Between the Motions: Provincial election and annual meeting bylaw changes at AMS Council

AMS Council met virtually last night to discuss the upcoming provincial election, bylaw changes and its annual general meeting.

Here’s what you need to know.

Take It Over campaign

Erin Co, the AMS External Affairs office’s campaigns and community engagement commissioner, walked Council through the AMS’s plans to boost student engagement in the upcoming BC provincial election.

The AMS will have a polling station in the Nest for students to vote during the advanced voting period as well as the day of the general election, and rules adherent to COVID-19 guidelines will be in place.

The AMS is also coordinating a candidates’ debate for the Point Grey riding and an election night watch party, though the formats for both events have not yet been finalized.

Co said that the bulk of the AMS’s effort will be focused on marketing and outreach to students. The campaign will coordinate with club presidents and undergraduate societies to highlight the issues important to them.

Council hopes fourth time’s the charm for proposed bylaw changes

AMS President Cole Evans and Governance Committee Chair Sebastian Cooper brought several proposed bylaw changes to Council.

Many of the omnibus changes, including the removal of the defunct Student Court, had been approved by Council in the past and did not pass in referenda because of a failure to reach quorum.

One newly proposed change was to update the VP academic and university affairs job description to accurately reflect how the role looks today. Another was to give Council the ability to remove seats that have sat vacant for many years.

Since the student associations formerly related to these seats, such as audiology, no longer exist, there are currently no mechanisms for filling the vacant seats.

Councillor Laura Beaudry raised concerns about the “use-it or lose-it mentality” that she felt was driving this particular change, and she suggested that the problem of vacant seats could be solved through stronger advertising to those faculties. Other Council members voiced their agreement and Evans struck the change.

Evans and Cooper proposed to pass the bylaw changes at the AMS’s annual general meeting (AGM) on October 29 instead of through referenda during AMS elections in March 2021.

“We’re really confident that we’ll be able to run a really effective campaign that will actually be able to get more attention on the bylaws,” said Evans. “We want to make sure that we’re giving students an opportunity not only to come to the AGM and vote on the bylaws but also come to an AGM and ask questions about the bylaws directly.”

Max Holmes, a student Board of Governors representative, expressed concern that it would be “unethical” to pass the bylaw changes at the AGM rather than through referenda because the latter process requires many more votes in favour from students to pass the changes.

He said that the reason referenda concerning bylaw changes have failed in recent years is because past AMS executive teams have not run effective campaigns informing students about the changes.

“It’s not a structural barrier, it’s a failure of engagement. The AMS has run horrible, horrible ‘Yes’ campaigns for these referendums … and bringing these changes to an AGM is a way to bypass the regular process that we use for bylaw changes,” said Holmes.

Council will vote on whether to approve the amended package of bylaw changes at a special meeting next week.

Voting by proxy for the AGM

Evans proposed allowing votes through a designated proxy at the AGM, a potential solution to the annual problem with reaching quorum.

Evans said he envisions Council designating Council members as proxies, allowing students to then choose a proxy who would cast their votes for them on any matters brought forward at the AGM. The executive does not yet have a full plan detailing how the vote-by-proxy mechanism will work.

“The thought behind this is really to make AGM more accessible and when we put resolutions on the agenda at AGMs, that students are able to vote on them without actually having to physically attend a meeting and sit through it,” said Evans.