The AMS and the Graduate Student Society (GSS) have submitted a formal complaint to the Board of Governors (BoG) over lack of student consultation in the recent reorganization of the VP Students (VPS) portfolio.
The reorganization includes the termination of Janet Teasdale, the managing director of Student Development and Services, and the split of her job into two different positions.
In the November 12 submission, AMS President Chris Hakim and GSS President Nicolas Romualdi voiced their concerns in regards to how UBC has been seeking consultation from students-at-large instead of elected student leaders.
“We ask that the Board commit the University to engage with elected student representatives and the wider student body on changes that affect students,” reads the submission.
Over the last year, the university has created policy review committees to allow students to voice their concerns on Board policies that directly impact students. According to Hakim, the selection of those committees has gone on without AMS consultation or appointment.
“This is a clear show the administration regressing in terms of student consultation by not appointing elected student representatives that are put into their positions through a process that thousands of students engage in or looking to survey the wider student body to understand what their feedback is on these critical policies that impact students,” he said.
This specific point has been addressed by the university since the submission.
“I’m happy to say at this point that the board has listened to our concerns because in the draft revision for the Policy Review Committee Policy, there’s a clear statement that moving forward both the GSS and the AMS must be engaged in these policy review committees,” Romualdi said.
The student leaders also emphasized that they don’t take issue with UBC consulting students at large, but noted the importance of engaging those whose have been elected by the general student population.
“I have no opposition of course of the university engaging students at large,” Romualdi said.
“But it is important that the university understands the difference between any student that is in the university that may hold their own opinions to which they are entitled, versus a student leader [who] engages with the broader community and communicates the perspective that is the consensus perspective of a large group of graduate students.
“That point it seems to have landed.”
Consultation within the VP Students Office
Not all reorganizations have been without consultation, according to the AMS executives.
AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Julia Burnham sat on the hiring committee for the new associate VP who will lead a new unit that merges Student Housing and Hospitality Services as well as University Community Services, along with people who work for the university within VPS and the related departments.
“That process was great. That is an example of how you would go about reorganizing a department that has such an impact on the university community,” she said.
In the submission, Hakim and Romualdi did reference a brief consultation by the VPS office on the addition of a new associate VP for Student Health & Wellbeing.
But Burnham said the addition was “floated to [them] as an idea, not really a concrete example of something that was actually happening.”
“So given that precedent that we had, of being consulted by the VP Students, it was quite disappointing and shocking to see that that wasn’t going to be the case for the Student Development Services Department,” Burnham said.
In a statement to The Ubyssey, VP Students Ainsley Carry described numerous listening sessions, meetings and dinners with individual students, student groups and leaders he has had since beginning his role at UBC in April 2019.
He also emphasized his duty to serve and advocate for all students, as well as elected leaders.
“I fully respect the role of elected student leaders and I regularly meet with them. However, I equally respect and listen to the voices of those students who do not serve in elected positions,” Carry said.
“It would be an abdication of my duties as the Vice President for Students to restrict access to my office solely to students who have been elected.”
Hakim said he appreciated these initiatives, but still expressed disappointment over the recent event.
“In the past few years, we’ve seen UBC become slowly better at consulting with students on things that are going to affect them. But taking a look at what the current situation looks like now, it's as if the administration took one step forward and two steps back,” Hakim said.
But Romualdi has higher hopes.
“I hope that my view is correct in seeing this as just a sequence of events that led to this feeling of lack of consultation and this is not really the attitude of the university,” he said.