The AMS is taking tangible steps to make the student's society more equitable through a complete renovation of the Equity Caucus, headed by VP External Cristina Ilnitchi.
The Equity Caucus was initially formed in 2016 after an AMS Governance Review highlighted potential inequity within the society’s structures. The caucus floundered for two years, struggling with low student engagement before finally being brought under review in 2018.
Ilnitchi believes the original caucus failed because of significant barriers to entry. Many students want to make the AMS more equitable, but they don’t know how to get involved. Despite good intentions, the Equity Caucus didn't make doing so any easier.
“The AMS encountered quite a bit of difficulty and actually populating the Equity Caucus and getting it off the ground,” Ilnitchi said. Applicants had to send in a cover letter and résumé and give a speech to the advocacy committee.
This time, Ilnitchi wants easy access and the active participation of equity-seeking groups.
“Moving forward, we want to make sure that these groups are a part of the process as early as possible, that their voices are being included at the forefront of this work always and that they're also engaging their members and the rest of their community to get involved in this process as well,” she said.
Another major flaw of the caucus was its pre-determined structure, resulting in those barriers to entry, that was created without student consultation. Now the caucus won’t have a fixed structure at all.
“The plan for right now is that this is a blank slate,” Ilnitchi said.
She aims to work with student groups and internal staffers at the AMS to figure out what the gaps are in equity and inclusion.
“[Then we] start from all the ideas that are out there to be able to determine what actionable steps [we can] take to address creating more equity in the AMS,” Ilnitchi said.
While UBC’s Equity and Inclusion Office often engages with AMS executives on inclusion and equity-related matters and was a part of discussions related to the Equity Caucus, they are not directly involved in the caucus, according to Sara-Jane Finlay, the office’s Associate Vice President.
“We hope that the caucus strengthens and elevates diverse student voices and provides leadership on equity and inclusion matters within the AMS and with respect to the student experience at UBC,” Finlay said.
Questions of equity were prevalent in this year’s AMS elections when no female-identifying or non-binary people ran for President. Ilnitchi hopes the new Equity Plan will encourage a more diverse group of people to run for executive positions.
“How do we make sure that we have women and non-binary students engaging in our elections, and then feeling like this is a place for them, [and] that leadership positions are for them as well?” Ilnitchi said. “This plan can definitely tackle that.”
The timeline will begin this summer with the creation of a formal body that will develop plans and ideas to prepare for broader consultation in the fall.
“It's a really exciting process that the AMS is looking to undertake, and I think it will really possibly transform our organization,” Ilnitchi said.