AMS Report July 8th, Part 1

PLEASE FORWARD/SEND TO WHOEVER YOU THINK WANTS TO KNOW.

Called to order: 6:10pm
Themes: proxies, bad jokes, OLYMPICS! Signs, CUS filming, twitter chat
Food: Pie R squared pizza with abnormally large broccoli heads
Song in my head during the meeting: Russian Privjet by Basshunter

I can’t believe we’ve already approached the half-way point of summer. So far, my summer has been a jumble of work, sleep, adventures and, of course, AMS meetings. In terms of drama, length and political tension, this meeting did not disappoint. It was the grouse grind of meetings– just when you think you’ve reached the top, you realize, huffing, sweat-drenched and being passed by 70-year olds, that you still had a ways to go.

Because of the tremendous length of this meeting and because I had to leave before it ended, I’ve decided to split up this report into two: the first will focus on the Olympics presentation and the Iran motion while the second will comprise of the budget and everything else. I ask for your patience as I try to recount everything as best and as unbiased as I can. So, turn off BNN, put down your Harvard Review Case (woot management consulting!) , take off your panda fur-lined jacket with ivory buttons, slip into your Nautica/Ralph Lauren/Lacoste shirt, and, when that’s done, grab a wad of cash to fan yourself with since this one is going to be toasty:

You know things are going to be serious when:

• Blake is wearing a purple dress shirt
• There is a camera crew in the corner
• There are more people that are not on council watching than council itself
• The Alpha Delts showed up (Greeks mean business!)
• The POPO are here, along with a very scary ISU lady you do not want to mess with

“This is not stakeholder process; this has never been a consultation process.” – AuCoin

As per the motion last council meeting, the AMS council has invited Michelle AuCoin and Kristen Harvey of the UBC Olympics Secretariat to talk about the Olympics and the potential impacts they might have on the UBC community. Before I start, I would like to extend a big thank you to all those who came and watched the presentation and for all those who presented. While this presentation may have occurred a little late in the game (ahahahah…pun), I know I speak for many when I say that this chance to discuss Olympic issues was much appreciated.

The biggest challenge with regards to the Olympics and the AMS has always been the lack of a meaningful consultation process. A few months ago, the UBC Secretariat invited TimBlake to sit in on committee meetings so that the AMS could be more involved. The only catch was that both would have to sign a Non-disclosure agreement– an agreement prohibiting them from discussing anything with council and with other execs. Arguing that it was their mandate to inform council and that they could not do anything alone without council’s approval, both turned down the offer. A couple months pass by and we’re still trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to establish some sort of communication/consultation with the UBC Secretariat.

Whether you support the games, hate the games or are still on the fence, the truth is that the games will be coming to Vancouver and it’s up to us to prepare accordingly. Michelle and Kristen (a former AMS president herself) first discussed the sheer size of the Olympics (20 days of sport, 60 days of Celebration thanks to the Cultural Olympiad, 5500 participants, 80+ countries, 1.6 million tickets sold, 25 000 volunteers, 1.5 billion website views) and stressed the importance of the games to UBC.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot:

(1) Thunderbird Arena will be used to host some of the skating events. The funds used to build this venue were from VANOC as well as a 10 million dollar pledged amount from an individual donor, Doug Mitchell, who the venue will be named after.

(2) In order for proper space for various vehicles, machines and other Olympic articles, both the Lord and Buck fields will be “converted” into better drained and usable space. Basically, they will be paved over, starting this summer and lasting until about April. Then, they will be returned to their natural state. Who pays for the conversion and the re-conversion and whether this will have some sort of lasting environmental damage is unclear.

(3) Wesbrook will be closed, most likely from February 4th to sometime in April (with some partial openings here and there and fully open to Emergency vehicles). Consequently, there will be limited parking for the Fraternities and Sororities, and getting to our Wednesday meetings will prove to be more difficult. Despite this, I urge all Fraternities to continue hosting sick parties at their houses! To solve this, UBC has allocated alternative parking at the thunderbird parkade, but details about this are yet not fully known.

(4) East Mall, near the field, will be partially closed as this will become a bus staging area. Again, metered parking there will be closed down.

(5) Because Transit was waiting for the finalization of route plans, there are currently no plans with regards to bus rerouting, but you can safely assume that busses will be displaced and commuters will be confused.

(6) In the fall, the UBC Secretariat will be hosting a series of open houses educating students on what will be happening during the Olympics.

(7) With regards to freedom of speech, or more specifically, having signs on dormitory windows near the venue that denounce/support/or display non-sponsored logos, it is up to students to interpret their residence contract. The rez contract says that nothing is allowed to be “affixed” to the windows, meaning you are not allowed to post signs. However, the wording is vague on issues such as wearing a Tibetan t-shirt to the games or something of that matter. In fact, all the wording remains vague.

