Between the Motions: AMS Council talks Valentine’s COVID-19 concerns, federal lobbying

AMS Council met last night for its final meeting before AMS elections to talk about federal lobbying, COVID-19 concerns at the Gallery and the Interactive Sustainability Centre.

Here’s what you need to know.

UCRU updates

Mackenzy Metcalfe, chair of the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU), outlined several of UCRU’s bylaws, including the withdrawal process, the “one school one vote” policy and the exclusion of non-U15 universities from joining.

Metcalfe acknowledged that UCRU is still a new and understaffed organization, which is why it won’t include smaller schools.

Max Holmes, a student representative on the Board of Governors, raised concern over the name of UCRU — which he called a “limiting title” because it doesn’t mention graduate students.

“The short answer [for the name] is semantics,” Metcalfe responded. “The work we do for student financial aid, for Indigenous students and for international students is all applicable to graduate students.”

Metcalfe added that 90 per cent of UCRU’s advocacy priorities apply to graduate students, and she sees “no reason” why in the future it can’t have a grad-student wing.

Holmes asked another question about how the UCRU will represent West Coast schools, given that they are outnumbered by schools in the East.

Metcalfe said that UCRU is tackling systemic issues that affect students across Canada. She talked about how Ontario schools were inspired by the Knock Out Interest campaign in BC in their own advocacy to eliminate interest rates on student loans.

Councillors concerned over Valentine’s day promotion at the Gallery

Long discussion ensued after Student Services Manager Keith Hester’s typically uneventful updates where he presented on increased psychology insurance coverage and the effort to find a new SASC manager.

Former VP Academic and University Affairs Julia Burnham sparked debate with a question about a happy hour special held at the Gallery Patio & Lounge in the Nest on Friday in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

“That seems to be in contrast with a lot of the discussion that was held at Council in November in regards to large congregations of individuals in the Gallery on Fridays,” Burnham said.

Burnham said she hoped for transparency on this issue, mentioning that the ad hoc committee for events struck after the pub crawl incident has still not met.

Hester responded by listing several COVID-19 procedures the AMS is taking at the Gallery, such as reducing capacity to 40 people, spacing tables apart and adding more security to manage lines and enforce mask usage on Friday evenings.

Several other councillors continued to raise public health concerns over the event.

Jackson Schumacher, graduate students rep, said he “[didn’t] like the optics.” Regardless of whether attendees are following COVID-19 rules, he didn’t think it was wise to host themed events in the Gallery. Holmes said that the combination of it being a holiday and promotion worried him, adding that the AMS is a “not-for-profit society” that should look at what’s best for the community.

Sebastian Cooper, Allard rep, instead urged fellow councillors to think about how many students on campus don’t feel a sense of community during this pandemic.

President Cole Evans said that the AMS food and beverage department was holding the event, not AMS Events, but agreed to get executives more involved.

Interactive Sustainability Centre funding tabled

VP Finance Lucia Liang and VP Administration Sylvester Mensah Jr moved a motion to set aside $26,133.12 from the Capital Projects Fund to build the Interactive Sustainability Centre in the Life Building. Associate VP Sustainability Jason Pang presented the motion since both Liang and Mensah were absent.

Law rep Sebastian Cooper asked why the centre needs a physical space, something echoed by by economics rep Ryan Wong and Alex Gonzalez from engineering.

“It seems like you’re just making a wall look pretty. I’m confused how this is benefiting the UBC community,” Gonzalez said.

Pang responded that the building will be used to hold office hours for clubs, space for events, and sustainability consulting.

Council tabled the item until the next meeting.