Our intrepid AUS reporter Crystal Hon knows a thing or two about projects involving the building of new student space at UBC. Here are her thoughts on a referendum question being put to Arts students.
By now some of you will have found out about the AUS Fee Referendum that is on the ballot for this round of elections. The AUS unfortunately did not run a promotional campaign on this issue so students who are not on the list-serv, in the facebook group or have some kind of connection to the AUS won’t know about it. Let’s start with the referendum question.
Do you support the Arts Undergraduate Society increasing its yearly student fee starting with the 2010/2011 Academic year from $13 to:
$18 for the academic years 2010/2011 to 2011/2012, and to;
$23 for the academic years 2012/2013 to 2013/2014, and to;
$28 for the academic year 2015/2016,
for the purpose of building a new student social and study space in an area surrounding the new Buchanan West courtyard as well as renovating the current Meekison Arts Student Space (MASS) by adding student club offices, multimedia meeting rooms, group study rooms and other student facilities as determined by the Arts Undergraduate Student Social Space Expansion (AUSSSE) committee following a consultation with the Arts students?
-The Fee would increase in each school year after the 2015/16 school year by the rate of inflation determined by the Canadian Consumer Price Index.
-The Fee would be levied on all active AUS members on a yearly basis
-The Fee would continue to be levied until the AUS has completed all its financing obligations for the new Student Social space and re-purposing of the current Meekison Arts Student Space.
This project was something that was mentioned during my stint on the AUS. It was a little late in our term so we felt that it would be best if the current executive made it their project. We thought that in order for the referendum question to increase student fees for this project a couple of things needed to be done. Doing all of the legwork necessary to figure out how the building will look, student consultation to figure out what students want as well as running an extensive and comprehensive promotional campaign were all parts of the equation that would produce a favourable result. While they definitely worked at the pulling the first part together, this year’s executive definitely failed at the last part. Let’s break it down a little further.
The Arts Undergraduate Student Social Space Expansion (AUSSSE) Committee definitely started off with a lot of passion and drive. I frequently heard about the project through different committee members and from the AMS Designer (Michael sits on the AUSSSE to work with the AUS. He has worked on different student projects like the Abdul Ladha Science Student Centre and The Meekison Arts Student Space.) While drive seemed to have tapered off as the year went on, the committee still met and worked towards putting something together to visualize for students and potential donors what the AUS wanted to do. I do think that the executives did a good job in this part of the process and they should be commended for it.
Promoting the Fee Increase:
It goes without saying that successful referendums with fee increases have always had huge public campaigns promoting the reasons behind the fee increase, what kinds of changes are in store and generally explaining to the voters why its important to vote yes. It is a knee-jerk reaction to say no to fee increases unless solid reasons are given to the voters on why they should say yes! The AUS definitely dropped the ball on this vital part of a referendum question. The only material sent out about this fee was the extremely long e-mail sent out by the AUS president this morning. Half of the material in this e-mail was irrelevant (a lot of it talks about the president’s motivations for running for president and how he failed to meet his expectations) while the other half ineffectively explains what the money will be used for and the background for the project.
With all of this in mind, I think that this expansion is absolutely necessary and will enrich the student experience in our faculty. It will take an immense amount of buy in from students, something that needs to be built up over a period of time. I do think that the AUS needs to take some time to talk to students and generate student interest in order to get this project on the radar of students who do not sit on council. It will take a miracle for this question to pass; I have no doubt in my mind that it will fail. It will be up to next year’s executives to learn from this year’s fumble. This kind of fee increase will require a campaign that will take at least 6 months, if not more, to plan for. I implore the incoming executives to start planning this as soon as they step into office.