Highlights from tonight:
- Is UBC driving us crazy?
- Further plundering of the President’s fund by the external office
Again I will point you to KatDov’s AMS Reports if you’d like another opinion. I had a bunch of things going on tonight and this will probably be a sub-par meeting summary.
Dave Tompkins was absent tonight, so we had Colin Simkus playing speaker. With Dave’s absence also came a lack of technology so we were on voting by raised hands as well as manual motion amendments and speakers lists.
Healthy Minds at UBC
Today’s presentation was an informational piece by Healthy Minds at UBC (Facebook, twitter) about their plans to promote personal wellness, life balance, and mental health among the UBC community. They put forth stats showing that many of the things that are a cause for concern in terms of health and wellness (stress, sleep difficulty, excessive non-academic internet use) are higher at UBC than at other institutions and much higher than the targets that have been laid out. They will be running a “Stand Up for Mental Health Week” starting October 5 so look out for that and are looking to collaborate with any group on campus that aligns with their goals of personal wellbeing.
Blake has been sick recently and so is disorganized; excited for firstweek; lots of AMS promo materials have been produced – pens, hiliters, notebooks – feel free to grab some as long as you are going to distribute them; quarterlies were due at this meeting, but exec only found out the day before they were due and therefore will be submitted for the next meeting: expect “comprehensive and well-written quarterly reports”; council meetings for the fall have been rescheduled to avoid falling on holidays; preparing speeches for first week; spoke with B.Sul about professional program tuition increases over 2%, they have been lobbying for a few years now without success, BF asked them politely to stop, B.Sul said directive came from Toope and therefore must consult.
Committee meetings; reviews of him and staff; HR search ongoing; who wants to make $500,000/year? – learned of proposal to rent out whistler lodge to private person during olympics for half mil. – will look more into it and bring it to committee/council if it checks out
UBC residence contract has now been changed to give more clarity around political protest during olympics, but we should be concerned that UBC has power to change these unilaterally; Canada Line YVR add fare zone will not be included in Upass (though we might lobby on that); Sep 7 lots of bus route changes coming; more cuts to childcare; BC throne speech and budget: if figures coming out of SFU are correct, looking at overall $86M cut from education; preparing for imagine day; upass costume is made
*Colin Simkus advertises the availability of BC’s Budget materials. Almost before they are set down Tom grabs them to have a look.*
Imagine day carnival; sign on U-Blvd fencing for new SUB is now up; no SUB negotiations recently because of back-to-school; clubs days lineup being finalized; deans debate and all-presidents dinner coming (this is the 4th exec remarks in a row she has mentioned these)
Johannes is on tour with his band. Ok, that might not be what he’s doing but he is away on vacation and that seemed like a plausible reason. (Seriously though, follow the link.)
Campus Planning and Development Committee
They will be getting a presentation from Joe Stott about the proposed St. John’s Hospice. I think there is unanimous agreement among students that the proposed location between two residence complexes is, how do I put this, stupid.
Starting next week there will be no plastic cutlery at AMS food service outlets; all cutlery will be compostable. This will cause a modest financial hit to food service revenues. They will continue looking into the feasibility of replacing all of the styrofoam containers with compostable ones. I do urge them to look at the placement of compost bins around the SUB. There used to be way more but they are getting harder and harder to find.
Code and Policy: Conflict of Interest
Here we are again. We have the Conflict of Interest motion back from Code and Policy. From the debate that ensued, whatever was changed by Code and Policy was pretty much irrelevant. Everybody knew where they stood simply on the intent of the motion. Many of the arguments were rehashes such as the purpose of having people be part of multiple organization is so that they act in a liaison role, and the fact that it puts Mike Duncan in a really bizarre position as far as NEW SUB is concerned. Eventually the debate settled on what the default policy should be in the case of conflict of interest: inclusive with council having the right to kick people out, or exclusive with council having the right to invite people in. For clarity, the former is currently the case and the new Code amendments proposed the latter. The engineering proxy whose name was written in regular pen and therefore unreadable from across the room thought the proposed rules were good because inviting people in is a positive gesture while kicking people out was a negative gesture. This would somehow be better for intracouncil relations. Bijan said that if people have problems with him they should just speak with him, rather than developing policies that will cause problems for the AMS for years to come. Geoff Costeloe opposed the new policy saying that we should all just be grownups and trust ourselves and each other to follow our conscience on conflict of interest issues and withdraw ourselves when necessary. Matt Naylor said he supported the new rules for precisely those reasons: people can’t really be trusted and that he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to trust people, (as the annual ritual of contested AMS elections can attest to.) Tom Dvorak wondered whether this would also apply to constituencies since all reps are directors of both the AMS and their respective constituency. I think the answer was yes, it would apply, but please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong. Shortly after, the question was called and the motion overwhelmingly defeated, with even those who professed support for the motion voting against it.
