We fact-checked every Senate candidate

AMS candidates talk a lot. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if they’re telling the truth.

With that in mind, The Ubyssey is fact-checking every candidate’s platform and all the statements they made during debates. We think it’s important for students to know when candidates are telling the truth, whether they’re being misleading and where they’re getting their numbers.

Here are our fact-checks for your candidates for Senate. There are ten of them, so it's a long one.

Remember: If you don't see a candidate here, that doesn't mean they're the most honest— it could genuinely mean they just avoided talking as much as possible.

The Platforms

Chris Hakim. “During my time at the AMS, I have been able to complete the construction of the lower level of the Life Building, saving $1.3 million in student dollars in the process.”

Misleading. Financial documents show that the AMS saved about $1.2 million in the Nest Project, which encompasses both the creation of the Nest and the renovations of the Life Building. Given that the official ground-breaking ceremony for the Nest was in 2012, it’s misleading for Hakim to claim that he himself saved $1.3 million in a one-year term as the VP Administration.

Chris Hakim. “I have also been able to create a body in the AMS that provides oversight on the AMS's progress, while also pushing sustainability initiatives throughout AMS businesses and facilities to reduce the AMS's carbon footprint.”

True: Hakim was able to create a Sustainability subcommittee within the AMS to make sure AMS club spaces are used sustainably.

Chris Hakim. “In addition, I have been able to expand sexual violence and anti-discrimination training to large sections of the AMS while also leading the creation of the AMS's first standalone Sexual Violence Policy in consultation with students.”

A bit misleading. SVPREP’s development began before Hakim was elected and was originally led by VP Academic Max Holmes. That policy is also still in draft form, although it is likely to soon be approved.

Chris Hakim. “Furthermore, I have been able to review the AMS bookings system and policy in order to reduce wait times, while also updating and clarifying AMS Club procedures.”

Misleading: When the midterm review was written in December, he had not made any concrete changes to the actual booking policy, and the booking system hasn’t come up since in AMS Council or the Operations committee, so what has he actually done?

Julia Burnham: “Summer credits are valid credits - why can't they be valid to awards criteria too?,” indicating that summer credits do not count as award credits.

True: According to “Maintaining loan and awards eligibility” on the UBC Website, in order to be eligible for merit awards, students must register in at least 24 credits in the winter session, not counting credits from potential summer classes.

Julia Burnham: “Since the 1970s, there has only been two governance reviews of the UBC Vancouver Senate.”

True: As confirmed by Chris Eaton, the director of the Senate Office, the Senate has had two extraordinary reviews of its governance since the 1970s. They can be differentiated from the purely internal review done by the senate agenda and nominating committees every three years. The first was in the 1973/4, the second in 2005/6. Additionally, the Senate Office (as opposed to the Senate itself) is subject to external reviews as part of the Registrar’s Office. This occurs every five to eight years.

Max Holmes: “Over 6,000 students have been consulted for a fall reading break and it is now key that we develop final proposals for the entire community to review over the next year.”

True: 6,109 students responded to the AMS’s survey.

Max Holmes: “The UBC Vancouver Senate is able to review its governance structure every three years at the end of a senate triennium.”

True. According to the official rules and procedures of the UBC Vancouver Senate, “the Nominating Committee shall review the terms of reference of Senate committees in the third year of each Senate triennium,” indicating that this would be occurring this year.

Riley Ty: “It has recently come to my attention that final examinations are only mandated for students in 1st and 2nd year and that much of UBC’s faculty are unaware of this fact.”

Mostly true. According to Senate policy V-130 only first- and second-year courses are mandated to hold final exams unless instructors have approval from the faculty or dean. However, it’s debatable whether much of UBC’s faculty were unaware of this.

Riley Ty: “Also, you might have noticed that the election schedule has been recently changed due to discovery of the current system violating the University Act”

True. In early February, UBC’s Elections Officer, Stephanie Oldford, received a tip from a student senator that the election schedule for student senators and governors violated the University Act, the law governing how BC universities are operated and governed. This year’s student election period has therefore been lengthened after it was revealed that Senate and Board of Governors (BoG) elections have been violating provincial law for several years.

Riley Ty: “Term limits for faculty, while Student Senators are elected on a yearly basis, faculty senators are elected every 3 years and some have even sat on the Senate for decades.”

True. As per the policy outlined in the University Act of 1996, the term of office of a member of the senate, other than one elected under section 35 (2) (h), 35.1 (2) (h) or (3) (h) or 35.2 (2) (h) or appointed under section 35.2 (2) (k), is 3 years and after that until a successor is appointed or elected, which allows for members to remain in post until removed by a successor.

Riley Ty: “Currently, some courses are structured in a way where a student can fail the course if they solely fail their final exam, regardless of their cumulative mark after the exam.”

