Untangling the Alma Mater Society

Whether you realize it or not, as a student you interact with your student society daily. So here’s a run down of everything you ought to know about how your school is being run.

The Alma Mater Society (AMS) is UBC’s student society; it’s made up of students who are expected to serve students. How do they do this? Firstly, they provide services.

AMS services are run by students – not the university.

“It’s a common misconception. The AMS runs – autonomously runs – all of our services [and] they’re all student-run, student-lead initiatives,” said Ron Gorodetsky, student services manager. “So we work very closely with the university but we’re completely separate in what we do.”

Safewalk and the Sexual Assault Support Centre, things you’ve probably already heard of, are AMS services. Others include AMS Tutoring, Speakeasy, the Food Bank, Volunteer Avenue and AMS Advocacy.

When asked which one incoming first-years should know about, Gorodetsky said that AMS Speakeasy, which offers peer support and is great for first-year students, "especially if they don’t live on residence, they might feel a bit isolated, they might feel like it’s a bigger high school with less friends."

So, who is the AMS? Well, there are five faces that you may have seen somewhere already: these are the executives.

Students elect five other students to exec positions every second term. Here’s who was elected and what they do.

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VP Administration – Ava Nasiri

The easiest way to think about what Nasiri does is overseeing different campus organizations and initiatives.

“I chair the Student Administration Committee (SAC) and oversee the administration of all 372 of our wonderful clubs,” said Nasiri. “The big thing for me coming right up is the club’s Resource and Sustainability Centre, so we’re looking at formally launching that in October.”

Nasiri’s platform points included making the AMS more accessible to students and fostering collaboration within the AMS, which she says is taking the form of expanding the art gallery, as well as meetings with the Engagement Commissioner.

“Alongside that, I was in charge of wrapping up the new SUB project,” said Nasiri.

The new SUB is likely the most tangible explanation of what falls to the VP admin’s portfolio. The project was in the works for a long time. A really long time. Construction for the project began three years ago, proceeding several more years of negotiation and planning.

After multiple delays, the new SUB opened its doors last June.

VP External – Jude Crasta

Crasta liaisons with external entities. Advocating to external bodies and networking with other student societies all fall into his lap.

“I also work on projects like transit and transportation, policy and legislation when it comes to issues that affect students, like climate change targets or affordable housing,” said Crasta.

Crasta was in charge of advocating for a “yes” vote for the transit plebiscite. Though the result wasn’t what the AMS (and we) had hoped for, Crasta says they are still working towards the Broadway line.

“Even though the results were counter to what the AMS took a stance on, it helped us highlight out there a unified recognized need for transit and improved transportation,” said Crasta. “It’s down to the logistics, not necessarily the principle.”

You’ll likely see a lot of Crasta in the coming months as he heads up a voter encouragement campaign for the federal elections.

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VP Academic – Jenna Omassi

Omassi acts as a representative for students to the university on virtually any issue they might have.

“[The VP Academic] works to support the academic initiatives of the university, and creates academic initiatives in the society,” said Omassi. “A big part of that is sitting on most of the university committees, is relations with the Senate and the Board of Governors and then with all of the executives of the university.”

According to Omassi, her main platform points were student consultation, a unified platform for undergraduate research and open educational resources.

With the costs of textbooks soaring, Omassi will be heading up the #textbookbrokeBC campaign to push for more open educational resources.

While Omassi’s mandate is to be a go-between for students to the university, the 2015 Academic Experience Survey highlighted that more students don’t know much about the AMS than do.

“One thing that communications has done is really unified the identity of the AMS with the new brand that we have,” said Omassi, when asked what she hopes will turn this around.

VP Finance – Mateusz Miadlikowski

Miadlikowski was re-elected as VP finance. Unfortunately, Miadlikowski is on vacation for several weeks so was unavailable to comment directly at this time. But basically, his role is to manage the financial health of the AMS.

When Miadlikowski was running, he pledged to ensure that the new SUB’s buisnesses are meeting their goals by working closely with management, and that he plans to implement new financial systems for clubs.

Besides working with businesses and clubs, Miadlikowski chairs the Finance Commission and sits on the CiTR Board of Directors.

President – Aaron Bailey

A photograph of Aaron Bailey’s grinning face with beer being thrown on it was plastered on the front cover of The Ubyssey, as well as the home page of our website for weeks.

“I am responsible for overseeing all of the activities of the society, so I kind of have my hands in everything that we do all at once, but not anything completely,” said Bailey. “My main role… is supporting the executive team and council in achieving the goals of the Society.”

The President is the face of the AMS. Apparently, Bailey hopes to put a fun face forward.

“The baseline of my platform was to return a sense of personability to the office of the president – basically, not taking what we do at the AMS so seriously all the time,” said Bailey.

Bailey said he’s been spending the summer doing lots of strategic planning. For the future, Bailey hopes to expand Block Party and demonstrate support for campus organizations.

However, the executive doesn’t operate solo. There’s a body known as AMS Council, which is supposed to make high-level decisions for the student body. They meet every two weeks to discuss budgets, campaigns, events and more.

Council is meant to represent everyone: there’s a seat for someone from every constituent society on campus. Every student is a member of the AMS, and although only elected reps form AMS Council, anyone can run for election.

There’s been some debate about how to define the relationship between the Exec and Council, as was brought up in last week’s Council meeting. However as it currently stands, the execs are full time handling the day-to-day, and Council is involved in the big decisions.

Of course the AMS is a large, complicated entity, but these are the basics and now you know a bit more about your society, and what you should expect from the people elected to serve you!