Issue of the Day: AMS Businesses

Posted by: | January 15, 2008 | 5 Comments

The AMS businesses are an important way for the AMS to make money so that we can keep student fees lower. And we do have some of the lowest student union fees in the country (when you take out athletics fees, health & dental, U-Pass, etc, and you’re left with the AMS’ actual operating budget). The businesses last year brought in over $800 000, that’s almost one third of our general operating budget! This money helps to subsidize most of the student services (Safewalk, Speakeasy, Tutoring, etc), and many of the other integral aspects of the student government branch of the AMS. And we have an amazing and competent team of senior managers, business managers and support staff who ensure that our businesses will thrive from year to year.

There are 14 AMS businesses: the Pit, the Pendulum, PieR Squared, Blue Chip, Bernoulli’s Bagels, the Outpost, the Honour Roll, Burger Bar, the Gallery, the Moon, Copyright, Whistler Lodge, AMS Catering and AMS Conferences. There are also spaces throughout the SUB that we lease to other, non-AMS businesses, such as the Deli, the Tea Shop, Travelcuts, the UBC Health and Wellness Centre, and various fairs (like the markets in the concourse, or the Imaginus poster fair). All of these are integral to our business model, and bring in large sources of income and revenue for the AMS.

These businesses also provide services to students – good, cheap meals at lunch, parties and dancing in the evening, lounge space throughout the day, catering for clubs’ events, etc – they service the needs of students. They also provide jobs – hundreds of part-time employees work in our businesses.

But not everyone agrees that our businesses are always a positive thing. Think about lunch time when the concourse is flooded with vendors at the AMS Marketplace. We rent out tables and space in the SUB to vendors for profit. But this takes away from clubs’ ability to use the space, not to mention the fact that it makes the concourse very crowded.

The future of AMS businesses behind the jump

Throughout the recent consultations on SUB Renew, we have come to realize just how much space in our building has been compromised for our businesses over the years – we’ve lost almost 33% of what was once open space, lounge space, and social space. And many people would criticize the SUB for being a strange food court bizarre, and not really an ideal place to be the social hub of student life.

And there have been times when we’ve had to make tough decisions about our businesses. For example, just this year, Council made the decision to close Snack Attack – the revenues made it hard to justify keeping it, and to boot, we were having great difficulty finding a competent, experienced business manager to replace Robbie, who was moving up to PieR.

Throughout the SUB Renew process, the AMS has also been lobbying the University very actively to ensure that the U-Square developments (located over the old bus loop) meet students’ needs, prioritize student social space, and work closely with the SUB Renew process. The resulting conversation has brought forward a strong proposal to bring some of the AMS businesses out into the Square. The benefits are that they free up space in the SUB, and it safeguards from large, unethical corporations being placed on the Square. One of the challenge is that it is risky, we don’t know how well the space will work for our businesses.

Over the year, our members have told us that they not only want us to be entrepreneurial, but they expect us to be. The question becomes, how do we balance this integral part of our organization with the higher level goals and strategies of the organization, and the needs and wants of students. What kinds of changes to our businesses would be seen as acceptable to our students? At what cost do we make these changes? And ultimately, if we want to see the AMS putting less emphasis and resources into either running our own businesses or renting to vendors, then are we willing to increase our student fees?


5 Comments so far

  1. Anonymous on January 15, 2008 7:27 am

    yeah, when you take out Dental & Health, Athletic…

    Nobody’s really complaining about AMS fees, cause it’s ‘actually’ useful, unlike… cough cough…

  2. Tim Louman-Gardiner on January 15, 2008 7:38 am

    The AMS is far too dependent on business income for its day-to-day operations. Though I should add that I’m glad that it acts as a hub and, all things considered, it fills that role pretty well.

    Yes, hike up AMS fees. They’re way too low, especially when compared to national averages and the services provided. Haven’t gone up in decades (?).

    If I had my way, I’d hike student fees so that businesses could provide food at cost (to students), turning the restaurants into a service.

    Also, would it kill the AMS to add a salad bar like Salad Loop? It’s hard enough to find veggies in there.

  3. Anonymous on January 15, 2008 7:48 am

    Excluding the U-Pass, current mandatory AMS fees are $33.50. $12.50 of that is the operating fee. In 1967 they were $29.50. If one was to chart how large the fee would be if it had risen by inflation, the current fee would be ~$170.

    To raise fees you need your executive and Council to agree to do it at the start of the year and start planning.


  4. Anonymous on January 15, 2008 11:22 am

    In 1967, there is no such thing as 500 students per lecture hall.

    Keep rationalizing, I’m sure it makes you feel better.

  5. Anonymous on January 15, 2008 2:51 pm

    Anon 3:22 – I have no idea what your point is.

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