After about an hour and a half of an often sloppy debate, GSS Council decided near unanimously to reject GSS President Mona Maghsoodi’s ban on distribution of the already printed and controversial GSS Handbook. Out of approximately 34 Councilors present, only 4 voted in favour of banning distribution.

I went to attend the meeting and was greeted by about 20 students standing outside the GSS Ballroom and a hired security guard blocking non-graduate students from entering the meeting, citing that Mona had invoked one of the GSS’ bylaws. Mona informed me that I would not be allowed to enter, but that the Ubyssey would, even though I was reporting for UBC Insiders. She later came back and notified the students waiting outside that “after talking with a couple of Councilors, I decided that it would be best to let you in.”

It was a bit of a ridiculous scene. Half of the Councilors there thought the entire emergency meeting charade was a joke and the other half waited patiently for Mona to give a convincing argument to prevent distribution of the Handbook. I’ll present here Mona’s two primary problems with the Handbook and you can judge for yourself.

1) The tone of the Handbook would disturb the “really, really helpful UBC Administration”. Mona felt that it would compromise this relationship. UBC has commented that it doesn’t really care about this issue.
2) The book contained “inappropriate hypocritical slurs would disturb our political advertisers – ie. Gordon Campbell”. She added that since Campbell paid to be an advertiser, the GSS “must protect him”. This comment was met by enormous laughter.

Mona was also concerned about the claim on page 95 of the Handbook that childcare is not a priority on this campus. She said that this was factually incorrect and that “UBC is crazy dedicated to helping us with childcare”.

In response, honorary council member Joshua Caulkins claimed that the Handbook was a bit controversial, but that it’s important to “shake things up” and it would not jeopardize the GSS’ relationship with the UBC Administration or the Handbook’s sponsors. He added that the issue “should have been dealt with months ago”. Josh said that “the Society’s reputation is at stake” and the Handbooks should be distributed to “avoid further embarrassment.”

Council ultimately decided to distribute the Handbooks on the condition that they contain a disclaimer insert stating that the views expressed in the Handbook are not necessarily those of the GSS, its Council, or the advertisers. The Handbooks are expected to be released to students once this insert is added.


17 Comments so far

  1. Jesse Ferreras on September 5, 2008 8:48 pm

    All right, even I can laugh at this. “Protect” Gordon Campbell? Guy’s dealt with the BCTF, the BCMA and the BCTF again. I think he can take a jab from campus activists. Considering the rationale that went behind the books, I think GSS council made the right decision here.

  2. maayan kreitzman on September 6, 2008 3:04 am

    I wasn’t there so I can’t comment on the debate obviously, but I think there are definitely legitimate complaints when a people are hired to put together a standard document like a handbook and proceed to publish a self-serving political platform. It’s a conflict of interest at least.

  3. Ed on September 6, 2008 9:11 am

    I wouldn’t call it self serving in any way. These people have bigger aspirations than self gratification or self aggrandizement. Besides, Rodrigo was elected on a progressive platform, and the creation of the handbook is within his portfolio of duties to execute. That is what he was doing when he hired the best writers on campus to help him with it.

    When Nunes, Crompton, and Witt teamed up it was magic. To steal a phrase; the handbook is a collaborative masterpiece. And by the time it finally drops it will be one of the most hyped documents ever produced by GSS. Make no mistake: this is not merely an SDS document. It is the most thorough account of the legacy and potentials of GSS and Koerner house to date.

    GSS council handled this emergency beautifully as well. I had feared that they would go into camera, kick everyone out, and cease distribution. I had seen in camera sessions called for coca-cola/corporate deal discussions and the elimination of the PhD waiver two years ago. The well balanced council reached quorum promptly and, moderated by an ace old-timer in place of the absent Tompkins, handled Mona’s outrageous behavior in stride. They talked it out and did the right thing. I have no doubt that some credit is due to Filipiak for the year he put in fighting campus and community planning and building council, always in the spirit of revolution.

    The presence of a security officer, and the attempted exclusion of undergrad guests was a dangerous precedent. It felt a lot like a BoG meeting for a minute, but our hosts were all over that too. It remains to be seen whether the various executives will face censure or worse for the bizarre security guard stunt, and for superseding the authority of council when they conspired to interfere with the VP Service’s executive duties.

    At the moment, I feel proud of this council.

    Welcome to Tent City.

  4. Tim Louman-Gardiner on September 6, 2008 9:41 am

    The handbook was good.

    Like really good.

    I’d have been proud to have been part of an organization that published it.

    Sure, there are larger issues of governance, of the role it plays and the role of the GSS. But it’s important to remember that, at least in my humble opinion, the handbook in question was an incisive, thoughtful, and critical work of people who are thoroughly engaged in their campus.

