While I strongly disagree with UBC’s proposed international tuition increases — the proposal is inadequately justified and creates even greater financial barriers to receiving a post-secondary education — I am also deeply disappointed by our student government's response.
All illusions aside, the AMS holds no direct power over UBC’s decision making processes, including the setting of tuition rates. UBC has made its intent clear even if its facts aren’t. If we use last year as an example, student action has an insignificant impact on UBC's ultimate plans. Behind all the grandstanding from Council about the increases, the AMS knows this fact.
AMS Council has based their course of action on a presentation given by the UBC Social Justice Centre (SJC) a few weeks ago — a group that doesn't tend to lend themselves to credible positions that the AMS can take to shift university policy. The SJC put forward several motions, including the motion to boycott UBC Food Services and a request for $20,000 from AMS Council — both of which passed with little time for review, discussion or amendment.
In a later article in The Ubyssey, AMS President Aaron Bailey stated that the “AMS (has) a directive … from our board of directors … to pursue this boycott because general students from the Social Justice Centre brought this motion forward” and “because of that, we have to enact the boycott campaign.”
While a solid attempt at redirecting responsibility, this statement and the passage of these motions both have a significant and unnecessary financial impact on the AMS. They've used our student fees without consultation or discussion with campus partners like CUPE 116, whose members will be the first impacted by any boycott. This is made even more problematic by the fact that the AMS is currently sitting on a fund of more than $40,000 collected from student fees dedicated specifically to the Resource Groups for exactly this type of situation.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that students would be opposed to tuition increases in the first place. The AMS and the GSS — who knew about these increases since April — had months to prepare a tangible and credible campaign of opposition, rather than a PR move that is being pieced together less than three weeks away from the next Board of Governors meeting.
The “Afford UBC” campaign, pizza giveaway and boycott of UBC Food Services has little to do with actually looking to shift decision-making at the Board of Governors level and is much more about making student groups feel heard and consulted. Unfortunately, the real intention behind their actions is to divert student ire away from the AMS for otherwise lacklustre and insignificant pandering. Afterwards, they want to be able to say that they gave it the old college try should these increases pass. I find that to be sketchy at best — disingenuous at worst.
AMS, don’t waste our student fees any longer on a campaign that is too little, too late.
Mike Cameron is a third-year Biochemistry major.