Jenna Omassi, who is the only candidate for VP academic and university affairs this year, detailed her platform's highlights of improved consultation, greater flexible learning and development of undergraduate research.
A fourth-year international affairs and religious studies student, Omassi stressed the importance of taking concrete action after years of groundwork and studies in the university.
“In the past few years, when you have seen real action come out of the portfolio, it is because an executive has decided that they have two or three goals that they want to work on and has directed all their effort to those,” said Omassi.
Omassi also talked about the importance of renovating the controversial consultation process regarding tuition and residence fee increases between the university and students, as well as between the student government and students.
“I think there are inherent problems in both,” said Omassi. She also said that UBC Policy 71, which promises to consult with tuition and mandatory fee increases, is too vague.
According to Omassi, her presence at this year's AMS advisory and working group meetings will be an asset working forward.
“Ultimately, there is a power difference between the university and students," said Omassi. She hopes to be able to mitigate that imbalance by engaging with the conversation earlier than the AMS has done this year, even if she does not picture students voices becoming binding to the university anytime soon.
Omassi also quoted current VP Academic Anne Kessler, who said that “the university did not come to students and say “we have a problem, help us fix this,” they came up and said “we need you to [accept a fees increase] because we have a problem."
While Omassi believes there is pressure to keep tuition low from the student body, she did not provide a clear response to the kind of pressure that the AMS could put on the university's action, relying on her thought that the latter wants to engage in dialogue with students. Her priority is to make sure as many student voices as possible are heard in order to move forward with a coherent student body policy.
Beyond the issue of consultation, Omassi's platform includes a focus on undergraduate research and flexible learning. She underlined the existence of research opportunities that students do not necessarily know about, such as the AUS undergraduate research conference she took part in.
“I think [the problem] is a lack of a cohesion unit -- students do not know where to go if they want to engage in research,” said Omassi. Communication work around these opportunities, be it through a database or actual events, is embedded in her platform.
Omassi's third objective is developing flexible learning services, first by providing more open academic resources to UBC students and then evolving towards Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), following the trend set by Eastern Canada and Ivy League universities.
“You are not only allowing students who learn in a different way to do so by providing these classes, but also opening up learning to a larger base than the UBC campus,” said Omassi.