    We should never, ever be in the business of shutting down people who engage with their campus community.

    The handbook is wonderful.

  5. Steven_K on September 6, 2008 4:31 pm

    How is it a conflict of interest? Unless there was some clause in their contract stating that they could include none of their personal views – and they made it clear the views expressed were theirs and not necessarily the GSS’s – I can’t see any conflict of interest. Add to this that they informed the GSS exec, at the very least, that they were indeed doing a political, activist handbook, and I have a hard time seeing what the complaint was. Finally, I agree with Tim – the handbook was overall professional, informative, and well written. Good on GSS Council for seeing how ridiculous not distributing them would be.

  6. Steven_K on September 6, 2008 9:44 pm

    I just want to add-

    I’ve heard from elsewhere that the arguments being made by the Pres were as Blake described them. Has she seen what Campbell has done to post-secondary education in this province? How about his refusal to help fund more childcare at UBC? Does she have any clue about the childcare crisis at UBC? Or the politics of the development happening at UBC? I find it pretty shocking that one of the most important student leaders at UBC, who is asked to represent graduate students to the administration and the BC gov, would be that clueless about the major issues facing graduate students.

  7. Ed on September 6, 2008 11:18 pm

    Steven is right; the GSS President is utterly, and embarrassingly clueless about these issues.

  8. Paul on September 7, 2008 8:42 pm

    I agree Maayan, but the time to deal with that was months ago.

  9. Jesse Ferreras on September 8, 2008 12:44 am


    You are so blinded by your affiliation with SDS-UBC it’s not even funny. Where’s the conflict of interest? Duh! Rodrigo was a personal friend of both Nate’s and Andrew’s and a fellow member of SDS-UBC. That smacks of patronage. It’s unethical, unprofessional and should not be tolerated.

    So perhaps it’s not a conflict of interest – it’s a matter of parallel interests, and Rodrigo used his office to advance a political agenda. And he did that by hiring personal friends. You don’t serve as an administrator of any public body and hire your friends for convenient positions. Nothing sounds wrong about that to you?

    And calling the handbook professional? Tell me, friend, what’s professional about using the description of the UBC RCMP to talk about how they have nothing better to do than take photos with drunk first years? (By the way, I did that story and they weren’t first years from UBC, that would have taken a reading of just 700 words on the Ubyssey website to get that right).

    I might, however, find myself in agreement with both you and Ed about the GSS president. Her behaviour throughout this fiasco has been pathetic. Banning first years from the meeting, and using UBC Security to do it? Trying to withhold the handbook and not tell anyone about it? Someone needs a lesson in accountability.

    P.S. To all UBC people, I’m trying very hard to get over UBC as fast as I can. I’m willing to make bets with other alumni still posting here that I can stop caring about UBC faster than they can.

  10. Steven_K on September 8, 2008 6:13 am

    I accept your bet, Jesse.

    Although I suspect you will win, as I’m still in Vancouver and plugged in other ways to UBC.

  11. maayan kreitzman on September 8, 2008 7:14 pm

    I’ve always been in favor of alumni staying engaged – there’s no shame in it. I really like reading both Jesse and Steven’s comments!

  12. Eden Hart on September 9, 2008 5:44 pm

    There is still a small part of me that hopes that the issues on this campus would one day be discussed in a civilized manner by all the political players on campus, instead of them having to resort to this backhanded hoop-jumping and stifling of others’ opinions.

    The SDS would never choose to cooperate with the “rest”, or whatever you wish to call it for two simple reasons.

    1. Their leaders and major players are too stubborn and self-righteous to accept even a small degree of compromise on their part labeling any request to do so as some fascist or colonial attempt to suppress their righteous path.

    2. The leaders and major players of the opposition are too stubborn and self-righteous to understand that they actually agree with quite a few things the SDS are saying, and while they call their views radical and extreme, they turn around and promote the same ideas of student rights under a different guise.

    Bureaucracy has failed. It’s time to take a stand.

  13. Mike Thicke on September 9, 2008 7:25 pm

    Eden: want to offer some evidence for either of those claims?

  14. Brigadeer Ridikulos on September 11, 2008 11:21 pm

    The orientation handbook was meant to provide students with useful factual information and a dayplanner, and to familiarize students with the campus and its facilities. I can say with certainty that the GSS Council did not intend for it to indoctrinate students with the political viewpoint of one particular activist group. The decision to release the handbooks was a practical one – wasting additional funds to reprint it would likely be a waste of student’s money at this point.

