AMS clashes with UNA over lack of student consultation

The AMS has expressed concern about a proposed bylaw change that would remove an AMS-appointed seat on the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA) Board without student consultation.

The UNA is a non-profit society that serves the residents of UBC’s residential neighbourhoods. Currently, there are five elected and three appointed directors, with two UBC-appointed members and one appointed by the AMS.

“[The UNA] decided to do a fulsome consultation with the university but essentially ignored consulting with students,” said former AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Max Holmes.

“The UNA really showed that they cared more about their relationship with the university than they did about the students who actually live within the neighbourhoods.”

In a January report, the UNA’s bylaw working group justified the proposed changes by writing that “a fundamental aspect of democracy is absent with a mix of appointed and elected directors.”

They recommended that the UNA create a formal channel of communication with the AMS in lieu of the director seat. Holmes said that while the AMS believes that the UNA is committed to a formal relationship, they haven’t shown that they respect the voices of students.

At the UNA’s January Board meeting, AMS VP External Cristina Ilnitchi — the current AMS-appointed director — expressed concerns about the lack of student consultation when the bylaw changes were initially presented to the Board. At the February meeting, former AMS President Marium Hamid and Holmes gave a presentation to the directors on the AMS’s position.

The AMS is pushing for a voting student member position to remain on the Board, who could be either appointed or elected, and they requested to be consulted at the same level as the university .

Holmes explained that the position of students as a large minority community of renters, rather than property owners, makes them more vulnerable than the average UNA resident. Losing the student seat on the Board means that those students — and their issues — lose a voice within the UNA.

“The UNA has heard the AMS’s concerns and is now in the process of conducting consultations with partners, including the AMS ... all UNA members, including student members, will have the chance to vote on the changes in a Special General Meeting,” wrote UNA Board Chair Ying Zhou in a statement to The Ubyssey.

According to a recent UNA newsletter, this meeting is "expected to take place late spring."

If the UNA moves forward with these changes, the AMS is ready to advocate against UBC funding the UNA during next year’s budget consultation process.

“We don’t see a reason why the university should be giving them monetary support...and discounted access to facilities that are often built with student dollars,” said Holmes.

“We’re never going to support a proposal that gets rid of that student representation, and that's the sticking point for us.”

In a statement to The Ubyssey, UBC Associate Vice-President Campus and Community Planning Michael White urged the two bodies to find a common solution.

“UBC is committed to the success of the UNA and acknowledges the UNA’s interest in evolving governance,” White wrote. “UBC encourages the AMS and the UNA to work together through this process to identify ways in which the two organizations can continue to work together on matters of mutual interest.”