Debate: Three presidential candidates, three very different visions for the AMS

Yesterday, the three presidential candidates — Andy Lin, Rodney Little Mustache and Marium Hamid — faced off in the first debate for the 2018 AMS elections. From the very start of the debate, they were able to clearly distinguish their experiences and leadership styles from one another.

After highlighting her roles as the current AMS student services manager and the student Senate caucus co-chair, Hamid announced her three-point platform of making student services accessible to all students, improving student life and creating effective communication and advocacy.

“If you are somebody who is still unsure of what the AMS does, I hear you,” she said.

Little Mustache, a third-year mature student studying gender, race, sexuality and social justice, opened his statement by describing his decades-long experience working with HIV/AIDS services and serving on Indigenous-focused committees at the provincial and national levels. He then said that he decided to run after experiencing “so much heartache in both First Nations [like the acquittals of those who were accused in the killings of Indigenous youths, Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine] and non-First Nations communities,” such as the recent Parkland, Florida school shooting.

Reflecting on the lack of student engagement in the AMS, Lin — a third-year business and computer science student — offered his solution of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. In particular, he wants to create more inter-faith dialogue, host Christian speakers on campus and implement Christian apologetics courses.

“Jesus Christ is the truth and the truth will set you free,” Lin said.

“I believe that the AMS can take this leap of faith and lead.”

The candidates were then asked a number of submitted questions, most of them about their broad vision for and the structure of the AMS. One question was about the first issue that they would address as president if elected.

Little Mustache said that he would push for the establishment of an AMS Indigenous committee, which he has already been advocating for prior to the election, and do outreach to encourage more First Nations students to attend UBC.

“The recognition has to be in place,” he said, while also pointing out the fact that he was the only First Nations person in the room and that there was no land acknowledgement before the start of the debate.

“I’m not even from here and I try to do that recognition as much as I can. That’s what we have to remember, we have to respect the place we [are] at and respect each other.”

Hamid reiterated her platform point about the need to make communication and information about the AMS more accessible to students. In particular, she would create internal and external communications policies which are “cognizant that [communication] gaps exist.

Lin expressed that the biggest issue facing the AMS is that “there aren’t enough Christians at UBC.” His solution was, once again, for the society to engage students through the preaching of the gospel — this would also be his answer for most of the remaining questions.

The debate also saw some flare-ups between the candidates, though they never became hostile.

For instance, when asked about ways to support graduate students beyond just consulting with the Graduate Student Society, Little Mustache suggested a town hall with the students on what the AMS is doing. Hamid rebutted that the students, and the question itself, indicate that they want more than just talk.

“Their asks have to be met by actual concrete actions and that comes with UBC finally accepting that there are areas that they need to working toward,” she said.

“How long have you been working on this?” Little Mustache asked.

“In my capacity of being at UBC in four years, I have worked with the graduate community or somebody from this community for at least a good three-and-a-half years.”

“So you had three-and-a-half years to solve a problem and you’re still doing it.”

Lin interjected to make a point about having the gospel as the solution going forward, “You’re just going to talk and talk and talk — maybe you solve something, but ultimately you need to reach people with the gospel.”

Hamid redirected the discussion back to the original point about the timeline by pointing out that systematic issues take time and work to find a sustainable solution, but Little Mustache argued that they should have been “dealt with right away.”

The candidates then fielded questions from the audience before delivering their closing remarks.

One student — who identified himself as Jewish — asked about how Lin’s Christianity dominated platform would affect him, especially when “[he] did not choose to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Lin reiterated that there would be inter-faith dialogue and options for discussions and educational courses about the gospel.

“Ultimately, you don’t have to join these, but I think it’s a good opportunity for you if we have these options for you,” Lin said.

Another student asked Hamid about how she would make her voice heard on things she doesn’t like in AMS Council. Previously in the debate, Hamid had indicated that she disagrees with the recently-passed AMS expulsion policy because she believes cutting access to services like the Food Bank and Speakeasy can be “extremely harming” to some students.

“It is the duty of the president to make sure that in different instances, even when my opinions differ to those of Council, I’m able to ensure a safe environment conducive to discussion,” she said in response.

“But I also feel that when there are issues that are not conducive to the entirety of the student body, it would be my duty as an elected member to make sure that even if my peers don’t agree with me, I am still doing the right thing that I was elected to do.”

The candidates will meet again for the Great Debate, which will be hosted by The Ubyssey on March 1 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m in the lower atrium of the Nest.