It’s hard to believe one year has passed since the most hilariously catastrophic student government fail occurred. We had different friends, different lovers, different blogs (who here remembers UBC Spectator?) and a different President. It is now November 2010 and we are debating the Gaza strip. Have we really come that far? We give you the latest in AMS Council news, aka Bijan’s blunders, which sort of remind us of Blake’s blunders. Grab a drink or five and get ready for this trip down memory lane… (but first, vote for us in VFM right now!!)
It all started with the Land Use Plan, this boring document that is actually really important. A shitty consultation about it was held, where barely any students showed up and those that did, well, they didn’t care about them anyway. You can read more about it here.
Council had passed a Land Use Policy unanimously, save for only Bijan opposing it because he thought we weren’t going to get what we wanted. Council told him he had to, dial whine one one and deal.
October 14th, 2010: Bijan made a speech with Toope at the All Presidents Dinner, in which he took a position that wasn’t exactly that of the AMS on the subject of market housing. VP Academic Ben Cappellacci stormed out during his speech, and VP External Jeremy McElroy took to Twitter.
This reminded us of when Blake sent out a press release about the bus loop that harshly criticized UBC. This also wasn’t exactly the position of the AMS, but unfortunately there was no glitzy dinner for any VPs to storm out of.
November 10, 2010: Lettergate.
Bijan rewrote a letter from the VP Academic’s office changing the AMS’ position on Land Use unilaterally. Council then debated a motion that would allow for Ben to be the sole liaison with the university on the Land Use Plan and to give the AMS presentation at the public hearing. The council meeting went a little like this (verbatim):
Bijan: “I HAVE THE FINAL LAST SAY ON THE AMS’ DECISION…I AM THE PRESIDENT”
Kyle Warwick: “You’re undermining the powers of liaison.”
Bijan: “Nothing about this will change how things go around here. I will still be writing the letters to the university. I will be deciding what our position is. This creates divisions and gets in the way of how executives operates.”
Katherine Tyson: “[Ben is] not just the person who does the grunt work, he has the ability to write letters…if he’s not allowed to talk then what he’s been doing isn’t appropriate. Bijan does not come up with all the messaging. Council does, as well as Un-e-coRn. We delegate this message to the VPs. Being told by Bijan that he can’t communicate really hinders our ability to work.”
Ben Cappellacci, VP Academic, on Bijan’s letter: “Bijan, what you said…is something we’ve had issues with in the past. The tensions we’ve had about this is about communication and consistent messaging. [Council] would like to have ME be the person designing the message. What you’re saying is trumping my message and inserting your own.”
Elin Tayyar, VP Finance: “The letter was contrary to what we agreed upon.”
Jeremy McElroy, VP External: “It was not what was unanimously agreed upon and it was not public relations. It was internal.”
Bijan:“At the end of the day I am the spokesperson and at the end of the day what I say does trump what you say. Ben does not have the authority to speak on behalf of the society. It is MY decision.”
Chad Embree: “I seem to recall an individual last year that did exactly what you’re doing in that seat.”
Bijan then asks Council to begin a fucking INVESTIGATION into the letters. Seriously. Council passed the motion silencing Bijan on the Land Use Plan, but Bijan went on to threaten Council that he would still speak on behalf of the AMS at the Public Hearing and continue talks with the university. Remember all those criticisms during his campaign? About him being too close with the university? Yeah, we remember too.
Bijan: “[Ben’s] said things to the media that I’ve had to go back and apologize for…I will be going to the university and saying that I have the final say on the policies of the AMS.”
So basically, Bijan doesn’t give a shit about council and will do whatever he wants. Which reminded us of exactly what Blake Frederick did one year previous when he tried to convince Council not to censure him. So they didn’t censure him (or Bijan) which led to…
November 26, 2009: The UN Complaint.
Blake Frederick (AMS President) and Tim Chu (AMS VP External) secretly file a human rights complaint to the United Nations on November 26, 2009. Why? Because the provincial and federal governments are VIOLATING AN INTERNATIONAL COVENANT. Which was signed in 1976. Among other things, the HOLY COVENANT states that post-secondary education should be “accessible to all” and that countries should move toward “free education.”
Blake, Tim, and Pivot Legal Society hold a press conference on the same day asking the United Nations to appoint an independent expert or special rapporteur to look into human-rights violations in Canada. Indignant citizens begin yelling about procedure, it’s revealed that Blake & Tim never went to Council with this, and everyone turns to Twitter to talk about their feelings. Oh, and the AMS almost makes it onto Failblog.
Matt Naylor circulates a petition for an emergency council meeting and calls for Blake and Tim to resign. (They don’t want to). The next day, UBC Insiders uncovers brief mentions of the complaint in ExecComm minutes. Blake and Tim write an open letter to AMS Council saying they’re not going to come to the emergency meeting. Instead, they go party at the NDP convention.
Where has that taken us? Only to the brink of yet another global disaster in the land of student government.
Late November 2010: Gazapalooza.
VP Finance Elin Tayyar felt uncomfortable signing a $700 cheque that was a donation from the Social Justice Centre (SJC) to an aid flotilla to Gaza and went to Bijan about it. After some students complained, AMS executives suspended the donation and decided to bring it to Council.
