We’ve been reporting on the candidates for weeks — interviewing, fact-checking and analyzing their debate performances. After putting in the work to get to know them and what they’re promising to do for you, we’re here to give our endorsements.
These aren’t your typical endorsements though. We know that you’re smart enough to make decisions for yourself — we’re all university students, after all.
That’s why instead of endorsing any candidates outright, we’ve laid out their strengths and weaknesses and the issues they care most about.
Cole Evans is running uncontested for re-election after a term that saw its fair share of controversy, from the AMS Events scandal to CampusBase privacy breaches. But after dodging his shortcomings throughout the year, he’s taken a conciliatory approach this campaign period. Still, his platform is far from innovative. Evans leads a pack of four uncontested candidates this year — all currently employed by the AMS — raising concerns that his leadership has failed to engage students enough to participate. His platform focuses on continuing work on some old goals after a year of COVID-19, perhaps revealing a complacency that comes with having no competition.
VP Academic & University Affairs
Eshana Bhangu, current student senator-at-large, is passionate when it comes to advocating for students. As the only candidate without prior AMS experience in the VPAUA race, Bhangu has a good track record with her work in the Student Senate Caucus. Her platform, ranging from affordability to a safe return to campus, shows her passion as well as ambition. Her platform is specific and action oriented but a fact check showed she got some numbers wrong. Additionally, given the extensive VPAUA portfolio, her campaign promises might be hard to deliver on in just a year.
Shivani Mehta, the current AMS associate VP academic affairs, already has quite a lot of experience with the VPAUA portfolio. Mehta wants to keep student well-being at the centre of every conversation and build on her work from this past year. Her platform focuses on a wide range of goals, from open educational resources and Work Learn opportunities to a safe return to campus. While Mehta’s debate performances and interview showed she understands the challenges awaiting the VPAUA in the upcoming year and the limitations of competing priorities, her goals might be too ambitious to complete in one year.
Communication is Lauren Benson’s forte as the first ever digital media coordinator for the AMS. She acknowledged several problems with AMS operations, indicating a self-awareness that would be critical to resolving student dissatisfaction with the AMS. Benson also demonstrated strong institutional knowledge and confidence during the debates, signifying that she would be a savvy and competent VP admin. However, her platform didn’t propose any drastic reforms regarding the issues she cited, such as lack of Indigenous coordination in sustainability. Like Joe Biden, she promises to be progressive but will likely maintain the status quo.
As the current associate VP external, Saad Shoaib brings a wealth of experience to the position. His commitment to expanding the AMS’s relationship with lobbying group Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities shows an understanding of the reality of lobbying for students at the federal level. His commitments to transparency and engagement were welcome, but nothing candidates haven’t promised before. His current position as an AMS insider raises concern over how meaningfully he could change the society. His lone candidacy also brings into question how effectively the VP external office encouraged others to run. Shoaib is the candidate for voters who want an establishment candidate that will be effective, but not groundbreaking.
Mary Gan has a valuable understanding of AMS finances as the current associate VP finance. By planning to grant the popular wish for a mental health subsidy, Gan shows promise that she’ll listen to student opinion. However, her lack of competition is part of broader concern that this year’s execs haven’t done enough to encourage other students to toss their hat in the ring. While her goals to make a Canvas learning hub for treasurers and increase knowledge of AMS funds show an awareness of how indigestible AMS finances may be for students, her communication ideas are run of the mill and things candidates have promised in the past. Regardless, with her experience, Gan is likely one of the few individuals who can assume the position in such financially uncertain times.
Dante Agosti-Moro clearly has the knowledge, experience and fiery passion to be an effective student advocate. He’s eager to loudly voice his opinions on Senate issues, such as setting term limits for students and faculty to let in fresh perspectives and reforming appeals committees. This passion, however, came across with his relentless pursuit of other candidates when they stumbled during debates. While this raises the question of whether he’ll burn bridges, he knows his stuff and can work toward his goals through efficient communication and dedication, making Agosti-Moro a promising candidate.
Incumbent Eshana Bhangu has the passion for student advocacy and the experience necessary for a student senator-at-large. As one of the co-authors of the Student Senate Caucus’s triennium goal-setting document — Senate 2023 — she’s demonstrated her dedication to the governing body. Her platform is extensive, including limiting the use of remote invigilation software, calling for an equity audit of the Senate and requiring climate justice to be included in all new curriculum proposals. It may not be feasible to accomplish all these goals within her year-long term, but Bhangu, also running for VPAUA, will certainly work hard to if re-elected.
Julia Burnham is the definition of an establishment candidate, and that may be her greatest strength. Thanks to her years of experience, she understands the issues and bureaucracy of Senate well and is a qualified candidate to bridge the divide between faculty and student senators. Her knowledge came through in debates. All of her answers had substance, unlike some of her competitors. She has a proven track record with success on equity issues and will advocate for a standing committee on academic inclusion and diversity. She’s also committed to mentorship of newer senators, something that could be valuable in a year with many open spots for new voices.
Emmanuel Cantiller has demonstrated that, while passionate about helping students, he may be in over his head in a heated Senate race. His platform centres academic accessibility policies such as making exam hardship rules more lenient and offering “universal online office hours” following the pandemic. However, his ideas sometimes lack substance and he had trouble responding to challenges to his platform during the debates. He seems to genuinely care about helping students, but may be hard-pressed navigating the inner politics of the Senate if elected.
