Candidate profile: James Cohen, President

James Cohen, a fifth-year commerce student specializing in entrepreneurship, is running for AMS President in this year’s AMS Elections. His platform focuses on mental health, events and advocating for students with the Board of Governors.

Cohen co-founded and has been the president of AMS club Party Well for the last three years. The club runs events on campus and sends the proceeds to charity. He also worked for AMS Events for two years, where he was given creative lead on some events.

His experience lends itself towards one of his platform points — “uniting the UBC community through better and bigger and more student programming events.” He specifically wants to expand Block Party and the Winter Classic.

Cohen strongly advocates for Block Party to expand and accommodate at least 20,000 students, and for it to become a philanthropic event.

“When you run a philanthropic event, you get massive discounts in our production, you get over 70 per cent off in our production sources,” he said. “We also get more sponsorship than even comparative events done by AMS.

“I don’t think [Block Party] was managed anywhere near how it should have been.”

Cohen acknowledges that making Block Party philanthropic would be a risk, but says it would have to be a calculated one — once again noting discounts.

He emphasized that having an event that brings together so much of the student body would increase the feeling of unity on campus and making it philanthropic would also give students a feeling of pride in how much they have managed to raise for charity.

In this way, Cohen said his goals for student programming and well-being overlap. Well-being makes up a large portion of his platform.

“Not only have I heard that an entire per cent of UBC’s students have attempted suicide on our campus, but actually someone really close to me who I care very deeply about had tried to kill themselves,” said Cohen. “So I’m not just saying ‘wellness’ as a buzzword.”

Before he leaves UBC, Cohen wants to decrease that one per cent statistic. His plan to do this lacks some specificity, but he is open to improving existing AMS services and implementing new ones.

He specifically mentions Safewalk as a service he appreciates and hopes to improve. 

“They take people home — that’s really great because obviously sexual assault is directly correlated to mental health,” said Cohen.

However, he noted that it is problematic that they do not take people home who are noticeably intoxicated. If elected, he wants to expand Safewalk’s volunteer network, emphasizing that clubs like Party Well would like to help in order to escort students, intoxicated or otherwise, around campus at night.

Cohen also wants to expand counselling services, although he seems to lack a plan past advocacy.

“If UBC can spend immense amounts of money on a statue, they can afford another counselor,” he said.

He also wants to reinstate nap rooms, with strict rules so people can’t “fool around.”

His final platform point is his plan to advocate the UBC Board of Governors to take student voices seriously, drawing upon past divestment referendums as examples of the university not listening to students.

“I think that if UBC doesn’t listen to its students, students need to take drastic measures to make sure that this is the campus that we want it to be,” he said.

Of all his goals, Cohen acknowledges that his loftiest is to “make UBC the happiest university in North America.”

“I hope to lay down a [multi-year] plan ... in order to make sure that progress is continually made going forward,” said Cohen. “I’ll be doing my best in the one year that I can.”