Following public outcry, AMS reverses decision to cut SASC’s support services

Update Tuesday, July 3 at 2:20 p.m: The July 5 town hall meeting will be held at the Performance Theatre in the Nest from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m, according to AMS President Marium Hamid. The AMS has yet to release this information online, but expects to release the social media post about it soon.

The AMS executive has reversed its decision to cut the Sexual Assault Support Centre’s (SASC) support services three days after it announced the change. The July 5 town hall meeting scheduled after the initial release is still set to take place according to AMS President Marium Hamid, although a specific time and location have not been set.

In a media release issued this evening, the AMS executive apologized for the impact of its previous decision on survivors and the wider UBC community, before announcing it would be reversed.

“The AMS sincerely apologizes for the harm that this has caused survivors, those supporting them, and the rest of our community members,” reads the release. “It was never our intention to do so, and we have heard your voices and we recognize that we made mistakes throughout this process.”

Under the initial change, SASC’s support services — along with three out of seven SASC’s staff — would have been terminated at the end of August, while the centre’s outreach and advocacy services would have been maintained. The AMS cited the “increased capacity” of UBC’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) and the benefits of having “one centralized space” for supporting survivors as its rational for the decision.

This announcement received immediate and intense pushback from the UBC community, as hundreds of students, staff and faculty vocalized their support for SASC through #ChoicesForSurvivors and #SaveTheSASC. A petition by the Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice Undergraduate Association (GRSJUA) in support of the centre also received over 2,100 signatures in three days.

“While the GRSJUA is happy with the reversal, the AMS must still remain accountable for their detrimental mistake that impacted the wellbeing of many survivors and advocates, who poured their emotional labour into fighting for such a necessary organization,” reads the association’s Facebook post following the AMS’s announcement.

“We expect the AMS to move forward with an intersectional agenda, while upholding a high level of transparency, communication, and responsibility in all of their future initiatives.”

In the same release, the AMS also noted that more work still needs to be done with SASC moving forward to “provide the best care possible going into the next year and beyond that.”

Immediate action items include improving awareness and communication, after the society was criticized for their lack of community consultation and the opaqueness of its decision. Other students pointed out that the AMS had issued a statement just a month prior that was highly critical of SVPRO.

Specified measures include regular meetings with SASC, incorporating the service into broader AMS advocacy, and “early consultation” with the student body on any future decisions.

[''] AMS media release

“We want to get back to the table with SASC as soon as possible,” said Hamid in a message to The Ubyssey. “We have already opened up lines of communication with SASC for the last few days and will be meeting at their earliest convenience.”

Nour Kachouh, SASC volunteer and outreach coordinator, was enthused about the reversal but also highlighted that the reason for the initially-planned cuts remains unclear.

“How did it come to making this decision? Who was involved? What power did they hold in the AMS or UBC? What conversations were happening behind closed doors and who from AMS management was involved? Who from UBC was involved?” wrote Kachouch in a statement to The Ubyssey.

We look forward to seeing the tangible ways the execs will work to rebuild trust with SASC staff, survivors, and the community at large.”