Tuesday, September 1, 2009

UBC Insiders 2.0

UBC Insiders has re-launched with a new site, new editors, and a new mantra.

Check out the new site at ubcinsiders.ca!!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Shout Out

To the AMS, and Fincom in particular for helping fund my trip to Ottawa to attend the CIS AGM.

You can read the articles I wrote about it here and here.

If you are hoping to go to a conference, event, or have a special project in mind, I strongly encourage you to apply for one of their Student Initiatives Fund grants (which is what I got).

If you are an AMS club looking to do something special, they also have an option for you: the Clubs Benefit Fund.

Finally, another good funding option they have is the Innovative Projects Fund, which exists to provide seed money for new projects of direct benefit to students.

I am a huge AMS fan and it's not only because they just gave me money. It is easy to criticize them when they make mistakes, but in the end it is full of great people who do good things, and UBC students are definitely better off for it.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

AMS Council: August 19, 2009

It's so nice out today. Can't we all just go sit on the Knoll and have council there?


  • A visit from Pierre Ouillet and Brian Sullivan
  • Tom Dvorak's EPIC Sunglasses tan

Bonjour Pierre Ouillet

Pierre Ouillet (UBC's VP Finance, Resources and Operations) is here with Brian Sullivan to talk about structural deficits in the UBC budget. These must be the hot new thing in institutional finance this year, since we also got a presentation from Tom Dvorak about it last month.

This presentation plus question period went for almost two hours. I'm going to not summarize anything and say that the discussion was frank and interesting and you had to be there. For further coverage see the live blog on the Arts Caucus blog. Or just look at the hash tag #amscouncil. There may also a summary from KatDov, her council summaries can be found here.

Some memorable moments:

(*)B.Sul (to Matt Naylor): "You were involved in Senate at the time?"
Naylor: "I ran for Senate."

(*)Tom Dvorak walks in late. Immediately in the AMS council chat room:
[19:58] alox: SUNGLASSES TAN
[19:58] alox: EPICEPIC
[19:58] alox: EPICCCCCC
I can't tell you what happened next as I was doubled over in laughter for a good minute, since Tom's sunglasses tan is EPIC!

Blake's Broadcast
Please encourage all reps to show up to council; looking at ways to improve communications in society for consistent branding; spent a lot of time doing media interviews; hoping to attend as many firstweek events as possible; hoping to create lots of connections with as many groups on campus as possible; need to provide more support to grad and undergrad societies

Johannes's Jargon
First Year Seminar Program: Anna Kindler said this will now be included in strategic plan, hopefully get program by next year; working with greeks about potential lawsuit/arbitration deal with university regarding code of conduct in lease agreement; Proposal came to PPPAC about building expanded tennis centre; Faculty of Medicine has proposed a new palliative care training facility on campus which would be beside Vanier; met with VP academic caucus

Crystal's Chat
All SUB all the time: Jensen will consolidate all the possible ways to integrate SUB into classes; SUB booth at imagine day; fencing around U-Blvd will have a poster to promote SUB project; working on mission statement and project goals; continue negotiations with university; SAC is organizing clubs days, looking about involving constituencies; working on deans' debates; working with Tim on application to be exempt from SUB fee and U-Pass fee; looking to install baby change table in gender neutral washroom; some more renovations coming soon

Tom's Tirade
Interviewing HR director candidates; finished up review of catering; meeting with UBC on the books with their catering practices; looking at how to handle demand for Whistler lodge lottery

Tim's talk
Tim is on vacation riding the train.

Pavani's prose
Pavani is not present.

Education Cuts Motion
You have probably heard by now about the BC Government cutting $16M of education funding, which came unexpectedly and with no announcement. A motion came to formally oppose the cuts and do some lobbying.

Tom asked about the terminology about the clause that "AMS Council authorize an awareness campaign in regards to the cuts" without any budget about the proposed campaign. Eventually it was amended to make it clear that supporting an awareness progrm was not equivalent to allocating funds to it.

Next meeting Sep 2. Now time for pitchers of Hatchet at Mahony's.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Downside of Automatic Enrolment

The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FoGS) recently implemented "automated continuous thesis registration", which works as follows:

"Starting in Summer 2009, when students register in a thesis or dissertation course once, their registration in that course will automatically roll each term until the end of the student's program (excepting if they are on leave).'

