Here's what you need to know about this year's AMS elections referendum questions

The AMS has put forward three questions, while the Bike Kitchen put forward one to increase its student fee.
The AMS has put forward three questions, while the Bike Kitchen put forward one to increase its student fee. File The Ubyssey

Elections season involves more than just voting for candidates: referenda are another way to have your say about what happens within the AMS.

This election cycle has four referenda on the ballot. The AMS has put forward three questions, while the Bike Kitchen put forward one to increase its student fee.

To pass, referenda must reach quorum. Quorum is reached when a referendum receives 4,762 ‘yes’ votes, and a majority of people who vote, vote 'yes'. Referenda often fail, even when they receive more ‘yes’ votes than ‘no’ votes, simply due to not reaching quorum.

Here’s why you should care enough to vote on the referendum questions this year.

Do you support a fee increase of $3.86 for The Bike Kitchen?

The UBC Bike Kitchen put forward a referendum to increase its student fee from $1.14 to $5, which would help the bike shop stabilize its financial situation.

Currently, the Bike Kitchen is in a deficit of $30,000. The shop manager Alex Alvarez said the shop began facing financial issues in 2016.

In 2020, the shop’s situation worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bike Kitchen was closed for four months before reopening to an empty campus. For a year, the shop’s main customers were gone, and Alvarez said the shop was paying bills but “not generating revenue ... and our inventory was collecting dust.”

Now, most students and staff have returned to campus. However, without stable finances, Alvarez said the shop has been unable to buy parts in advance and has been experiencing delays in receiving parts due to disruptions in the global supply chain.

The Bike Kitchen has spent the last few years “hemorrhaging money out of every possible way,” said Alvarez. According to him, the extra $3.86 “would provide [the shop] with immense financial stability” and allow it to return to functioning at pre-COVID-19 levels.

AMS VP Finance Mary Gan said the AMS also supports the fee increase. She said she believes it’s necessary as, without it, the Bike Kitchen would have difficulty ensuring things “are consistently running and sustainable for the next couple of years.”

AMS Council officially endorsed a ‘yes’ position on the referendum at its February 16 meeting.

If passed, the increase would commence during the 2022 winter session.

Do you support an increase of $6.42 in the fee for the Sexual Assault Support Services Fund ($9.58 to $16) for the academic year 2022-23?

Note: All money raised through this fee will be deposited in the Sexual Assault Support Services Fund and may be used only for sexual assault support services and initiatives. Any money raised through this fee but not used in a given year shall remain in the fund for use in a subsequent year for sexual assault support services.

Note: The fee shall continue to be increased annually in accordance with the BC CPI.

The last referendum on the SASC passed in 2019 and almost tripled its funding. Since then, the SASC has seen the number of people who use its services nearly triple, according to its manager, Aashna Josh. This spike is consistent with a rise in sexual violence during the pandemic.

Josh said funds from the proposed increase will be put toward making the service more stable and accessible. This would include adding several support staff members, hiring a full-time educator and establishing a supplementary counselling fund and emergency fund to meet immediate needs like transportation and housing for survivors. The full proposal can be found here.

The SASC reduced its hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. to a new schedule of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays because it is “quite over capacity,” said Josh.

“It was a change we had to make because we were so swamped,” Josh said.

If the funding increases are not approved, Josh said that students would experience long wait times, which is “[unideal] when someone is dealing with crisis or trauma.”

In addition to these support services, AMS President Cole Evans emphasized the educational and advocacy work done by the SASC.

“This asset is incredibly important, arguably the most important service we offer at the AMS,” he said.

Do you support and approve amending the AMS Bylaws and Constitution in accordance with the changes presented in the documents entitled Proposed Changes to AMS Bylaws and the AMS Constitution?

Summary of Changes

Full Constitutional Changes

Full Bylaw Changes

Most of the 16 changes proposed for the AMS bylaws and three changes to the constitution are relatively straightforward. For example, one of them would ban proxies — when a representative allows a designated individual to vote on their behalf — to align with updates to the BC Societies Act.

However, other proposals are more impactful. One would allow the Finance Committee to approve budget amendments under $5,000 if two-thirds are in agreement without AMS Council approval.

President Cole Evans said that “change is really about efficiency.”

He said that allowing the Finance Committee to approve budget amendments under $5,000 would allow Council to focus on issues that are of “a high-level and larger scale.”

Evans stated that small budget amendments that are “worth less than 0.1 per cent of our budget are not really a great use of our time.”

