Marium Hamid didn’t know what the AMS was until she used Safewalk for the first time in her first year after an “unorthodox” arrival at UBC in January. Now in her fourth year, Hamid has been elected to be the next president of the AMS after one year as student services manager, overseeing the very program that introduced her to student government in the first place.
“I never would have thought that one day I would be running [Safewalk] and then one day I would be in charge of it all as AMS president,” said Hamid the morning after her win over opponents Andy Lin and Rodney Little Mustache.
Despite her extensive experience with the AMS, Hamid was well aware that the campaign would be hard-fought. While Lin’s Christianity-based platform gained widespread attention on social media and generated significant controversy online and at the debates, Little Mustache’s call for an Indigenous committee in the AMS and further advocacy for Indigenous students on campus saw him gain a number of endorsements and support from students.
“It was a very humbling experience for me, to just go out all day and talk to people and know what they were thinking,” Hamid said of the campaign, which also saw her win one of five senator-at-large positions on the UBC Vancouver Senate.
“Talking to both groups of people and asking why or why they didn’t [vote for me] was in a lot of ways something that I think no other experience can give you because it’s quite vulnerable to put yourself in that position.”
Especially in an election that saw 20.4 per cent voter turnout, Hamid was glad to see how strong candidates drew students to the polls and hopes that the dialogue started during the election will continue.
“I couldn’t be happier that I was running against [Little Mustache], who was advocating for something that is so needed and something that hasn’t received its due attention from — I would say — not just the AMS but from a lot of organizations and institutions across the country,” said Hamid. She hopes to conduct further consultation with Indigenous students and groups before moving forward with a plan for increased Indigenous representation in the AMS.
“I really want to make sure that people like Rodney who have taken the time and the effort to be advocates for something like this are heard.”
In a campaign that also saw numerous candidates reject their endorsements from the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) after VP Academic Max Holmes alleged insensitive questions from the IFC regarding sexual assault, Hamid stands by her decision to reject it as well.
“When I read [Holmes’] letter, all I could think was ‘there are a lot of people who will probably relate to this and who will feel that they wish somebody had spoken up for this,’” she said.
“After that, the decision to reject it was easy.”
“This rejection is rather a call for accountability on [the IFC’s] part,” said Hamid. “I think that with the right conversation and the right effort, if anything this has the capability of being a positive relationship where we’re able to talk to [the IFC] and acknowledge the fact that there are spaces and there are gaps in their system where we can be doing a lot more.”
Now elected, she is set on using her experience observing — and sometimes disagreeing with — current executives to take a critical look at how the AMS operates.
“Throughout the year [as student services manager] I was able to see so many things that, ‘wow, I would have done that differently,’ or how I would have maybe made a decision about that if I was in that place,” said Hamid, whose platform focused on improving accessibility, communication and student experience.
Her first order of business will be hiring for positions left vacant by graduating or newly-elected former AMS employees — “I can’t be expecting the AMS to be functioning at full speed if you don’t have the people in the right places” — and then she’ll move on to her campaign promises, including conducting an accessibility audit of the Nest and increasing the capacity of Block Party by 2,000 spots next year.
Ultimately, Hamid wants to focus on making AMS decisions more publicized in order to allow students and advocacy groups to assess her performance in the role.
“If I’m not telling people what I’m doing, then it’s hard for them to actually tell me if I’m doing a good job or not,” she said. “It sounds like a daunting task and it sounds like one that will make me very vulnerable, but I do think that the president’s role is so large in its reach that that is something that is necessary.”
As for how she would measure her own success?
“I hope that in some way or the other, I make life for students on this campus easier, even if it’s just one small thing.”