Voting for AMS, Senate and Board of Governors elections opens this week. The Ubyssey has spent weeks tracking, interviewing, and fact-checking these candidates — all of which you can read in our AMS Elections coverage. And now, we're finally ready to give our endorsements.
These aren't your mom's endorsements, though. A few years ago, The Ubyssey stopped giving 'direct' endorsements of candidates because we recognize different voters value different things. If sustainability is your top issue, your choices will be wildly different than someone who cares about affordability, for example. Rather than telling you who we want to win, we've laid out the pros and cons of each candidate: their victories, their failures, their strengths and their weaknesses.
Our staff spent a long time writing these, and while you should still read our coverage to make your decision, this is a pretty darn good place to start. So let's get to it.
Board of Governors
Dylan Braam: Dylan Braam is a relative newcomer at UBC, but his track record of holding execs accountable at AMS Council speaks to his understanding of governance. He has extensive oversight experience that should help him accomplish at least a good chunk of his well-developed platform, but he’ll need to step up his game on consulting and negotiating to get it done. Overall, he’d be a strong, uncompromising voice for students when the university oversteps its bounds.
Max Holmes: We’re more than confident Max Holmes can do this job and do it well, but how he does it is another thing. He’s an ambitious leader with a track record of earning wins for students at the negotiating table and holding UBC’s administration accountable. That being said, Holmes has a habit of cutting corners to meet his own needs. When he’s been challenged by his own Council, he’s responded immaturely and deceitfully. If he’s elected, he needs to understand that those methods won’t make him any friends at the BoG.
Jeanie Malone: Jeanie Malone is probably the most respected student politician at UBC. She’s reliable, non-partisan and understands that making change at the Board level necessitates cultivating good relations with her fellow governors. We think Malone shines best when she goes against the grain, and we hope she continues to challenge the Board when necessary
.Awais Quadre: Awais Quadre has brought some valuable ideas to this year’s race, namely his focus on mental health. But his lack of experience doesn’t give us much confidence he can carry them out. With only five meetings held per year, it would be next to impossible for Quadre to learn enough about the Board and how it operates in time to implement his goals.
Julia Burnham: Julia Burnham has shown her knowledge of the Senate, presented distinct policy change proposals and declared her intentions to “shake up” the academic governing body. She’s one of the best of the newcomers and clearly knows her stuff, dominating discussions during debates. Full disclaimer: Burnham was a Ubyssey writer for three years and worked with several members of the news team, excluding this writer.
Julia Chai: Julia Chai has focused almost her entire campaign on student advocacy and consultation. While this is important, student advocacy is already happening. But with a background in the Science Undergraduate Society, she is knowledgeable about Senate and the issues senators are currently working on. She seems like she would go with the flow if elected to Senate, helping finish the work that’s been started while consistently pushing for more student consultation.
Stuart Clarke: Newcomer Stuart Clarke is committed to making students more aware of what the Senate does, especially with his emphasis on reviewing the co-op guidelines to make the program a better experience for students. On the other hand, he has no governance experience and has never been to a Senate meeting. His enthusiasm is clear; “Vote for Stu” t-shirts are all over campus. But it seems like he’s spent more time making merchandise than making a policy platform.
Chris Hakim: Chris Hakim is an ambitious candidate, but his experience makes him one of the safest bets. He’s demonstrated a willingness to consult with the UBC community in his time as VP Administration, and it’s good to see a candidate stress the importance of addressing climate change. If divestment is important to you, vote for him — but know that it will be a tough goal for him to accomplish. Hakim’s promise to increase Indigenous engagement is also a welcome addition. If elected, Hakim needs to not only follow through with this promise, but do so sincerely.
Mathew Ho: Mathew Ho is one of the few candidates focused on student evaluations of teaching, but he has yet to prove that he would be an effective senator. He hasn’t talked about many key issues except mental health — and even then, he hasn’t provided any concrete plans as to how to enact the type of change he wants to see. Ho’s nervous demeanor in interview and debates show that he’d be running uphill from the start.
