The AMS recently reversed its widely-unpopular decision to cut support services from the Sexual Assault Support Centre’s (SASC) portfolio. But despite what the statement originally issued by executives suggested, the AMS would not have been able to do so before a public Council vote, as per their own code.
The society announced on June 22 that the centre would no longer be offering support services to survivors of sexual violence, effective September 1. Three of the SASC’s seven staff were set to be terminated on the same date.
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But while termination letters had already been sent out and the AMS Executive had presented the planned changes in an open statement, changing the mandate of the SASC would have required changing AMS code itself — and thus a vote.
Under AMS code Section X article 3.2 (g), changes to a society’s operations manual— the document that outlines their mandate, capacity, and structure — must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote at AMS Council.
While the managing director of the AMS has the power to impose “other rules and regulations to guide the Service’s day-to-day operations,” those rules “must be consistent with the Operations Manual of the Service.”
The operations manager is also able to add temporary duties to SASC’s capacities “from time to time,” but this does not appear to constitute a total change of their mandate.
In the June 20 AMS Council meeting, AMS President Marium Hamid motioned to add a discussion item about SASC at the end of the session. That discussion was held in camera, meaning only voting council members and proxies were permitted to attend. Under AMS code, votes cannot take place in a closed session.
Sources report that it was made clear to councillors at the time that the changes to SASC would require a vote — but this was not expressed in the memo later circulated to the AMS Council mailing list, in the open statement, or in the letter the AMS Executive wrote in The Ubyssey.
Unlike other AMS services, whose mandates are outlined in their respective manuals, SASC’s purpose is also explicitly outlined in code as “providing support services to all survivors of violence, abuse, and harassment on campus.”
Modifying that description would also require a two-thirds majority vote, as would modifying or suspending any of the aforementioned code.
As a registered non-profit society, a failure on the part of the AMS to follow its own bylaws could be challenged under the BC Societies Act.
The society did not respond to multiple requests for comment.