Candidate profile: Jenna Omassi, President

Jenna Omassi is a fifth-year international relations student originally from Montréal. She has worked her way through the levels of student government and social life since arriving at UBC in second year. Having held positions such as president of the Arts Undergraduate Society and AMS VP Academic and University Affairs, she is now running for AMS president.

Describe your platform and what sets it apart from your opposition in a few sentences.

My platform focuses on three things: community, well-being and governance. In bringing together community, I want to ensure there is a strong support by the AMS for athletics as a whole — not just a few sports. University executive have committed to making well-being a foundation of their strategic plan when the new university president comes in. The AMS has made no real commitment except advocating for students. For better well-being and athletic facilities, we have a really cool opportunity with War Memorial Gym, with the Life Building [and] potentially, in the old SUB. And the last is supporting the hundreds of AMS staff and thousands of clubs members, so providing them with actual self care packs and ensuring there are policies in place to ensure that they are well.

The third and most important … is governance. We are going into a year where there is going to have to be implementation of an entire review of the society and the president will have to play a huge part in that, spearheading the implementation. We decided what was going to be in the [Nest] and never checked back with students to see what they wanted and haven’t really changed our offerings since we opened in September. So going back to students and seeing what they want because our businesses — mainly the Perch — have failed. And then the last piece on that is continuing to look at advocacy and developing a strategic plan for advocacy — we’ve never had one. But a strategy about how we as the AMS advocate in terms of the government and university is important so we have continuity.

The first thing that differentiates me is the vast amount of experience I have on this campus. I’ve been involved in the AMS for two years in very, very different ways. This year, as VP Academic and University Affairs, I’ve been both involved in advocacy with the university. I have also been involved in the inner workings of the society. I’ve gone to every advisory board of business and administrating meeting and contributed to business decisions. I am the go-to person when it comes to policy [and] when it comes to questions about the university — I think that that is something that is important to the president. Beyond that, I am the only candidate who has tangible plans to carry out their promises and has proven that I can carry out the goals and promises I made to students. If you look at my platform from last year as VP Academic and University Affairs, if you look at my platform from AUS president, both times every single goal was carried out — minus one that had other circumstances at the AUS, one tiny one. I’m realistic, I’m hard working and I truly understand how to get things done and won’t promise things I can’t get done.

What are the challenges facing this position in the upcoming year?

I think the first is the implementation of the governance review. The last time we had a governance review was 20 years ago. The next governance review won’t be done for a while, so the changes this year will impact years and years and years of students — the way they engage with the AMS, even the positions we have in the AMS. The second, everyone knows, is the businesses. If the 420 referendum doesn’t pass, we are going to be in a $400,000 deficit, which means that there are going to have to be difficult decisions made both in terms of how much of a deficit we want to carry, what services we want to cut, what businesses need to shut and what we really need to do on the business side of the society.

What is one thing by your predecessor that you agreed with and one thing that you disagreed with?

[I] agreed [with] the way the president was involved in advocacy this year. As president, and this was noticed in the debates, you work with all of the executives. You have some projects, but ultimately you aren’t focused on one area. Perfect examples are Thunderbird Stadium and getting that for Block Party, and international tuition increases that happened essentially at the same time. The president stepped in to do a lot of the campaign and engagement planning of a lot of those campaigns while the VP Academic and University Affairs, myself, worked on everything in the background. I think athletics is one of those things [I disagree with]. We had a lot of challenges working with Athletics this year. I completely understand the reason the focus of the AMS was with football, but the AMS has the capacity to support at least one game per team, including women’s teams.

Who is the most important body or person you need to collaborate with in this position, and how will you foster a relationship with them?

The most important person I collaborate with is someone I work closely with already who is Louise Cowin, the VP Students, and she’s just been reappointed. Louise is the best advocate for students on this campus besides the AMS and works to support the AMS with everything we do and works to support students more generally. 

What is the weakest part of your campaign or platform?

I have worked really closely with those groups and making sure they have the groundwork. As AUS president, I worked really closely with VP Student Life, but ultimately I’ve never been seen as a student life person — I’ve been seen much more of advocacy, internal administration person. I don’t think I can’t do it. I know that I can. I used to and so I think it’s not actually as important as people might think for the president to be a student life focused person. That’s why we have an events department, a communications department and a VP Administration. I think that ... will be, and has been, perceived to be my weakest link — that I’m not a student life person. 

This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.