Max Holmes: As one of two incumbents in this race, it’s hard to argue against Max Holmes’s extensive experience. With two years already on Senate, Holmes would be able to pick up where he left off, a good thing if you’re hoping for efficiency. Over the last year, he’s had some ups and downs, from the important student consultation and policy reviews to under-delivering on promises on fall reading break. But on a slow-moving body like Senate, it’s important to have continuity and institutional knowledge, both of which Holmes has.
Iman Moradi: Newcomer Iman Moradi has neither relevant experience nor a solid platform. He has no Senate experience, which was noticeable with his underwhelming performance at the single debate he showed up to. At best, Moradi is an earnest candidate who simply lacks knowledge of the Senate. At worst, he might be misleading students by promising things he can’t deliver regarding the fall reading break.
Nick Pang: Nick Pang is definitely one of the more experienced and knowledgeable candidates in this busy race. He displayed a strong grasp on issues such as fall reading break and the Senate’s clumsy approval processes for new programs, and it’s easy to imagine him making good progress on both issues. His promotion of lecture recording technology is also quite interesting — it’s certainly something the Senate should look into, although it’s hard to imagine Pang making progress on it if he can’t secure support from other senators.
Awais Quadre: Awais Quadre seems to be a well-intentioned candidate who points out important issues that need to be addressed — in particular fall reading break and UBC’s lack of classroom space. But he has no student governance experience or adequate knowledge about Senate. His debate answers were vague and generic, and his approach to fall reading break consists mostly of overly ambitious goal-setting rather than an understanding of the difficulties behind creating one. Quadre clearly wants to help students, but he’s starting in the wrong place.
Riley Ty: Riley Ty’s goals might be too ambitious for the zealous newcomer to accomplish. His platform is extensive and he wants change, but we don’t know how effective he’ll be at advocating for it within Senate. Ty admitted that he could only initiate change, and we wonder if he’s spread himself too thin. What Ty does bring to the role is enthusiasm and a can-do attitude, which can actually make a difference in a team setting.
Kuol Akuechbeny: Besides his institutional and technical knowledge, VP Finance Kuol Akuechbeny has managed to achieve tangible goals this year like the investment policy divestment. His bid for president includes a long list of goals, but most of them look tangible enough for students to easily track and hold him accountable to. The main drawback is that the VP Finance position has provided few opportunities to do lobbying work, which Akuechbeny would have to quickly learn and build if elected. He was involved in the near cut to the SASC’s support services, but has since worked extensively on the fee increase referendum. He also received two penalties for misusing administrator access and failing to blind copy when mass emailing groups for endorsement — an honest mistake according to him, but it doesn’t reflect well on an experienced candidate.
Stuart Clarke: Newcomer Stuart Clarke has some relevant leadership experience working in a non-profit organization. Clarke differentiates himself from other candidates by focusing more on internal restructuring than policy issues. But while he was able to address policy issues — like sexual assault support and Indigenous inclusion — during debates, it should be noted they were not explicitly included in his platform. He also failed to consult the current VP Administration in his proposal to phase out the position, which doesn’t reflect well on his ability to foster communication.
Chris Hakim: AMS VP Administration Chris Hakim would bring along with him institutional knowledge and relationships with student groups if elected. His work on the AMS’s standalone sexual assault policy draft would bolster his understanding of UBC’s sexual misconduct policy, which is coming up for review next year. But his year as a sitting executive hasn’t all been smooth sailing, and he was penalized for misusing administrative access to Clubhouse, which, like Akuechbeny, doesn’t reflect well on an experienced candidate. He has also dodged bad press on previous occasions, and we hope that he’d commit to transparency if elected.
Jas Kullar: Newcomer Jas Kullar styles himself as an outsider who would bring needed changes to the AMS, if elected. While he has been vocal about holding sitting executives to account during debates, Kullar offers little evidence to support his promise of delivering radical changes. Beyond his overarching plan to educate students on important topics, some of his platform points are comically vague.