As Bijan said, “We didn’t want to touch that.” But he touched it, and he touched it hard.
The decision to freeze their account was motivated first and foremost by political concern. But it was well within the SJC’s rights to put forward money from their grant fund to a cause of their choice. The only reason a stink is being raised about this donation is because of the level of tension between Israel and Palestine-supporting students on campus. – The Ubyssey
Bijan tweeted: “shaken from the physical intimidation by the SPHR [Solidarity for Palistinian Human Rights] President at my office today. Had to call security to remove him!” —and so begins yet another international crisis on campus. This incident was written about in the National Post & Maclean’s, in which the National Post says the flotilla will “deliver aid directly to Hamas” (not true- no one knows WHO the aid is going to), basically calls the president of SPHR a terrorist and – wait for it – the article’s picture is of Moammar Gaddafi IN THE UNITED NATIONS. Oh, and NOAM CHOMSKY wrote a letter to the Ubyssey defending SPHR.
November 28, 2009: Massive AMS Meeting
AMS Council held an emergency meeting demanding the resignation of Blake & Tim, and almost 200 normal students at large show up to voice their opinions about what is happening. They unanimously withdraw the UN complaint. VP Academic Johannes Rebane & VP Finance Tom Dvorak apologize to Council for signing cheques without reading them first. Turns out, Crystal Hon actually signed one of them too and also apologizes to Council. They also pass a temporary communications policy silencing Tim and Blake, which reminds us of what they did to Bijan.
“I’m suddenly confused at this methodology that everything has to go through committee.: -Blake Frederick
November 25, 2010: Blake Takes On Bijan.
Blake wrote an opinion piece in the Ubyssey demonizing Bijan “for deliberately misrepresenting their lobbying directives on campus land use negotiations.” Because he never did anything like that AT ALL. He then goes on to comment on how Bijan “should have approached this situation as an impartial mediator. Instead, he has helped ignite a public discourse on campus that is entrenched in rhetoric and accusations.” The zinger?
“The AMS should remove him from this issue and appoint someone who will respect the autonomy of the Resource Groups and diffuse the situation.” -Blake Frederick
You can bet that the left side of campus will be calling for Council to push Bijan out of this issue and silence him like he was silenced on the Land Use Plan. So if Bijan is shut out of the Gaza issue, and shut out of Land Use…well, that just reminds us something that happened to Blake:
December 7, 2009: Call for the impeachment of Blake and Tim. Blake and Tim say they can’t be impeached because of the Society Act/bylaws/boring shit like that, Council says SCREW YOU YES WE CAN.
Turns out, after this legal opinion, they actually CAN’T be impeached. As per the Society Act, they can only be removed through a general meeting or referendum. In fact, if they tried to impeach Blake and Tim, they could then turn around and sue for wrongful dismissal. Team Blim were censured (note existence of previous attempts to do so) and basically stripped of all decision making abilities and told to keep record of their work hours. Blake and Tim are very happy to keep their jobs, and ignore the pleas from Council to resign.
This kind of reminds us of the ~$2000 legal opinion (for a $700 donation) that Bijan is getting on the SJC. Why? To cover their asses and find an excuse to get out of this predicament. Bijan has created this mess by getting involved, Council isn’t happy he’s making them decide, and so the obvious answer is to get a legal opinion.
November 26, 2010: This flotilla got BLAKE FREDERICK and MATTHEW NAYLOR to AGREE on something. Hopefully Council can put all of their personal political opinions about Israel and Palestine behind them like Naylor did and have a reasonable debate.
“As such, it is with regret that I have to argue on the SJC’s side in this particular battle. They were given these funds, and their budget for donations was approved by the processes that the AMS laid out. If Council had wanted to impose restrictions on the political nature of donations, or even take the somewhat more sensible step of stipulating that the AMS Resource Group fee should go towards, I don’t know, funding resources for students, they would (and in my opinion, should) have done so in advance.” -Matthew Naylor
November 30, 2010: Will Bijan defy Council and speak at the Public Hearing? Who cares? The AMS Public Relations expert himself has managed to create a whole other realm of scandal so that no one even cares about his hissyfit with LetterGate anymore. By tweeting and updating your Facebook status with alleged threats, you’re not working to quell the situation but only to escalate it. That’s not leadership.
Today: Are we doomed to have international crises on campus every November? …has AMS Council really accomplished anything? Ben and Jeremy are rumoured to be wanting to run for President. Ekaterina Dovjenko has excelled in her role with everything SUB-related, but besides that- is Bijan any better than Blake? Can Ben or Jeremy be the next Mike Duncan?
In the past two years, the AMS presidents have split the executive, ignored council and put infighting above the issues. At best, this year’s executive managed to come up with a budget that isn’t going to bankrupt the society, and convinced the administration to not totally hate them. They moved the ball forward on a land use plan that doesn’t totally screw students and they got a thousand students to say they’d be down with a Skytrain line to UBC. But at this point, unless you consider a talent show a significant accomplishment, they’re spinning their wheels. – The Ubyssey
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