On the surface this seems pragmatic. In the original email which went out last May they hoped that it would make life easier for students, faculty and staff. They also allege that students not registering was a common occurrence, causing UBC to lose out on some tuition fees and provincial funding.

Some red flags started going up when this email arrived in July from FoGS (excerpt):

"Evidently there is a problem with the online graduation application system. There seems to be a problem with the new SSC they launched and the application only works for about half of those applying. The graduation department at Enrolment Services is responsible for this and the Faculty of Graduate Studies has no control over it. They are aware of the problem, but will not be fixing it anytime soon..."

It seems quite risky to put students in the situation where they are enrolled for courses automatically while at the same time the graduation application system is not working properly. What happens if the student's graduation application is somehow mishandled or lost and the student ends up automatically enrolled for the next term?

Unfortunately, something similar to this has already happened and the answer is that UBC takes the student to court in an attempt to collect the fees. See this 2008 decision: UBC Enrolment Services Office vs. Gregory Magolan.

It's a pretty easy read for a court document, but the executive summary is as follows: a student in engineering deferred his registration in the co-op program and was told he would not be charged tuition fees as long as his registration was deferred. Notwithstanding, the faculty automatically enrolled him in co-op courses and fees were levied. He didn't even find out he owed fees until after the term in question was over. When he didn't pay, UBC Enrolment Services took him to court.

The bright side in this is that UBC ended up losing the case. However, the fact that UBC Enrolment Services would even pursue legal action in the first place against a student in these circumstances is worrisome. I won't deny it's convenient never having to sign into the SSC to register for courses. But when I think about it realistically, it only saves me about 30 seconds on the SSC twice a year. I think that amount of effort is worth having peace of mind that I won't be taken to court by UBC.

Of course, maybe I'm a bit more cautious than others because I have also experienced the fact that even though rules exist, it doesn't mean they will be followed. I have been trying every year, unsuccessfully, to get UBC to follow Senate rules surrounding university awards, and no one was willing to acknowledge that their procedures were inconsistent with the rules. (Finally the rules were changed at February's senate meeting so I'm glad to report the system works albeit slowly. Thankfully not as slowly as Credit/D/Fail.)

I'm very interested to hear more from UBC Enrolment Services and the Faculty of Graduate Studies about what safeguards are in place within the automatic enrolment system to prevent graduate students from being wrongly enrolled in thesis courses and then pursued for payment, especially given difficulties with the graduation application system.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Campus Shows: Fall 2009

This year, the Ubyssey will have more resources invested in their culture section (one editor last year; this year there are two), with fewer resources going into news (two editors last year; this year only one). They now have a culture blog and, I believe, a paid culture staffer over the summer. Correction: Apparently the grant the Ubyssey obtained went news and coordinating editors. Over the summer the rest of the staff is volunteer.

A quick look at their recent culture content reveals entries about other websites, and coverage of things happening around Vancouver which are already covered quite competently by Vancouver's other media outlets. Events happening or upcoming on campus or put on by the AMS? Not a peep.

I do realize I am crazy for thinking that my school newspaper might focus largely on things happening, you know, on campus, or put on by campus groups. For anyone interested in those things, AMS Events has been getting busy putting together shows for the fall. Their announcement about the line up for this year's Welcome Back BBQ got a lot of attention, but they are also putting on some other pretty sweet shows coming up.

By far the one I am most excited about is Savage Love Live! For those who don't know who Dan Savage is, he writes the sex column "Savage Love" in the back of the Georgia Straight every week. If you are wondering why it should be a good time...

Date: Sat, Nov 21, 2009
Time: 8:00 PM
Tickets: $15 for students, $25 for others, on sale now
Tip: Buy tickets from the Chan Centre Box Office to avoid Ticketmaster charges (but you can still buy from TM if you want to pay extra.)


Get those W's out!

The GZA is coming to the Pit in September. Founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, The Straight was extremely impressed with the show he put on last year. Compared to other venues the GZA plays in Vancouver, The Pit is by far the most intimate one you'll find.

