Fact-checking the July 5 AMS town hall regarding SASC

The Ubyssey fact-checks statements that were given at the July 5 AMS town hall meeting regarding SASC, as well as those that were included in the July 20 document.

After the AMS announced the now-reversed cut to the Sexual Assault Support Centre’s support services (SASC) on June 22, the society also scheduled a town hall on July 5 with community members to discuss the issue.

The AMS executives then published an apology and retracted this decision on June 25, but the town hall still saw around 40 people in person and over 1,800 views via The Ubyssey’s livestream, who asked questions about multiple aspects of the issue. Due to the meeting’s time limit — even after being extended — not all questions were answered and some are included in the document released by the AMS on July 20.

This fact-check covers questions that were answered during the town-hall and those that were included in the document.

From the town-hall

Max Holmes: “October was when the first people [SVPRO staff] were hired, and they are planning to have a full team hired by start of year.” Marium Hamid: “The only people they don’t have currently are the Indigenous specialist support workers — those are to be hired in the next month.”

True. UBC website states that SVPRO Vancouver was first opened in October 2017. The office also confirmed that the remaining vacancies are the two Indigenous support specialists, adding that it “will fill those positions as soon as possible.”

Holmes: “SVPRO is dictated to by the policy, and the policy 131 says that they have to advertise Vancouver Rape Relief.”

Policy 131 includes the Vancouver Rape Relief as one of the external support services that SVPRO can provide information about and send referrals to, but it’s difficult to qualify what “advertise” would fully entail.

According to SVPRO Vancouver, the office has “to date … not made any referrals to Vancouver Rape Relief,” adding that it is an inclusive space for all gender and sexual orientations.

Holmes: “I know that they are setting up an advisory committee and the AMS will be a part of that advisory committee.”

According to SVPRO Vancouver, three different committees are being developed, and “the AMS is welcome to have a seat at the table.” The office did not specify what other groups will be included in these committees.

Hamid: “We were under legal implication and obligation to not discuss any personal employee matter outside of camera, and that was something that we were told specifically … At this point, we had already talked to SASC about that bit, and for that particular [AMS Council] session, we didn’t have any employees of the society stay in there because it wasn’t excluding SASC — it wasn’t about excluding particular members. It was about the very real legal possibility of not having HR practice of having a discussion about employees in front of other employees.”

True — but misleading. While the AMS could have opened a legal can of worms by openly discussing the termination of SASC workers, that situation mostly arose because the workers had already been terminated before the decision was announced. Hamid confirmed that during the town hall that “at this point in time, the termination letters — as again made by a legal advice from our lawyer — [were] already done.”

SASC: “This was the first year that there was a deficit in our budget.”

True. SASC was within its budget for the 2016/2017 school years and the 2015/2016 school years according to a budget reviewed and approve by AMS Council.

But the centre’s expenses increased in the following year after SASC expanded its hours to better meet community needs. The centre was budgeted $276,984 last year. In a July 11 presentation to AMS Council, AMS VP Finance Kuol Akuechbeny revealed that the centre’s total expenses were $310,165, meaning it went over budget by $33,181.

Akuechbeny: The AMS can’t “single-handedly” cut funding for an organization.

Removing funding from a collected fee — like the one that supports SASC — requires a referendum posed to the student body. But changing an organization’s budget or its prerogatives just requires a two-thirds majority vote at AMS Council. If the executive had attempted to go forward with the changes without a vote from AMS Council, they could have hypothetically been challenged in Student Court— but that body has been long defunct and the AMS has called it out for its “uselessness.” A referendum to eliminate student court received a majority of votes last March, but did not pass because quorum was not met.

From the July 20 document

AMS: “Students will always have the ability to choose a third party service or to arrange accommodations and concessions themselves. While SVPRO’s mandate is to act as a single point of contact, UBC cannot restrict the autonomy and agency of their students to acquire accommodations and concessions.”

Policy 131 states that SVPRO “acts as a single point of contact and liaison on each campus for Members of the UBC Community who have experienced Sexual Misconduct,” but it doesn’t include any language about the office being the sole point of contact.

Associate Registrar Chris Eaton also confirmed students’ ability to arrange accommodations themselves or through a third party like SASC, at least for academic concessions.

“While I cannot speak for housing or non-academic services, for academic concessions (including SV accommodations), there is nothing in the University’s academic regulations ... that would prohibit a student from making a request themselves, or doing so via an agent (be that SVPRO, SASC, legal counsel, a medical practitioner, etc) if they had authorization from the student to do so,” said Eaton in an emailed statement.

“So, no, it is not required.”