Cole Evans is an incumbent who knows what he wants. He’s running for both the Senate and AMS president for a second year in a row. As a chair of a committee — one of only three students with that role — it isn’t clear what he accomplished in Senate this past year as much of it happened behind closed doors. From platform points to debates, his vagueness is difficult to oppose, and so far his student advocacy lacks the substance needed to reveal effectiveness. However, with a year of Senate knowledge under his belt, Evans would hit the ground running and be a practical choice.
Mathew Ho is marking his second run for a Senate seat after a failed bid two years ago. With experience working on AMS Council, his debate performance has significantly improved. Ho often shaped the course of conversation in debate and while he didn’t wade into the fray, it was clear he’d done his research. His platform mentions transparency, and his goals of making course outlines available on the SSC and expanding co-op are feasible — but his expansion of online learning might speak to priorities that aren’t at the front of students’ minds.
As a newcomer to student politics, Damir Korniiashik has differentiated himself as an outsider that would bring in unconventional perspectives. However, his outsider status showed in his lack of specificity in the debates. Notably, many of the odd claims he made raised concern about how much research he had done on the Senate. His main platform point was making UBC the number-one ranked university in Canada, but Korniiashik remained fuzzy on the details on how this would happen. His motivations for running may be more career based. If elected, it’s unclear if Korniiashik would enact much change.
Shivani Mehta may be a first-time candidate, but she has experience in student government that could easily carry over to the Senate. In a crowded field, she set herself apart with her debate performance and unique interest in expanding exam accommodations to students in different time zones. As associate VP academic affairs, Mehta has worked alongside faculty members, which could be an asset on the faculty-heavy Senate. She performed well in the debates compared to other newcomer candidates, and acknowledged her knowledge gaps from not being on the body. Mehta’s passion would serve her well in the Senate.
While almost every candidate under the sun runs with a pillar of transparency in their platform, Anisha Sandhu is one of the few who has already taken steps to achieve this during her year as the land and food systems student senator. During the debate she raised some engaging ideas on academic concessions and equity, but lagged in setting herself apart from other candidates. Even so, Sandhu might be the candidate that strikes the balance between a fresh perspective on Senate culture and prior experience in student politics. Overall, she seems to have her finger on the pulse of the student body.
Georgia Yee currently serves as the AMS VPAUA, experience that should allow her to transition smoothly to Senate. Her platform places a big focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, which seems to come from a place of genuine passion. Yee was not the most dynamic candidate in debates, but her ideas on equity shone through. Goals of Indigenizing and decolonizing the curriculum and increasing climate literacy opportunities were also on her agenda. However, Yee acknowledged the reality of COVID-19 as an impediment to her ambitious platform. If elected, she would likely succeed in strongly advocating for equity.
Board of Governors
Dante Agosti-Moro is hoping to make the leap from Senate to BoG, and he’s done his homework. A two-term commerce senator, Agosti-Moro kept pace with candidates that have had more high-stakes roles in university governance, in debates. He has financial know-how and seems to understand the balance between UBC’s financial interests and what students want. In debates, he seemed less passionate about BoG than he was about Senate — but that may be due to his being a newcomer to BoG. He would likely succeed if elected.
Arezoo Alemzadeh Mehrizi
Arezoo Alemzadeh Mehrizi may be the replacement grad student advocate some students are looking for. Mehrizi, hailing from the GSS, promises to focus much of her advocacy on graduate student support. She’s a bit of an unfamiliar face to undergraduates, but wants to fight fiercely against tuition increases and for climate action. While she might be a bit naive on the finances of the university — like many BoG candidates — Mehrizi is a great candidate for anyone wanting the Board to do more for graduate and international students.
The only incumbent in the race, Max Holmes is the most knowledgeable candidate running for BoG. He’s vying for a third term on the Board, centring affordability and equity in his platform. In debates, candidates called him out for running for a third year while he preached equity and diversity in student government. He maintains that students would benefit from continuity, as four-year student representative on Board Jeanie Malone is leaving. He’s likely right that his institutional knowledge would be a benefit to student advocacy on BoG. He’ll be effective, but he likely won’t change the status quo.
Damir Korniiashik stands out from the crowd, but not for his political savvy. As a newcomer to student politics, Korniiashik struggled to show how he would represent student interests on BoG. In debates, he fell back on his platform points of catapulting UBC to the top spot in university rankings and expanding UBC’s business operations, potentially to mask a policy knowledge gap. He was energetic about those points, however, showing a focused passion for a few topics. While he proposed increasing Indigenous enrolment, his numbers approach shed little light on how he would meaningfully consult Indigenous students. Korniiashik, if elected, could struggle to be the representative students need.
Georgia Yee has become an unexpected champion for students after breaking into the AMS in a special election victory last year. Her passion for equity and transparency with students as evidenced by her online presence show that she’s genuine in her bid to represent students at the Board of Governors — she’s a true loudspeaker for students. As with last year though, her platform is broad enough to raise questions of how she’d get things done, and we aren’t sure how her student focus would fit in with the corporate quagmire that is BoG. Her ideas are there, but whether she’d effect change is another question.