmaster, and it did not work because they quit, we rehired, and the attempt at transition failed. If we could develop the system for free by giving students academic credit for the project and documentation, and maintain it using a part-time or full-time position (whose job description would include other things, such as maintaining the website if it were not off-site as well) then the AMS would be fulfilling its mission in the means and ends, instead of just the ends. The argument that this does not work because it has not worked does not indicate to me that this model is flawed, but that the AMS has implemented it poorly in the past. This model is the very basis of computer science co-op: Bring in temporary help to deal with the nitty-gritty coding of a larger, complex system, while there is more permanent oversight to continue the long-term goal of the project. To shrug off this model as ineffective is to shrug off the methods of corporations nation-wide.

    I hear arguments that by outsourcing this project we are assured a level of accountability and reliability, but the problem with this argument is that it applies universally. Why does the AMS run its own food businesses when we can assure profit and quality from leasing to franchises? We have done this with The Delly, Lucky Mart 101, and others to much success. These leasees are accountable to the contract and we are guaranteed that our students are getting a quality level of service.

    We’re not getting any kind of source code out of this deal, which means once we’re forced to get rid of SA link, we have no backup. If we were to develop our own system, we would own that system, and would be able to integrate other projects in to it. Heck, we could make it self-sufficient by integrating advertisements if we wanted to. By entrusting the further devellopment of the system to CollegateLink we are not guarenteed a system that will suit our very specific needs, which we will have, as we are the first student union to opt-in to the system (we can pay for CollegeLink to modify SA Link to our personal needs, but it is very expensive).

    I had surveyed students in computer science after hearing this proposal to see if my gut reaction was right, and they all responded that what we are paying for the system is ridiculous. After they then heard the huge praise for the project, those I surveyed were disappointed and claimed we are “out of touch” with the technical world. I’m inclined to agree.

  7. Anonymous on June 7, 2007 12:06 am

    Alex, I appreciate your comments regarding SA Link. Thank you for being part of this dialogue and providing feedback on how we can engage students in AMS projects.

    I do want to make it clear to you that the custom development CollegiateLink will be providing to ensure that SA Link is compatible with the systems that the AMS currently has in place (e.g. Microsoft Dynamics GP, Class Bookings software, and other application forms) is being provided at no additional cost to the AMS. This custom development work will also be carried over to any upgrades of the software, at no additional charge to the AMS.

    – Brittany

  8. Mark Greene on September 22, 2007 3:54 am


    I hope I’m not over stepping the bounds here but I found your comments very interesting. It seems, through my searching for candid comments about SA Link, UBC students do not seem initially to fond of the product ;-)

    If there’s anything that I can help clear up, listen to your suggestions, or just to chat candidly, I would be happy to talk with you over the phone at your convenience.

    Myself, as with anyone else who works for CollegiateLink encourage those types of conversations with anyone using or thinking about using our software.

    I know at first, people look at us as a vendor, but we really do try very hard at being a young company that listens to people and figures out how to solve their problems.


    Mark J. Greene
    CTO & Lead Developer
    +1 617 250 7057

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