Between the Motions: AMS revives strategic plan conversation at September 15 meeting

In the first Council meeting of the term, councillors had a lengthy discussion on developing an AMS Strategic Plan and vaccination requirements within the society and the Nest.

Try, try, try again (to develop a strategic plan)

President Cole Evans, along with former Graduate Student Society President Nicolas Romualdi, pitched a new strategy to develop the AMS’s strategic plan, after two decades of unsuccessful attempts to create one.

“It's really important for the organization that we have ... guiding documents, to not necessarily direct operations but as a tool for operations to use to make sure that we have a unified approach as an organization to what our values are, what our strategies are and the services that we deliver to UBC students,” Evans said.

Most councillors voiced support for the plan, with many saying it would be useful for new councillors and AMS staff members to really understand what the society is about. Arts Councillor Kamil Kanji asked if Council knew why the last plans had failed.

Evans said that the AMS hadn’t done a “post mortem” on the past plans, but he thought it was because most attempts were developed by the President’s Office, even though the office lacked the capacity to develop such a large project internally.

Board of Governors representative Max Holmes diverged on that point, arguing that past plans had failed because the AMS started working on them mid-year but stopped work on it when elections came around. He added that there was no “inbuilt accountability” to follow a strategic plan with executive turnover.

“Ultimately I think that's the question people have to ask themselves tonight, is this the one thing you want to get done, is this the big project this entire Council wants to commit to, not just the executive,” said Holmes.

Romualdi, who would be the person leading the development of the plan, said the goal was to make a flexible and useful plan for future execs and Councils.

Following a long discussion, he said they would review what hasn’t worked in the past in creating a strategic plan and would bring an update to Council shortly.

AMS received legal opinion to not mandate vaccines for employees

During a discussion on vaccinations, Councillor Katherine Feng asked if the AMS has considered mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for its own employees, given its advocacy for UBC to declare a vaccine mandate on campus.

Evans said that according to legal counsel, the society is not in a position to mandate vaccinations from its existing employees. He added that they thought it might be redundant following UBC’s mandate.

However, UBC doesn’t technically have a vaccine mandate, just yet-to-be-set-up rapid testing requirements for the unvaccinated.

Graduate Student Society rep Julia Burnham questioned if all AMS staff would be covered under UBC’s mandate, as the AMS has staff members who are not affiliated with the university. Burnham also asked why legal counsel had advised against the AMS implementing its own vaccine mandate, given that other employers have done so.

Evans said that the AMS needed to see if UBC extends its own mandate to visitors on campus as well. Managing Director Keith Hester said the AMS could technically mandate its own employees to get vaccinated but could face a lawsuit.

Holmes questioned the consistency of the AMS’s advocacy — why the AMS has been advocating for UBC to implement a vaccine mandate, if the society was aware of a legal opinion saying it would be illegal to do so?

“This seems like such a disconnect and just a massive hypocrisy at the middle of this, that is being missed by some people. You're advocating for the university to require vaccines for everybody, but then you're saying you can't do that as an employer,” said Holmes.

VP Academic and University Affairs Eshana Bhangu acknowledged Holmes’ points.

“We also want to be 100 per cent frank with you, so we will take all this into consideration and report back to Council next time.”