Between the Motions: AMS council discusses COVID-19, elections and $64 million rec centre

We went to AMS council so you didn’t have to.

Last night, councilors discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, elections results, the upcoming special election and a new recreation facility to be built on campus.

Preparing for COVID-19

The Council had a brief discussion on how to deal with potential ramifications from the COVID-19 virus.

“There’s a 90 per cent chance Block Party will be cancelled,” Board of Governors member Max Holmes said, inquiring about plans that the AMS has set up to combat the virus.

AMS president Chris Hakim said that senior managers within the AMS are preparing general contingency plans. He said they were in the process to see if services can stay available to students even if the university closes.

“We’re being very very careful in what we’re spending our money on ... for Block Party,” Hakim said.

The virus may also pose a risk to the upcoming UBC Climate Strike, planned for April 3, reported VP External Cristina Ilnitchi and UBCC350 leaders.

Holmes suggested that Hakim commit to writing a report with senior managers and executives containing contingency plans for dealing with the virus that would be presented at the next council meeting. Hakim agreed.

New recreation facility building approved

In 2017, 64 percent of students voted ‘yes’ for a new athletics fee that would contribute to the creation of a new student fitness and recreation centre at UBC Vancouver.

Last night, UBC Athletics and Recreation Associate Facilities Director Dan Cooper presented the plan for the new 100,000 square-foot building with three gyms, an indoor track, an open stretching area and a spin studio.

“Between the BirdCoop in the student recreation centre and the ARC [Athletic Recreation Centre] in the Life Building we’re about 16,000 square feet, so it’s a very dramatic increase [with] the proposed project,” Cooper said in his presentation.

The proposed space for the new centre is west of the Life Building, appearing to be where the Bosque and old bus loop are now.

The AMS/UBC project will cost $64 million in total, $22.5 million of which will be paid for by the AMS over several years.

“This is a continuation and completion of the work to begin breaking ground on this very important project,” Hakim said.

Council voted to approve a management agreement with UBC and the construction of the centre.

Elections and more elections

Chief Electoral Officer Ahsan Sahibzada announced the election results, emphasizing the low turnout. This year, only 6,766 students voted with a turnout rate of 11.6 per cent, a decrease from 22.7 per cent voter turnout last year.

He said that elections need more visibility on campus, since postering is no longer permitted. He cited the postering ban as the biggest issue in the low voter turnout.

“If you just walked around campus, you couldn’t really see that elections were happening,” Sahibzada said, indicating that classroom announcements may not be sufficient to get the amount of visibility that they wanted.

“This is a crisis of involvement in this organization,” said re-elected Board of Governors student representative Max Holmes in an open question period on the election results. “The AMS is not doing enough to advertise these positions to people who don’t always get involved ... or [don’t] feel welcome within the AMS.”

The lack of diversity in the candidates was also discussed. Council approved a motion to send the issue of how to improve the diversity in the AMS executive to the Student Life Committee, in consultation with the HR Committee, to report back to Council by September 1 with implementation recommendations.

They also suspended certain code provisions to make the special election possible and added the failed AMS Bylaws change referendum to the ballot.

This article was updated to reflect that the recreation centre is estimated to cost $64 million, not $66 million.