At rapid-fire AGM, AMS announces new donations for Food Bank and possible progress on fall reading break

The 2018 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the AMS recapped the past year’s events and finances but also broke some surprising news about the year ahead.

Held yesterday in the Nest, the AGM created a public space for the society to update the student body on the events of its past academic year and provide an annual financial report as required by its bylaws.

Within its less than 30 minutes runtime attended by only a smattering of AMS-affiliated students, two particularly notable pieces of news came from VP Academic and University Affairs Max Holmes and Student Services Manager Piers Fleming.

During his report, Holmes announced that “there will be a fall reading break most likely in 2019/2020,” with a town hall on the break coming up next month. This development comes after much debate in the Senate — the body at UBC that oversees academic governance — and years of student advocacy for a break.

But Academic Policy Committee Chair Dr. Paul Harrison does not think a 2019 fall reading break is in the cards, attributing it to the longstanding logistical challenge.

“It’s a thorny issue because with the current constraints that we have in terms of when we start the term, when we end the term towards exams and the holidays that now pop up during the fall term, there are not five days that we could put together for break like we have in second term,” he said in an interview with The Ubyssey.

“The calendar is just constrained in that way.”

Other initiatives that Holmes touched on included a $1 million campaign to fund undergraduate research at UBC, a review of the Excellence Fund and advocacy on a whole range of student issues such as housing, mental health and sexual assault prevention.

A number of reports later, Fleming announced that UBC President Santa Ono has pledged to donate $10,000 annually over the next five years to AMS Food Bank.

“It [will be] really helpful to help alleviate food insecurity on campus,” he said.

UBC has confirmed that this support is taking place and that its funding is coming from the budget of the President’s office.

A busy first term

Other AMS executives similarly shared accomplishments from their portfolio and plans for the future.

AMS President Marium Hamid, who started the meeting, acknowledged some of the AMS’ accomplishments in the past year, such as the opening of the UBC Life Building, its recent apology to Indigenous peoples and the launch of its new website.

VP Administration Chris Hakim said nine new clubs will moving into the basement of the UBC Life Building that the AMS manages and he’s hopeful that Sprouts will be ready to reopen sometime in November.

VP External Christina Ilnitchi announced the formation of a coalition group that will advocate for student housing rights — calling it the first of its kind — and reaffirmed the AMS’ support of an expanded night bus service and SkyTrain to UBC.

Like last year’s AGM, the AMS also reported a “tremendous” year overall in terms of finances, said Managing Director Keith Hester.

According to VP Finance Kuol Akuechbeny, AMS businesses reeled in slightly under $1.3 million in revenue — about $600,000 more than what was projected. The society spent $700,000 on student government in the past year and $300,000 on its student services such as Food Bank, the Sexual Assault Support Centre, Speakeasy and others.

Hester added that the AMS saw a surplus of about $900,000 — one of the largest profits in the society’s history. This amount will likely go towards paying the AMS’ rolling deficit, though no figures were given for the current status of that debt.

Following a trend from previous years, the meeting did not meet quorum — which requires one per cent of the AMS membership or more than 500 people — despite various offerings of free food and cake. As a result, no motions or questions off the agenda were considered.