Spencer Latu: Newcomer Spencer Latu would have a big learning curve when it comes to policies and bureaucracy if elected. But he does offer progressive goals many students may find exciting — like a 10-year tuition freeze — after years of campaigns that only promise incremental, uncreative (if actually possible) changes. He’s also aware of the lower feasibility of some goals and the need to negotiate when advocating for students. Latu shows genuine enthusiasm for engaging students with his emphasis on direct democracy, which is valuable for a society usually plagued by voter apathy.
AMS VP Academic and University Affairs
Julia Burnham: Julia Burnham is prepared to take on the VPAUA role, having worked under its portfolio as academic campaigns and outreach commissioner. She has experience and shows genuine care about supporting Indigenous students, especially as the AMS tries to advance its reconciliation effort. Burnham is politically sharp and media-savvy, and she doesn’t mince words. (“Full stop, the AMS is mandated to advocate for lower tuition.”) If she pairs her AMS experience with her work holding UBC to account, she can get the job done. Full disclosure: several members of The Ubyssey and its news team worked with Burnham during her time at the paper, excluding this writer.
Vandita Kumar: Vandita Kumar is passionate about supporting students and she’s willing to put in the work as VPAUA. Some of her platform points — like the “cultural change” she seeks to bring to the office — are ambitious but perhaps less tangible. Kumar was the only candidate not to run for Senate and demonstrated a lukewarm understanding of the relationship between Senate and the VPAUA office. In a strong race, Kumar’s lack of institutional knowledge is a stumbling block. But her work as Residence Hall Association president proves she can take on an advocacy role, a crucial component of the job.
Nick Pang: Nick Pang has both the experience and knowledge to take on the VPAUA role. He’s passionate about increasing peer-based mental health support and representing those who may feel “alienated” from the AMS, like graduate and professional students. Pang’s push for accessible classrooms through the use of lecture recordings is useful and innovative, but it may face some pushback from faculty. If Pang can utilize his institutional knowledge and continue to call out the AMS on its failures like he has during his campaign, he can get the job done.
AMS VP External
Cristina Ilnitchi: Electing Cristina Ilnitchi would be a move for consistency and continuity. A lot was accomplished under her office, like getting support for the SkyTrain extension and cutting interest rates on provincial student loans. She has built connections and experience that would be beneficial in a second term. But her office has been criticized for conducting consultation poorly on multiple occasions, such as the lack of Indigenous inclusion in federal lobbying and the delayed consultation for the professional governance act. That said, Ilnitchi has the ultimate qualifying experience for the job — she’s already done it, and done it well.
Will Shelling: Associate VP External Will Shelling has demonstrated a sincere desire to learn and take on the top job. He seems particularly passionate about equity, accessibility and climate change advocacy, although his platform is by no means limited to those points. While he was part of the Inter-Fraternity Council’s leadership when it was accused of making insensitive remarks about sexual assault, he has since worked to address the issue within his own fraternity. With his experience, he would be a good balance between consistency and change.
Riley Ty: Riley Ty has shown great passion for certain issues, like improving mental health support and bringing ride-hailing to BC. A fresh voice, he is eager to hold the AMS accountable to their actions and make sure they are communicating with the public. But compared to other candidates in this race, he does not have much experience with this portfolio — something which can prove crucial within the VP External office, since a lot of the work requires strong connections with external parties.
AMS VP Finance
Lucia Liang: First-year arts student Lucia Liang clearly has the ambition and work ethic for the role, and her experience as Arts Undergraduate Society VP Finance provides valuable insight into what constituencies need from the AMS. But there were times during her interview and debates when Liang’s lack of knowledge stuck out. At the beginning of her candidacy, she was unaware that the AMS operated its own businesses. That said, Liang has plenty of time to grow and we wouldn’t be surprised to see her kicking around the AMS for years to come.
Viki Loncar: Viki Loncar has very little AMS experience. But she has always been refreshingly honest about her room for growth, and she’s confident her “passion and dedication” would make up for it. Her experience managing the International Relations Students Association’s finances would come in handy when reimbursing and funding clubs, and she has some solid goals with an emphasis on transparency. That said, her platform lacks depth and includes many recommendations that don’t actually fall under the VP Finance portfolio. She also lagged behind others in establishing a presence at debates, which were already lacking in engagement from candidates.
