Following a recent drugging allegation at UBC fraternity parties, there is once again a push to review the AMS’s relationship with the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and its member groups.
On October 1, UBC fraternities came under scrutiny after Dr. Marina Adshade, an economics professor, published a tweet partly alleging that six female students had been drugged there. The tweet garnered significant media attention, prompting UBC to ask the RCMP for an investigation and the fraternities to suspend all their social functions.
It also spurred actions by student leaders like Max Holmes, a Board of Governors Vancouver student member and former AMS VP Academic and University Affairs (VPAUA).
After tweeting on October 4 to point out that the IFC — the body governing the 10 fraternities on campus — is an AMS club, Holmes has since introduced a motion to the October 9 AMS Council meeting calling on the VP Administration to do a comprehensive review of the AMS’s relationship with these groups. As a Board member, he still sits on the AMS Council but is not a voting member.
But Holmes also noted that this idea isn’t new.
“The issue of the IFC's club status has actually been an issue in the AMS for years. It's something in the past I've pushed people to work on and there was some work done last year … so why don't we just finally answer the question and do a public report,” he told The Ubyssey.
“It's not necessarily in response to the alleged events that have happened, but it's more these events have brought it forward in my mind and I think in the minds of councillors, so it would be appropriate to do it now.”
This is also not the first time Holmes has pushed for transparency within the IFC.
During his run for re-election as VPAUA in March 2018, he rejected the body’s endorsement over comments on sexual assault during his endorsement meeting. This led most of the other candidates to also reject their IFC endorsement and prompted the resignation of then-IFC President Jeriah Newman.
Reviewing the relationship
For the IFC, being an AMS club seems straightforward. According to President Adan Moallemi, the body mainly benefits from free bookings in Nest space and events like Imagine Day to promote the Greek system.
The fraternities also receive yearly mandatory bystander intervention, consent and healthier masculinity training from the Sexual Assault Support Services, following an IFC bylaw change.
But for the AMS overseeing the club, this relationship is not so clear cut.
According to Holmes’s motion, the IFC’s exclusivity makes the club out of line with the AMS Operations Committee Policy Manual, which requires most clubs to be open to all student union members.
Similarly, he pointed out how the IFC is inherently different from other clubs because of its member fraternities’ ownership of housing on campus.
“It’s been discussed in the past: do you set up the separate kind of status for organizations that are exclusive organizations, that not all members can be a part of, that have a relationship with the AMS but aren't the same as a club?” Holmes said.
“… And what club has subsidiary organizations that own property on campus? That's just not a relationship you've seen anywhere else.”
As a result, Holmes hopes that the review would be “very open-ended” to understand the full “financial and legal risks” of having the IFC as a club, since the AMS provides certain legal protections for clubs and the insurance comes from student fees.
At the same time, he also called for a review of the AMS’s relationship with the individual fraternities since they themselves are not AMS clubs.
If approved, the AMS would have to submit the final review at the November 6 AMS Council meeting.
Since the motion was introduced recently, VP Administration Cole Evans said he still has a lot of thinking to do about the proposal.
“We’re looking forward to this process and studying how our organizations can build a better working relationship,” he said. “We’ve also been continually looking to make improvements to the Operations Committee Policy Manual … and the aim is committed to ensuring that those policies work in the best interest of all students.”
In an emailed statement to The Ubyssey, Moallemi said the IFC is following along with the motion and would like to resolve the concerns in “a well-meaning manner.”
“Our hope is that we can reach some resolution that gives the AMS assurances that the IFC and any other presently constituted club are compliant with AMS Operations Committee policies, and that the IFC can continue to operate as an AMS club,” he wrote.
He also clarified that the IFC has insurance through the North American Interfraternity Conference in case of legal issues, while individual fraternities are covered by their own headquarters.
Besides this formal motion, Holmes is also informally calling on UBC to review its relationship with the IFC and fraternities.
“Going forward, I do hope that we are able to have these conversations about how can we be more transparent, how can we ensure accountability of organizations like this where there’s input from the community,” he said.
“That is something that I hope to raise with individuals within the university and to see how we can do that going forward.”
But Holmes acknowledged that the university is focusing on the allegation in the short term.
A day after Adshade’s tweet, UBC published a statement on October 2 by VP Students Ainsley Carry announcing the launch of an RCMP investigation into the allegation. On October 4, UBC published another statement by Carry outlining sexual assault resources and support services on campus.
“I think the university at the moment is focusing on what’s allegedly happened and I think that that’s a good area to focus on,” Holmes said, while also stressing the importance of having the consent of survivors in any investigation.
“… I think it’s important that right now, the focus is on making sure any students affected are supported.”
In a written statement to The Ubyssey, Carry acknowledged the motion to the AMS Council without going into details.
“Should this review proceed, I appreciate the time and care the AMS will take given the long-standing relationship between the IFC and the AMS,” he said. “The University is not aware of the matters underlying the motion, nor able to comment directly on the oversight or organizational relationship of the fraternities and AMS.”