True. Some instructors require that students pass the final examination regardless of their average prior to them taking it. There is currently no official senate policy permitting or banning the practice.

Iman Moradi: "A fall reading break allows the faculty to allocate more weight to items other than finals which means an easier exam season."

False. There is no evidence of this. If anything, a fall reading break could result in a shorter exam season, which means there would be an increase in average exam hardship rates among students. There will be more courses with no or easy finals and a no need for a long exam season.

Iman Moradi: "Also because there is less emphasis on the final season there will be less waiting a week for a final to start your break."

False. While it's unclear how the break would be formatted (it hasn't happened yet) all projections from the AMS show that the exam season would still be well over a week long, which means students could still wait a while before finishing their studies. There's no evidence this would decrease just because the period itself is shorter.

Stuart Clarke: “...the board has final say over almost everything at UBC,”

Misleading. "Almost everything" is hard to quantify, but Senate has jurisdiction over all academic policy at UBC.

The First Debate

Chris Hakim: “I supported the Indigenous committee in the finding and the renovation of a space in this building”

True. As of the Council meeting of January 23rd, it was noted that Chris Hakim was helping the Indigenous committee with furnishings and renovations for their new space.

Chris Hakim: “I was able to push for multiple clubs to move in the newly created Life Building.

True. As of the Council meeting of November 28, nine AMS groups had been moved into the basement of the Life Building as part of the last phase of the New SUB Project

Chris Hakim: “I was able to push for a project that analyses how these clubs can be sustainable with in their use of these spaces”

True. As of the Council meeting of August 29th, a Sustainability subcommittee had been created that focuses on the sustainability practices of AMS clubs.

Julia Burnham: “Discontentment from the EUS was caused by the way the consultation was led”

True. The Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) has already slammed the survey’s findings as misleading. In a statement, the EUS board noted the increase in exam frequency would disproportionately affect engineers, who take more credits and have more exams than most other faculties. That wasn’t reflected in the survey.

Julia Burnham: “There’s a lot of people unhappy with building spaces and needs on campus”

True. Specific cases of people unhappy with building spaces and needs currently include math student and faculty, indigenous students and exhausted students on campus, the latter which includes all of us.

Julia Burnham: “Professors have their own autonomy to decide whether or not they want their lectures to be recorded”

True. There is currently no academic policy forcing professors and instructor to make the content of their lecture available online using technology such as video capture. It seems like the matter is left to their discretion.

Julia Chai: “Computer science has been in high demand and waitlists have been getting longer”

True. Since 2010, the total undergraduate enrolment in the department has more than doubled. This demand is further heightened by the fact that some majors — such as mathematics — also require computer science (CPSC) courses. Due to this high demand, CPSC courses are oversubscribed and many students accept long waitlists as just part of the department.

Max Holmes: “I spent over 4000 hours advocating for students, including 7 million dollars for student priorities such as an integrated health centre, undergraduate research opportunities and new student scholarships“

Misleading. As we noted previously, not all of that funding is secured yet although it is likely to soon be approved. We also can’t verify how many hours Holmes has worked.

Max Holmes:“I have secured a working group for the fall reading break with the data available”

True. A working group is being created soon.

Max Holmes: “We’ve been pushing for a full week, not a long weekend”

True: Max Holmes has been pushing for a four day fall reading break which would be appended to the Thanksgiving long holiday weekend, effectively turning it into a week long break, as outlined in the options present in the fall reading break survey.

Max Holmes: “Every single faculty had a majority of people in favour of having a fall reading break including professional programs”

Unclear. The survey found this to be true, but the Engineering Undergraduate Society raised objections about the clarity of the questions — so it’s not sure the data is clean.

Max Holmes: “The academic concession policy working group has reviewed the policy to treat SASC and SVPRO equally”

True. But it’s worth noting that policy hasn’t been approved yet.

Max Holmes: “In the past 10 years international enrolment has been increasing at 5 per cent to 7 per cent as we’ve been increasing tuition, and the reason is that the university did not have a long-term enrolment plan”

Just a bit off. It’s even slightly higher. International enrolment has been growing at a pace between 9 per cent and 11 per cent between 2008 and 2018.

Max Holmes: “UBC is already enrolling more domestic students than the number of seats that are funded for by the government”

True. In 2017/18 UBC was funded by the government for 42,424 FTEs (full-time student spaces funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training), and 46,292 FTEs were enrolled, which results in a 9% over-enrolment.

Max Holmes: “Enrolment is increasing rapidly”

Partially true. According to the 2018/19 enrolment report, both campuses also exceeded their new-to-program intake target for international students, with UBC Vancouver enrolling 105 per cent of its target and UBC Okanagan enrolling 147 per cent. Now, the university is considering stopping the compound annual growth rate for new-to-UBC students — which was three per cent between 2014/15 and 2018/19 — for the next five years by maintaining a flat level of new international student intake.

