AMS set to improve its relationship with student societies

In the wake of student backlash over the AUS’s recent over-expenditures and resulting budget cuts, the AMS is creating a committee to look into how they can better work with faculty constituencies.

Both AMS President Ava Nasiri and committee chair Veronica Knott stressed that it was not a direct result of recent events surrounding the AUS, but a continuation of an ongoing conversation about how to improve AMS-constituency relationships.

Regardless, recent events provide a backdrop as to why a committee like this may help.

Background: The AUS debacle

The AUS had their first Council meeting Tuesday night since a Ubyssey story was published outlining financial issues surrounding stARTup, the society’s orientation event, and the subsequent budget changes. Dozens of students showed up to voice their concerns directly to the AUS — many from the UBC subreddit, where much of the discussion has taken place.

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President Elise Mance has since issued an apology on behalf of the AUS. She declined to be interviewed for this article, but wrote in an emailed statement, “The executive team and I are working on creating a concrete proposal and timeline to be put out as soon as possible. I would prefer to have an interview when I have more finalized plans and after more consultation with students.”

The new committee’s role

The committee won’t suggest specific code or bylaw changes — that will be the second committee’s job — but it will provide high-level recommendations when it reports back to AMS Council in February.

Council members have been looking forward to sinking their teeth into this issue for a while now, though, and they have some ideas.

“It would be awesome to see every undergraduate society have a governance committee,” said Nasiri, adding that “constituency-wide orientations ... have taken place in an inconsistent manner throughout the years.”

“For me, it’s about making sure that if there are financial problems in the future, we can cover it,” said Knott. “Also looking into how can we improve the relationship ... because we treat constituencies like clubs most of the time.”

Knott has wanted to tackle reforming the AMS-constituency relationship since she served as EUS president in 2014.

“I was always frustrated with the relationship. I wanted more — I had ideas,” she said.

As chair of this new committee, Knott will be able to add clarity to the relationship, one of her goals for this role. She remembers the consultation regarding the tuition and housing hikes in 2014 — when she worked with the AMS and other constituencies as EUS president — calling it a mess and noting that “everyone was super engaged, but we had no clear processes.”

She also wants to make budgeting processes clearer for constituencies, including how constituency budgets flow together, how they get budget-related permission from the AMS and how to avoid doubling-up on student money.

“That’s a big thing for me — that constituencies have autonomy, but also aren’t duplicating services that the AMS are running, or missing out on resources,” she said.

Nasiri is optimistic about the committee’s forthcoming report.

“I think it’s about time the AMS provide a more structured type of support for undergraduate societies,” she said.

The committee plans to meet once before the term ends and a few times in January before they present their findings to AMS Council in February.