Jon Tomalty: More than any other executive in the AMS, VP Finance is a position that requires technical know-how. Through his performance in debates and detailed platform, finance student and Associate VP Finance Jon Tomalty has proven that he has the background for the job, but he brings more to the table than just smarts and ability. In Tomalty’s own words, “a budget really is a statement of values,” and his goals of creating a green investment fund, doubling mental health spending and lowering student fees, as well as his sober reflection on the defunding of the SASC, show that his heart is in the right place.
AMS VP Administration
Cole Evans: Cole Evans is well-versed in student governance and policy from his AMS experience. His platform is extremely detailed and encompasses every aspect of the portfolio, with some ambitious goals to “enhance the student experience.” We would have to wait and see if he would be able to deliver on all he has promised, if elected. His responses to criticism during the debates were also flustered and scrambled, which will be a problem in a job where communication is key.
Andrea M. Hurtado Fuentes: Andrea M. Hurtado Fuentes’s experience as a residence advisor and club president would provide her with relevant interpersonal and leadership skills, if elected. Her goal of offering peer-support workshops for club executives may be ambitious to put in place for 400+ clubs, but is a good step in the right direction. While she may face a steep learning curve as an AMS outsider, she has done her research and seems willing to learn.
Alex Okrainetz: Alex Okrainetz promises to bring transparency, community and sustainability to the forefront of the VP Administration portfolio. Her experience as a Common Energy executive has provided her with firsthand knowledge on the difficulties clubs face with the VP portfolio and her focus on sustainability would highlight an aspect of the portfolio that is often in the background. As an AMS outsider, she has a steep learning curve ahead of her, but she proved she was willing and capable of challenging the establishment candidate during the debate.
Sexual Assault Support Centre funding increase: The Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) is a vital resource for students at UBC. But over its 17 years of operation its funding has remained stagnant while its services have expanded massively. The AMS has committed to bringing up a fee raise for the SASC every year until it is passed to ensure the SASC has long-term financial sustainability. Vote “yes” to ensure the SASC has the funding to continue to grow its important work supporting survivors and preventing sexual violence.
Indigenous Student Fund fee: With funding through this fee, the Indigenous Committee can continue to support Indigenous cultural events, student initiatives and students themselves through scholarships and bursaries. Concerns have been raised about vagueness in how this fund is allocated, but we trust that Indigenous students know what they need most. By voting “yes,” you are supporting the self-determination of Indigenous students at UBC to decide how they best need to be supported, and that is something we can get behind.
U-Pass renewal: Do you like not paying $174 per month for an all-zone transit pass? Thought so. Vote “yes” to continue the U-Pass agreement and ensure reliably affordable transit for UBC students until 2025.
Campus Culture and Performance fee changes: We recommend that you vote “yes” to the CCP fee restructuring, as the plan won’t cost students any more money but will allow more organizations to apply for pre-existing funding. This would provide more opportunities for inclusive and accessible events, and would help enrich UBC arts, culture and performance on campus.
Establishing a thrift shop fee: For less than a cup of coffee per year, you can support the establishment of a permanent thrift shop on campus to reduce waste and save money on essentials. Vote “yes” if you value sustainability and affordability — you might just get some fly digs out of the deal, too.
AMS Bylaw changes: The proposed changes to the AMS Bylaws are bundled into one omnibus question, making it an all-or-nothing choice we cannot in good faith endorse. We are concerned about the proposal to allow the AMS to draft a policy limiting the release of records that could be “harmful to the financial or economic” interests of the society. The AMS is asking students to trust it with a records transparency policy they haven’t even seen yet — and based on our experiences requesting records that are currently available to the public, the society hasn’t earned that trust. Students should vote “no” to this referendum due to the risk that such a policy could make most important information of public interest completely unavailable. If the AMS wants to earn the trust of students, proposing these changes separately next year would be a good place to start.