Our Campus: Aaron Bailey wants to reunite students with the AMS

Aaron Bailey is a singer-songwriter, is studying the science of beer and winemaking, has cross dressed for his past three Halloween costumes and lost two of his front teeth by jumping off of a bridge. He is also UBC’s next AMS president.

Bailey is a fourth-year Science student from Niagara Falls, Ontario who has been involved in politics since well before he arrived at UBC, starting with serving on his high school’s student council.

“I’ve always sort of identified myself as a people-pleaser, so I enjoy making other people happy often to the detriment of my own happiness and well-being. It kind of stemmed from that, I guess,” said Bailey. “When I came to UBC, it was just a passion I had developed and something I loved to do. I moved my way through SUS … and now I guess I’m here!”

UBC students tend to perceive their Alma Mater Society with a certain amount of apathy. This year’s voter turnout of 12.9 per cent is reflective of that. Whether it’s because of a lack of communication, understanding of what exactly the AMS does or a simple absence of interest, many students don’t feel engaged with their student society. Bailey hopes to change that in his term as president.

“I’m a big believer in systems theory,” Bailey said. “I really believe that the roots of disengagement from any system is based on how much the people in charge care about what people who aren’t in charge are doing within the system.”

Bailey intends to put a face to the AMS by attending club events and holding open office hours for students to bring their concerns to him.

“If we can prove to the students who are adding value or experiencing things at this university that we care about what they’re going through, I think that’s the only pathway to get them to start caring about what we’re doing as a whole and making it more of a communal atmosphere than us providing services to the masses,” said Bailey.

Bailey is transitioning into the role of president in what is also a highly transitional year for the AMS: despite delays, the new SUB will be opening and ramping up service in the coming months, and with the new building comes new opportunities and responsibilities for the society.

“You hear a ton of optimism around the [new SUB] and I love that -- I love that people are looking forward to it,” Bailey said. “I want students to recognize that they are the stewards of the building. It’s not the AMS that runs it -- it’s every single student who studies, eats, plans an event, naps -- does anything in that space. It’s up to them to turn it into something that they want it to be.”

When asked about what he’s most looking forward to in the new SUB, Bailey struggled to narrow down his list -- ultimately settling on the area above the Nest within the Nest, the pocket lounges and the potential that the building has for facilitating the development of functional neighbourhoods based on the clubs that have a space in the area.

“I really want each of those precincts, where these clubs who have kind of been matched based on mutual interests, to develop a personality that relates to those interests,” Bailey said. “I want to see people having communal dinners in the space where VOC and Surf Club and the outdoorsy people are with their own decor on the walls and furniture and their own sort of vibe to it. I want to see the board games, eSports, Starcraft area become that sort of place where people will go and geek out and do the video game type stuff. Those little hubs inside the building that are going to make it unique and not this sort of sterile piece of architecture that’s pre-planned for you.”

As president, Bailey will serve as one of the primary liaisons between the AMS and the university. Though he fully intends to fulfill his mandate to represent students, Bailey stressed the importance of being willing to work toward a middle ground with university officials.

“One thing that we need to recognize is that university administrators are hired for a purpose. They’re hired by a large group of people who have a certain mandate and agenda in mind, and those people come in and they work for a pay cheque to further that agenda,” said Bailey.

“I hate the idea of vilifying people. I don’t think it’s productive to point a finger and say, ‘they’re the problem -- we need to get this person out.’ It’s about ensuring that we realize where they’re coming from, they realize where we’re coming from and finding some way to bring the two visions together.”

Bailey hopes to make the most of both his year as AMS president and his last year as a UBC undergraduate and still strives to lead his life in accordance with a simple maxim.

“With everything you decide to do at university, make sure that when you look back on it you’re going to have a story to tell following that decision. It’s not worth doing it if you’re not going to a have a story to provide to somebody.”