AMS plans to improve communication, expand advocacy following Academic Experience Survey

The AMS has released their report for this year’s Academic Experience Survey (AES), which outlines 27 recommendations for the society in response to the survey’s results.

The 2018 AES results were consistent with those from previous years — students expressed mixed reviews towards the AMS, a general sense of satisfaction with their university experience and ongoing concerns about affordability.

The survey also included some shifts, such as the slight decrease in overall reported level of discrimination on campus and the first-time inclusion of questions on sexual assault and misconduct.

The subsequent recommendations indicate a range in their approach, from continuing previous advocacy campaigns to strengthening relationship with various organizations on campus to creating new resources.

Addressing sexual violence on campus

The survey found that ten per cent of undergraduate and five per cent of graduate respondents have experienced sexual assault or misconduct by a member of the UBC community.

In response, the AMS plans to work with leaders from clubs, sports teams and undergraduate societies to provide them with resources in order to reduce and respond to instances of sexual violence. It also aims to learn from and collaborate with “comparable associations” on this topic.

At the same time, the AMS will be working with UBC’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) and the society’s Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) to raise more awareness about both services — as one in five respondents said they wouldn't feel comfortable reporting incidents to the university and accessing either SVPRO or SASC.

There will also be more consultation sessions — such as the town hall meeting that they held in July regarding the now-reversed plan to cut SASC’s support services — to collect more community feedback about how to address sexual violence on campus.

“We’ll be putting together a campaign on sexual violence awareness around the theme of ‘We believe you’ and making sure that [survivors and people who are supporting them] know that there are support services on campus,” said AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Max Holmes.

Expanding affordability advocacy

Affordability remains a large area of concern for many students.

To tackle the costs of attending UBC, the AMS will campaign for reductions on student loan interest rates as well as the continuation of the provincial government’s two per cent tuition cap. To counter high textbook costs, they will continue promoting open educational resources and holding their annual #TextbookBroke campaign.

They will also explore how to increase affordability for international students, but it will be done in a “holistic” approach instead of focusing solely on tuition.

“Tuition is just one part of a student’s expenses,” said AMS VP External Cristina Ilnitchi in a previous interview with The Ubyssey.

“When we speak to the government we bring them an overall look at what this issue looks like ... one part of it is tuition. We do speak on that, but we also speak on all the other aspects that come with affordability.”

On the topic of housing, they plan to advocate for provincial policies that will increase the amount and accessibility of student housing.

As many of these recommendations are continuations of those from previous years, Holmes pointed out that this is because many of the affordability pressures of previous years are the same ones as today.

“We’re looking at how we can expand that advocacy,” he said.

Increasing communication

Students continued to give the AMS middling reviews — on average, the society received a score of 6.3 out of 10 from undergraduate respondents and 6.4 out of 10 from graduate respondents. The survey also shows that students are not aware of many of the AMS’s services, advocacy efforts and use of student fees.

To improve awareness, the AMS is planning to further market their student services and ongoing advocacy efforts.

One solution is the revamping of the AMS website, which has been previously criticized as difficult to navigate and poorly updated.

In a previous interview with The Ubyssey, AMS President Marium Hamid said that the new website — expected to be launched on August 27 — will have “a strong emphasis on navigation” and accessible pages for information on elections, referendums and council meetings. The new website will also be used to increase awareness of AMS clubs, which can help increase feelings of belonging on campus.

“Students will be able to understand [the new website] more easily and will be able to have the information that they’re looking for,” said Holmes.

“[It’s] a very easy, accessible way to make sure that students can really understand what the AMS is doing.”