VP Administration candidates Aidan Wilson and Sylvester Mensah Jr squared off at last night’s debate on portfolio focus points including room bookings and the AMS’s relationship with Greek life.
The two candidates engaged in often-repetitive back-and-forth during open debate. At one point during the audience question period, the chief electoral officer reminded them that they had to respond to audience members rather than debate each other.
Online room bookings and the recently defunct Clubhouse website came up throughout the night. Although Mensah and Wilson agreed that they wanted to move room bookings to an online system contained in the replacement to Clubhouse — currently applications must be emailed to an AMS staffer to review — they differed on how the new system would work.
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Wilson would tie the system to campus-wide logins unique to students, so that student groups are given “implicit priority” over commercial bookings. While Mensah’s platform “does not address room booking specifically,” he said his response to Clubhouse complaints is to hold improved training for executives to use the new system to be chosen.
Wilson questioned Mensah’s plan for improving training over changing existing processes, saying that clubs already receive Clubhouse training.
“I don’t think blaming club presidents is appropriate,” Wilson said.
Responding to Wilson’s questioning of how he would prioritize student groups, Mensah maintained that AMS staff would receive all applications and review them before granting room bookings to clubs — a system similar to the one currently in place — and didn’t specify further. He also raised concern over how Wilson would maintain the unionized role of the staff members currently receiving booking applications after switching to his priority system.
Still, Wilson stressed the need to find a system that would work for the next five years to avoid similar functionality complaints. It is unclear how much of a role next year’s VP admin will play in this, given that consultation is ongoing and current VP Admin Cole Evans expects a new system to be in place before his term ends in May.
The candidates continued to dispute each other while addressing a question about what the future of AMS–Greek life relations would look like after the AMS deconstituted the InterFraternity Council (IFC) as a club because it doesn’t adhere to the AMS’s bylaws.
Mensah said he respected the society’s decision but maintained that the AMS and Greek life should cooperate moving forward.
“I do believe that the Greek community still forms a part of the UBC student life and that forms a huge portion of students of campus,” he said. “And hence the AMS should not really stand in a place where they’re trying to break that community.”
Wilson’s response was less forgiving. He argued that the reason why the AMS removed the IFC’s club status was because the AMS wanted to avoid being named in lawsuits involving fraternities. He also criticized Mensah, a fraternity member himself, for possible “bias” in future negotiations over a memorandum of understanding between the two groups.
Mensah acknowledged the high number of fraternity members already in student politics and the AMS, stressing that this wouldn’t be an issue if he were elected.
“I would like to get that off your mind and please don’t worry about that,” he said.
Several of Mensah’s responses to questions lacked clarity or relevance. Answering an audience question on how he would improve the society’s relationship with its five resource groups, he said he would raise awareness with the student body. When asked by the moderator to address the question, he repeated his answer without further detail.
On another audience question directed to Wilson about how he would change the associate VP sustainability role, Wilson said he would restructure the position's hours to allow for more office hours and student engagement. Mensah chimed in to say he would consult with student groups on sustainability.
An audience member took Wilson to task over the inclusion of “diversity” in the “other platform points” section on his website, to which the candidate said he was mixed race and would reach out to clubs and resource groups for representation in consultation.
Another audience member asked about the presence of controversial student groups on both sides of the political spectrum, like the Free Speech Club and Enlightenment Hong Kong. Wilson’s answer was lacklustre and focused on the fact that the clubs mentioned aren’t affiliated with the AMS. He did not address Hong Kong.
And in a debate marked by comebacks and counters, after both candidates discussed consultation for the Clubhouse replacement, Mensah’s interjection after Wilson’s answer was a single sentence in an effort to get the last word in: “This has been done and this will be done.”
Sylvester Mensah Jr previously served on the The Ubyssey's Board of Directors, but resigned shortly before the elections campaigning period began. The Board of Directors does not influence the decisions of content editors.