Between the Motions: Textbook Broke and general meeting hopes at AMS Council

The AMS Council met virtually for its first meeting of the semester, discussing the Textbook Broke Campaign, an additional policy to further enforce mask usage in the Nest and whether the AMS can reach quorum for its general meeting this year.

No financial barriers

VP Academic and University Affairs Georgia Yee presented this year’s iteration of the TextbookBroke campaign to the AMS Council.

The annual campaign focuses on advocating for open educational resources (OERs) and spreads awareness of the principles set by UBC Vancouver’s Senate.

In 2019, Yee stated that students paid an average of $884 for course materials. She later mentions that the AMS Academic Experience Survey reported that 90 per cent of undergraduates said they didn’t use a required textbook in a class.

“The goal is to make education accessible to all. No financial barriers,” said Yee.

Yee’s team has partnered with UBC Library and UBCO’s student union and plans to continue last year’s OER Champion Award recognizing instructors who have upheld OER use in their classes. Yee said campaign principles will also focus on other aspects of open learning such as disability accommodation.

VP External Kalith Nanayakkara also wrote in the chat how he has advocated for OERs.

“We have also heavily advocated for increased funding to BC Campus (they facilitate OERs in the Province) and were successful!” wrote Nanayakkara. “We need more funding however and the advocacy hasn’t stopped.”

A formal mask policy

President Cole Evans also proposed a policy allowing the AMS to enforce mandatory mask usage. Since September 14, the AMS has required visitors to the Nest to wear masks. The AMS wrote in an Instagram story that those not abiding to this policy may be asked to leave the building.

While masks are now mandatory in the Nest, Evans said that without any policy that explicitly prohibits non-mask wearing in the building, the AMS has no basis to tell rule breakers to leave the building.

The goal is to be able to ask people to leave the building if they are not wearing a mask as it is a violation of policy.

Economics representative Ryan Wong expressed concern from observing people still not wearing masks inside the building and asked how it would be enforced.

“What we’re able to do is mostly passive enforcement,” Evans responded. “We don’t have the capability of stationing people at each door to check people once they come in. It’s such a large building, too. We don’t have the resources to patrol the building.”

Evans hopes that the society will be able to enforce the rule for people who may be in groups and not wearing masks or for people who wear masks while walking around the building, but not when they are seated at tables.

“We don’t want to necessarily be policing people,” said Evans. “A lot of it is very much honour-system based and also peer-pressure based as well.”

With the difficulty around enforceability, Evans also suggested placing additional signs among seating areas — especially at the high tables on the second and third floors — that remind users that masks are required there as well.

Evans emphasized that table areas are not exempt from the rules.

The policy was approved.

Can the AMS reach quorum at its general meeting this year?

After Council set the AMS’s annual general meeting (AGM) for October 29, President Cole Evans opened discussion on his plans to improve perennially poor turnout.

Last year’s meeting saw fewer than two dozen attendees. AMS bylaws require a quorum of either 500 members or one per cent of members — that was 570 in 2019.

Evans expressed enthusiasm for reaching quorum this year, even if it “sounds far-fetched.”

“Since we haven’t really tried to host an AGM that much in the past couple years, we don’t know whether we’re able to have quorum or not,” he said. “We have some really exciting plans of how we’re able to get to that 500 mark.”

A virtual meeting doesn’t contravene the provincial Societies Act and could allow for higher turnout, he added.

Instead of offering free food, Councillor Laura Beaudry suggested that the AMS provide attendees with food delivery gift cards.

The AMS wants to pass bylaw changes that have failed referenda three times, the latest being earlier this March.

Having a quorate AGM means that the AMS can pass motions at the meeting rather than putting them to referendum.