Fact-checking the second 2017 AMS Elections debate

Round two is over. The second AMS Elections debate of 2017 featured candidates for Senate, VP Administration, VP Finance and the Board Of Governors. Now that the dust has settled, The Ubyssey has had time to check some of the claims made during the debate.


Kevin Doering said that broad-based admissions profiles for UBC applicants from the seven countries affected by US President Donald Trump’s travel ban can no longer be considered because of The Ubyssey’s publishing of the broad-based admissions rubric.

There’s nothing online to suggest this. In Santa Ono’s most recent update on the task force, he said, “As is our practice, we are considering late applications for undergraduate and graduate programs on a case-by-case basis and to the extent that our programs can accommodate more students.”

When The Ubyssey reached out to Doering, he said that he meant to say that publishing the rubric put those applying late at a disadvantage.

Chen said that the Senate student caucus’ method of student engagement is a “crapshoot,” saying that their method is posting surveys on their Twitter feed.

True, to an extent. The Student Senate Caucus has run a variety of surveys on its Twitter account, but that’s not the only thing it does. Current senator Kaidie Williams also initiated a non-Twitter survey for students to consult on the proposed syllabus policy, and student senators live-tweet every Senate meeting.

In addition, two student senators submit a “Relate to Senate” overview of each upcoming Senate meeting which is published by The Ubyssey.  Ian Sapollnik and Daniel Lam, two current student senators, also present to AMS Council at its bi-weekly meetings.

Lastly, a Student Senate Meet & Greet was held earlier in this semester, to which more than 50 people RSVP’d on Facebook. However, despite the promise of free pizza, the turnout was less than ideal and multiple boxes of leftover slices were dropped off at the AMS Council meeting, much to the pleasure of Ubyssey staffers in attendance.  

Chen believes that although these initiatives exist, if they aren’t widely-known to students, then Senate has failed in engaging them.

Kevin Doering said that 2,000 to 3,000 students responded to the Academic Experience survey.

This year, 1,564 students filled out the survey. That’s a significant drop from 2015, when the AMS got 2,855 respondents.

Ian Sapollnik said that Senate’s Curriculum Submission Guide does not mention student engagement anywhere.

Exact quote from the debate: “There's a 90-page document called the Curriculum Submission Guide that outlines how proposals are to be submitted — it mentions student consultation nowhere.”

Technically false. The document does in fact mention student consultation in reference to UBC’s Policy 71 — “Consultation with Students about Tuition and Mandatory Fees.” Sapollnik clarified in an email to The Ubyssey that he was referring specifically to student consultation on curriculum.

Jakob Gattinger said that in a survey conducted by the faculty of applied science, 67 per cent of students in existing biomedical engineering programs said that they did not think that a new biomedical engineering program was valuable.

True. According to an unreleased report — which Gattinger forwarded to The Ubyssey — on consultation for the biomedical engineering program, student consultations found a “clear preference” for an “option program” rather than a “pure BME (biomedical engineering) degree.”

A screenshot from a report on the biomedical engineering program at UBC.
A screenshot from a report on the biomedical engineering program at UBC. UBC Senate

Gattinger said that faculty members raised concerns about the legitimacy of pure biomedical engineering undergraduate degrees.

True. According to the same report, “most faculty agreed that many people in industry regard BME degrees with some suspicion, being concerned about what may have been sacrificed in the way of core engineering skills to achieve the bio-focused broadening of a biomedical engineer’s training.”

Doering said that more students agree than disagree that the current withdrawal deadline serves them well.

True, but it’s very close. According to the 2016 Academic Experience Survey, 31 per cent agreed that “current withdrawal deadlines accommodate my well-being and allow me to thrive academically,” while 30 per cent disagree.

Chen said that “a lot of students” resort to cheating because of mental health reasons.

The subjectivity of Chen’s statement makes it impossible to prove one way or another, but studies on cheating suggest that stress and mental health do have a lot to do with why students cheat. A 2011 study conducted by professors at the Harvard and Wharton Schools of Business showed that when a student’s “self-regulatory resources” — such as sleep and good mental health — are depleted, they are more likely to “impulsively cheat” than their non-depleted peers.  

A study appearing in Research and Higher Education concluded that the most influential factor on cheating is the student’s perception of their peers’ behaviour. Simply put, the study says that students are more likely to be academically dishonest if they feel that their peers are doing the same. Additionally, a study conducted at Åbo Akademi University found that a student’s desire to increase their grade was the first reason they cited for cheating.

While mental health and stress certainly do play a role in determining whether or not someone cheats, studies suggest desiring a better grade or feeling as if others are cheating remain key drivers in a student’s decision to be academically dishonest.

Doering said that open educational resources have doubled in the past year, by UBC’s estimates.

According to UBC Snapshots, “the number of students impacted by open textbook displacements in academic year 2016 (8,400) is double that of academic year 2015 (4,087).” 

VP Administration

The moderator said that the Student Administrative Commission (SAC) is responsible for overseeing club oversight.

The SAC no longer exists, having been replaced by the Student Life Committee and the Operations Committee.

Faraz Nikzad said UBC was recently named “the most diverse campus in North America.”

Times Higher Education recently named UBC the 12th most international university in the world, topping the North American list.

VP Finance

Alim Lakhiyalov said the AMS generated $60,000 through Square, a point of sale platform, last year. This year, after Lakhiyalov took over, he said they took in $215,000.

Lakhiyalov showed The Ubyssey the backend of the AMS’s Square which proves that this statement is true.

If the AMS’s investment policy changes, Lakhiyalov said they'll be able to generate an extra $400,000 to 600,000 without increasing student fees.

The math works out, although there would be some added risk.

Board of Governors

Jakob Gattinger said that UBC is planning to become completely carbon-neutral by 2050.


Sneha Balani said that there was an “extensive process” to consult students on sexual assault that happened at the GSS, including a specific committee on it.

True, although not without controversy.

Louis Retief said he got his hands on the first budget in eight years from UBC Rec this year.

Retief said he presented this budget in an in-camera (private) meeting. That was confirmed by AMS Archivist Sheldon Goldfarb, who said Retief may have even understated the length of time since the last Rec budget was presented to Council.

“The last previous VP Finance I can remember bringing the university’s athletic budget to Council was Sophia Haque ... and she was VP Finance in 2006-07,” wrote Goldfarb in an email.

—With files from Koby Michaels, Diana Oproescu, Julia Burnham and Moira Wyton

This article previously stated that Ian Sapollnik said that adoption of open educational resources by UBC had doubled in the past year. It was in fact Kevin Doering who made that claim. The Ubyssey regrets this error.