With regards to the Integrated Security Unit and their awesomely intense spokeswomen, Cpl Manon Chouinard (think Québécoise GI Jane):

(8) There will be no searches, no extra power, and those that want entry into Olympic venues will have to undergo airport-like security measures

(9) The AMS has a RCMP officer assigned to it to answer questions

(10) Security will “respect the charter where possible” (oh dear)

(11) If you want to host parties during the games, get a hold of the RCMP as soon as possible (such as early November)

(12) There will be newsletters sent out communicating the Olympics. Check your inbox since one has already been sent out.

(13) There will be “safe assembly areas” (aka. Protest areas)

(14) Reports on conduct have been read or will be read by all policing units

(15) AND my favourite, since this is “Canada’s Games”, there will be policing units from all over Canada, notably Calgary AND NEWFOUNDLAND!!!!!!!! So, if you ever even consider doing something illegal during the games, WATCH OUT!! Some Newfie cop’s gonna send you straight to the slammer!

(16) There will be other big changes, but according to last council meeting’s presentation, not a lot is actually finalized, and even less has been disclosed to the public. I hope that more information will be given as the Olympics quickly approach and while Michelle was correct in saying that this has not been a consultative process, I sincerely hope that the AMS, UBC and VANOC can look beyond pointing fingers and focus on the issues on hand.

(17) Check out the Ubyssey’s website for more details!!!! http://ubyssey.ca/news/?p=9502

No doubt, the Vancouver 2010 Olympics are a weighted subject, and a simple post on a social-networking site do ill-justice to their enormity. Although the AMS does not have an opinion regarding the Olympics, talks have always been strained. There was definitely a few times where I felt like I was being presented to as if I was still in high school. Other times I felt like I was watching a really bad case presentation, one where the student really had nothing tangible to say. Despite this, I think Geoff Costeloe phrased it perfectly when he asked Michelle, “What can we actually do?” To respond to this, there was a motion passed to come up with another, more recent report regarding the Olympics by the External Policy Committee (woot Tahara and female representation on council!). The old report can be viewed at the AMS website. With regards to this motion, I think this is a good first step but is really only one-sided. I would rather have liked to see an Ad-hoc Olympics committee being formed which works together with the UBC Secretariat. Any feedback on this one?

I ran away from Democracy

Turn on the TV today and, apart from countless stories about MJ (enough already!), you will also hear about the current situation in Iran. Simply put, things are going bad, people are dying and democracy is crumbling. Students especially are feeling the effects as it is often students who are not afraid to question the status quo first. As a fellow student, as someone who is 1/32 Persian and as someone with a great respect for Middle-Eastern culture, I was chocked when I heard about the invasion of a learning space in Tehran. But sitting in front of my computer in my warm and safe room, what could I possibly do? As a member of the External Policy Committee, Tim brought up the fact that he was approached by members asking for AMS support. Being Tim, he immediately wanted to help, and thus the motion denouncing the invasion of public space was drafted. The motion states,

Whereas students in Iran are involved in the protests following the June 12 Presidential Elections;
Whereas security forces in Iran stormed the dormitories, and attacked and arrested students; and
Whereas the raid on the Tehran University resulted in the resignation of over 120 lecturers,
Therefore, be it resolved that the AMS condemn the invasion of a learning space; and
Be it further resolved that the AMS support Iranian students and their right to academic freedom.

Who could have known that such a motion would cause so much tension during meeting? Truth be told, I know every member on council is pro-education and at least partially pro-democracy, and had this been a motion taken on as individuals instead of as a group, this motion would pass unanimously. However, the challenge lies in the fact that the AMS cannot simply pass motions that are not within its mandate (for a more detailed argument, please refer to Naylor’s post on the Radical Beer Tribune and no, I will NOT post the link here since all of you should know it by now). In other words, if we continue to pass motions like this, when the time came to pass motions that do fall within our mandate such as tuition, we’d be like the boy who cried wolf and our arguments would carry little weight.

Yet this motion remains a bit different due to its specificity and when one of the Iranian representatives told us that this is a manner of principle first and action later, I couldn’t help but want to do something. But at the same time, and this is seen everywhere, passing a motion does not solve the problem. It’s the same as if you promised to lose weight, but never actually followed though. Somehow, I am beginning to think that we are a council becoming fat on our own words.

After much argument, what I wanted most was to talk to the Iranian students (who make up the third largest ethnic group of graduate students) and ask them what they actually wanted. Maybe if this was portrayed in a clearer manner then we could actually outlined actionable items (did they want a memorial, financial resources, an event?). The motion was redirected from the External Policy Committee back to the External Policy Committee to be reworked on again with the consultation of the Iranian students. The Iranian students, who just want the atrocities committed in their country to be recognized, will have to go through bureaucratic hoops all over again. I sincerely think the AMS did not finish, and I was embarrassed when the speaker raised an extremely distasteful joke regarding voting and Iran right after redirecting the motion. I only hope those that we have been elected to represent do not think that the AMS does not support them.

And that’s the first part! Thank you for reading and I can’t wait for you to read the second part of my report. I hope you all have an amazing weekend, and like always, feel free to contact me at amsrep@cus.sauder.ubc.ca with any questions/concerns/rants/ideas.

Now I’m off to my glass of pinot gris and a long night with Johnny Depp in Chocolat (the movie, not the food…unfortunately).