Nick Pang: “UBC has the lowest amount of instructional days in Canada”

False. “UBC has the second-lowest number of instructional days of any major Canadian university,” said Senate Academic Policy Chair Dr. Paul Harrison in an interview earlier this January. That being said, this doesn't detract from the importance of Pang's point.

Nick Pang: “UBC has one of the longest exam session in Canada.”

True: UBC has one of the longest examination periods across Canada, 14 examinable days in a 16-day period. The national average is around 11-12 examinable days and 12-13 day period.

Nick Pang: “Currently the software we use to schedule classes is old and meant for a university with smaller enrolment.”

True. The software is old indeed, but steps are already being taken to update it. In April 2018, the Board of Governors (BoG) approved an initial $60 million for the Integrated Renewal Program (IRP) to revamp the university’s aging digital infrastructure by summer 2021.

For students, the IRP will replace the Student Information System (SIS) which handles student records, including transcripts, graduation, transfer credits and scheduling. Whether or not it was meant for a university with “smaller enrolment” is questionable; it was probably just too old to handle the increased amount of students UBC has been accepting in recent years.

Awais Quadre: “The Senate has only been pushing for a fall reading break of five days or fewer”

False. The Senate has expressed the desire for a fall reading break of four days, but appended to the Thanksgiving long holiday weekend to give student a full week break.

Awais Quadre: “There is a policy that states that if you fail a final exam you fail a course.”

False. Some instructors require that students pass the final examination regardless of their average prior to them taking it, however, there is currently no official senate policy permitting or banning the practice.

Awais Quadre: “A consultation on the fall reading break has been done but no firm steps have been taken”

False. Things are on the move. An AMS survey has recently collected over 6,000 student responses on how to implement a fall reading break, which the AMS will soon be taking to the UBC Vancouver Senate to make a case for extending the Thanksgiving long weekend into a week-long reading break.

The Great Debate

Chris Hakim: “First thing I when I came into office was to stop the Thunderbird sculpture.”

Misleading. The Thunderbird sculpture installation hit delays in December 2018 - unlikely that this was the first thing he did in office - also this was just delayed, not stopped.

Chris Hakim: “I’ve only missed two or three Senate meetings this year”

Unable to verify. The Senate doesn’t take attendance like AMS council. But we think it’s worth noting there have been six Senate meetings in this academic year, so when Chris says he's missed 3, he's missed half of them.

Chris Hakim: “The McGill Senate has already approved a motion in support of divestment.”

True. The McGill Senate’s motion is only an endorsement at this point, however.

Julia Burnham: “The Senate does not accept summer credits towards awards decisions still after moving from 27 to 24 credits to be eligible for awards.”

True. The UBC policy on academic awards states that unless otherwise stated in the award description, undergraduate Student Awards may be received only by students enrolled at the University during the Winter Session, as defined in the Academic Calendar. Good to mention summer credits are also not considered in GPAs

Julia Burnham: “Only youth previously in BC care are eligible for the youth in care waive, not the rest of Canada”

True. Might want to note that AMS is advocating about this - “The society also asked for $150,000 to go towards filling a gap in UBC’s support policy for former youth in care, as it felt that the program should expand its scope to have a more national focus and support all students in the Canadian foster care system.”

Julia Burnham: “The AMS does not have access to the full data on exam hardships students would face in the case of the implementation of a fall reading break”

True. Max Holmes did present data on possible implementation scenarios for a fall reading break which included the potential increases in exam hardships in each cases. However, the data applied to the whole student body and did not differentiate between different faculties.

Julia Chai: “The indigenous student population has been consistent at around two per cent or three per cent of the student population”

True. This is accurate, although only for UBC Vancouver campus.

Stuart Clarke: “Co-op programs has guidelines from 2004 that has not been updated since”

True. The following definition and approval criteria were approved by Senate on May 19, 2004

Stuart Clarke: “Some co-op students are not getting enough to live in Vancouver if they are here”

True. Currently, the minimum wage in BC is $12.65/hour, but the living wage in metro Vancouver is $20.91/hour. Depending on the employer, co-op students can indeed get paid as low as the minimum wage.

Mathew Ho: “The student evaluation process has not been reviewed since 2007”

Partially true. The last review took place and was approved by the Vancouver Senate on May 16, 2007 upon recommendation of the Teaching and Learning Committee. This policy is meant to replace all earlier Senate Policies on Student Evaluation. However, there is a review currently taking place by an academic policy working group that is set to produce result soon.

Max Holmes: “I led the academic concession review”

True. He is the chair of the working group that reviews the policy.

Max Holmes: “University of Toronto allows for a certain amount of courses to be withdrawn after the withdrawal date

True. At the University of Toronto, you can request a late withdrawal for up 3.0 credits, which is usually six courses (0.5 credits per course).

Voting for AMS elections runs from March 11 to 15.