Code and Policy: Signing In and Out
Flashback to last council meeting: Mrigank Sharma, GSS exec and AMS councilor leaves the meeting early, but leaves his clicker on his chair rather than return it to the box. Chris McCann, formerly EUS prez + AMS councilor notices, picks up the clicker and starts voting as Mrigank for the remainder of the meeting. This is not discovered until the meeting is adjourned. Unanimous agreement within the room that Mrigank is at fault here and Chris just likes playing with clickers.
Back to the present, Code and Policy has some code changes that would require councilors to sign in and out with Joanne, the lovely and beloved AMS Admin Assistant. Again, a discussion about whether we should just trust each other to do the right thing. Matt Naylor, in a great gesture, asks Joanne whether this will make her life more difficult because if that were the case he would not support it. A bit flustered, the answer is a wishy-washy version of it not making much difference. The talk then moves to whether council should just try this out before codifying it. More navel-gazing ensues. In the end this motion is also soundly defeated.
Funding Cuts Campaign
The external office wants to put together a campaign to oppose the recent $16M cuts to post-secondary education. They have proposed this budget. AVP Ex Rory Green pointed out that this budget had gone through budget committee and that the planning for this campaign has been in the works for a few weeks already. There were a few questions about past success of AMS lobbying, collaboration with UBC admin to protest cuts and how postage for $2,300 worth of postcards to Moira Stilwell was free (they plan on hand delivering them for more attention). Bijan advocated more cooperation with Stephen Owen in opposing the cuts. Funding allocated.
But then the external office asked for more money. From a fund that is not their own. And that’s when things got a little heated. Lobby Days is an event where interested parties from the AMS travel to Victoria to meet with politicians. Due to what was termed a miscommunication, no funding was allocated for lobby days in this year’s AMS budget. The miscommunication being that Lobby Days didn’t happen last year and was therefore written out of this year’s budget. The lobby days budget is here.
The original motion had the money coming from the External and University Lobbying Fund (which has enough money cover lobby days). I really think everything would have gone fine under the original plan and we all could have gone home really quickly. But then Tim introduced an amendment to have the money come from the President’s Fund. This is basically a slush fund which is supposed to be used for exec projects, unforseen expenditures or things that could not be budgeted for in any other way. The current balance is ~$61,000 and so far this year it has already been used to pay $35K for the provincial election campaign and another $35K to pay back the AUS for ACF debt. AMS council is really burning through this fund this year (it does not get refreshed every year – once it’s gone, it’s gone) so it’s a bit dicey to be asking for money from the president’s fund when there is another fund set out for lobbying.
Tom was the first to object, saying that the amount of money devoted to the lobbying fund was set by referendum and the external office should endeavor to stay within that amount of money. Rory Green said that the ~$22,000 saved by the AMS by dropping down to associate member status didn’t really make it back into the external office’s budget. “Firebrand” Geoff Costeloe took issue with the fact that Tim said this would be “a one-time thing” pointing out that this was at least the second time Tim was asking for money from the President’s fund. Tahara gave a well-reasoned account of why lobby days is important, that people involved in external policy have spent lots of time developing pragmatic policies that might actually be implemented but they need to have the opportunity to meet with ministers. She also pointed out that the referendum about the lobbying fund was in 1996 and due to inflation was no longer at a sufficient level. All good points, but it didn’t explain at all why the money should come from the president’s fund.
Matt Naylor expressed a desire to kill the president’s fund saying that there is too much discretion for executives (and council, presumably) to spend it. It was mentioned numerous times that a federal election is coming soon and that will need funding from sources unknown. Numerous people mentioned that external lobbying is the part of the AMS that is most important to students. I sincerely do not believe this is even close to true. The amendment passed.
Then it was onto the main motion. People asked why they were renting cars as opposed to taking public transit to Victoria and why they were staying at a posh hotel. The answer to both was convenience. So maybe the lobby days budget wasn’t as lean and conservative as originally promised. And that’s where my notes end as I stepped out to take an important phone call. In the end, everyone pretty much said the same thing: lobby days is important, the money shouldn’t come from the president’s fund, but I am going to support providing money for it from the president’s fund anyways.