He noted the Council would still have to create the procedures and code for the power to go to the Finance Committee, and they could change policies if need be. Council could decide to limit the power of the Finance Committee to budget amendments from $1,000 or $2,000.

Concerning a potential lack of oversight of AMS funds, Evans said that the Finance Committee is made of councillors, “so there definitely is really strong oversight from the Finance Committee on how the budget is being spent.” Minutes from the committee are also publicly available, but are sometimes delayed.

Another bylaw change would allow mandatory business to continue at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) if quorum is lost. The 2021 AGM resulted in five different motions that couldn’t be put forward for a vote.

During an AGM of a special general meeting, quorum is met when either one per cent or 500 active members are present.

Currently, the bylaw stipulates that if no quorum is achieved in the first half-hour of an AGM, the members present shall be deemed a quorum. The amendment would add that “if at any later time during the meeting a quorum is not present, those present shall be deemed to be a quorum.” This would ensure quorum can continue even if people leave the AGM after the first half-hour.

Evans gave examples of necessary business such as “approving the auditor’s statement, appointing the auditors, approving the report from the president [and] managing directors.”

The proposed changes also include altering the VP academic and university affairs’ responsibilities to put them in line with current practices. The role has evolved since its initial secretarial role. These new codified responsibilities would include the VP focusing on lobbying the university and liaising with Senate and the Board of Governors, among other duties.

Another proposed change includes entrenching a ban on running in slates in the bylaws. While already banned since 2004, according to the AMS Handbook, entrenchment would result in difficulty for future Councils to reverse the decision.

Slates are groups of candidates that run for office using a similar platform, resulting in mutual advantage.

Evans said entrenching slates is important because slates “tend to favour heavily established candidates.”

“We don’t really believe that slates create fair and accessible elections.”

There’s also a minor change to the society’s bylaws around records requests. The change simply adds “and activities” to a line designating certain records confidential: “plans and activities that relate to the management of personnel that have not yet been implemented, made public, or could result in financial harm to the Society.”

Evans said this is “clarifying language.”

He used the example of a “personnel investigation” as an “activity” that the society would want to keep confidential.

“We just wanted to clarify in our bylaws that includes all that could potentially include personnel activities ... to make sure that we’re protecting employee information that we are legally required to protect.”

Included in this referendum is a proposal to add a land acknowledgement to the constitution’s preamble. The 2020 AGM involved the AMS proposing an addition of a land acknowledgement but it failed to reach quorum. Land acknowledgements are common practice at UBC, which is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam people.

The constitutional amendments proposed also include adding language that includes AMS members from affiliated institutions and a section noting just and equitable treatment of members.

Do you support and approve the following changes and reductions to the AMS student fees?

i) Requiring all opt-outable fees to be opt-outable by digital means. (Note: Organizations collecting opt-outable fees shall ensure there is a digital opt-out option by the 2023-24 year.)

ii) Eliminating the $1.18 fee for the Childcare Bursary Fund. (Note: This fund currently has approximately $320,000 in it, and funding will continue to be disbursed from the remaining amount)

iii) Reducing the fee for the Clubs Benefit Fund from $1.78 to $0.75. (Note: This fund currently has approximately $700,000 in it.)

iv) Renaming the Lighter Footprint/Sustainable Projects Fee as the Climate Action Fee and reducing it from $2.66 to $1.50. (Note: The fund associated with this fee currently has approximately $580,000 in it.)

Note: The two reduced fees will continue to be indexed to the BC Consumer Price Index.

The digital opt-out allows students to opt out of any AMS fees digitally. It remains unclear which fees this change would apply to specifically, given that some groups collect fees through the AMS, but are not AMS organizations.

Evans said that if there are sitting groups “that run a fee and ... it’s opt out-able and it’s an AMS referenda-based fee ... if [this] referendum passes, you will have to provide digital opt-out options if you would like to keep that fee ... opt out-able.”

Student groups affected by this change will have a year to implement a process for the provision.

In addition, if this referendum passes, the $1.18 Childcare Bursary Fund fee would be eliminated. The fund currently has $320,000 in reserve, and this money would continue to be distributed as needed.

The Clubs Benefit Fund fee would be reduced to $0.75 — a reduction of $1.03. The fund has $700,000 in reserve.

Finally, the Lighter Footprint/Sustainable Projects Fee is slated to be renamed the Climate Action Fee and be reduced by $1.16. The fund has $580,000 currently in reserve.

Follow us at @UbysseyNews on Twitter and follow our election coverage starting February 28. This article is part of our 2022 AMS elections coverage.