    The existing document serves to mock, insult, and generally alienate administration and government. Say what you will about these bodies, but nonetheless the GSS has a (perhaps tenuous) relationship with them and in order to achieve our shared goals as grad students, it is necessary to work *with* them in some capacity – burning bridges with insult and satire serves no productive purpose.

    To act as if the GSS handbook is “magic” or a “collaborative masterpiece” is ridiculous at best. It is biased and offensive. The author’s SDS group gets a full page description while pride and anti-racism groups receive a tiny paragraph. A centrepiece of the handbook is an essay on the authors’ views on “international capitalism”, presented as fact. It elsewhere mixes important factual information with “humour” in a careless fashion. One page features a nearly useless campus map labelled with such “amusing” items as Toope’s house or a University Phallacies monument, while the facing page contains legitimately important emergency numbers such as rape crisis and poison control. Counselling services info is on the same page as a fake ad ranting against UBC housing. The handbook provides contact info for UBC childcare services while simultaneously railing against UBC for systemic biases against women and families and misspending funding on the underground bus loop, on a page opposing another crane image labelled “UBC INC”. The cynical and sarcastic “Diogenes” character also shows up on the child care page – are we then to assume child care is a joke? Is this opinion or fact? Certainly I know the context, “UBC Insiders” will know the context – we can discern for ourselves what’s fact and what’s fiction. But in a handbook intended to orient students new to our campus, this is simply confusing and disturbing.

  15. Eden Hart on September 23, 2008 7:54 pm

    Mike, evidence for what?

    The fact that UBC politicians are stubborn? Or the fact that both groups are fighting for student rights?

    Would you also like me to provide you with evidence that administration ignores students, that most students are apathetic, and that the sky is blue?

  16. Rodrigo Ferrari Nunes on September 29, 2008 7:29 pm

    Thank you very much for this article Blake. I find it to be quite accurate… Some of these comments here are hilarious though. Somehow, there is no international capitalism, for some. I guess it is just a figment of students’ imagination!?! By the way, the GSS supports students who express their opinions. ‘Eden Hart’ makes some ludicrous comments that show how absolutely disconnected he/she is from SDS UBC, and provides us with stereotypical assumptions. The SDS does not a have single homogeneous opinion, it is a complex collective, and I can say that people in SDS, like we’d hope every student to be, have their own opinions, and do not agree on many things.

    Of course, we can create an “SDS” other, an evil that must be eradicated, and infuse it with misinformed stereotypes from someone’s imagination… But isn’t that suppressing political engagement, in classical anti-free-speech authoritarian fashion?

    I would like to have someone who feels so strongly about how disorienting the GSS handbook supposedly is write a point by point comparison with the AMS Insider handbook (which is, at best, a blurby, bland, colourful, politically spineless, un-opinionated, expensive propaganda/advertisement ‘masterpiece’).

    And, by the way, Nate was the only person applying for the job, and had all the expertise, and I did not hire him alone, it was a committee of 3 executives, and the final decision was not mine… His editing portfolio and schoalarship is very impressive, and that is why he is a grad student at York University in the UK now – just to get the record straight.

    In addition, the issues brought forward by the handbook, for ridiculing the irresponsibility of campus development to students, is bringing forth positive change.

    For those who are still missing the boat, UBC teaches satire in several arts programs, so if you wish to be more informed on the strategy we’ve come up with and how it has been historically relevant and effective, you should get some instruction. I’d suggest, you should start with Aristophanes, be more familiar with the historical Diogenes, and move forward in history, it shouldn’t take long.

    Victores Ludorum!


  17. Eden Hart on October 1, 2008 5:34 am

    Rodrigo, if you believe if I am on the side of those who wish to somehow “eradicate” and “villainize” the SDS, you must not be reading most of my posts very closely. If my track record proves anything, it’s that I have a deep-seated disdain for all sides of the political spectrum at UBC. And it’s not so much that I don’t want them to exist (I support even the SDS and the contribution it makes to UBC’s political scene), as much as I feel that each group/faction/what-have-you, completely fails at representing students, and and is solely motivated by its own personal agenda, and, if you prefer, the multiplicity of agendas of its members. To think that most people *actually* have the students interests at heart, is being delusional, at best.

    My hope/vision for what UBC politics can look like is a tighter coalition of leftist AMS Insiders and the reasonable majority of the SDS (the one that exists outside its vocal leaders who have a track record of accusing others of stifling free-speech and then doing the exact same thing). Someone suggested “Uncleft the Left”. The slogan, of course, is a little ridiculous, but has a waft of reason behind it. I propose one step further: “Unfuck the Left” because “fucked” is exactly what it is right now.

    And here’s some food for thought: I have criticized the previous administration, and I have criticized the SDS.

    Only one group has told me I was out of touch and an affront to free speech.

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