Date: Thurs, Sept 24, 2009
Time: 9:30 PM
Tickets: $20, available to students only, on sale now at the Outpost


Finally, fresh off an appearance at the Vancouver Folk Festival, Basia Bulat will be dropping into Vancouver again. How many other concerts will you go to this year that will feature a large complement of autoharp?

Date: Wed, Sept 23, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM
Tickets: $14, available at Ticketweb, Zulu, Red Cat


Friday, July 31, 2009

Koerner's Pub Patio Project

At the last GSS Council meeting on July 23, 2009, a plan to expand Koerner's Pub came up for council approval. However, before it could be dealt with quorum was lost for the third month in a row and no decision could be made. This project has been on the table for quite a while now, and many people have put a lot of work into refining the design and financing options of the plan.

Most graduate students and other patrons of Koerner's Pub are unaware of the planned pub expansion. Since it represents one of the biggest and most meaningful projects the GSS has considered in a number of years, this post is meant to inform all of those people about what the project's all about, why it's worthwhile, and what the current situation is. Most of the information in here represent the findings of the Pub Patio Project Task Force (PPPTF) and its presentation to council, which can be viewed here.

The following is a guest post by Dan Beaton, a PhD student in Physics and GSS Councilor.

Project History

In 2004, GSS council created a task force to look into the possibility of turning Koerner's into a brewpub, an idea which came from the manager at the time. Although we do try, grad students (and other Koerner's patrons) don't drink enough beer to make having our own brewpub feasible. If this plan was ever to work, it would be necessary to get more customers into the pub. Two options were proposed to increase traffic: food service and expansion. The taskforce at the time recommended both, with no recommendation as to which should happen first.

About a year and a half later, the current manager, Rick Carre, was hired and a GSS survey indicated that students felt Koerner's could be improved by providing food service. Rick made it happen and as a result Koerner's is now much busier, especially at meal times.

What happened next was some discussion within the GSS about two capital projects: expanding Koerner's pub and renovating the ballroom and the latter was ultimately chosen. At the same time, another group of councilors looking into the society's mandate concluded that Koerner's needs to be expanded in order to continue to meet graduate student expectations since the grad population had increased from 6,000 to 9,000 students. Last year the society felt that the project was sufficiently important to spend several thousand dollars on designs and plans - not to mention countless hours of the manager's time.

The Project

The basic idea is that some outdoor patio space currently containing a few picnic tables would be get a pre-fab, glassed-in enclosure to make space that would be useable all year round. (See pictures) Since this is not actually new space, it is already included in the existing liquor licence.

Sitting outside at Koerner's in the summer is one of, if not the best pub experience at UBC (it was voted one of the best patios in Vancouver by the Georgia Straight). Although this would eliminate some outside patio space, there would still be lots of outdoor space available. Even though we are currently in the middle of the hottest Vancouver temperatures ever, remember that most of the year has miserable weather. Space needs to be enclosed if it is to be useful for more than 3-4 months of the year.

Two views of the area that would be enclosed by the new patio.

Conceptual Rendering of glassed-in patio.

Capital Costs

Currently, the total cost of the project is about $177,000, broken down as follows:

$98,000 (due upon completion)
$41,000 (interest-free loan – to be paid to contractor $1,700/month for 24 months)
$38,000 (for Plant Ops electrical, plumbing, safety work; furniture and fixtures)

The project was actually ready to go last November but delays have pushed the cost of the project up more than $20K. The current quote is/was good until the end of July. The contractor is so keen to see the project go ahead they are willing to provide a $41,000 interest free loan to be paid off over two years.

Projected Revenues

Of course the underlying assumption with this project is that it would eventually pay for itself through increased revenues. Based on projections, it could add an extra $180,000 of revenue each year, resulting in an extra $50,000 in profit.

The assumptions made to arrive at this figure are that with the patio, Koerner's will get 25 more people (in the added 40 seats) for 2 hours during lunch time and 2 hours during dinner time for each of Monday, Thursday and Friday spending $10/hour. In other words and extra $125 spent in Koerner's per hour to 40 seats; or even simpler $3.15/seat/hour for meal times three days a week. If you've ever been to Koerner's on a Monday or Friday night, you know how busy it can get - this is not included in the estimate (neither are other days of the week) and therefore I think, and many agree, that the numbers are quite conservative.

The costs associated with providing the product these seats is 46% of the revenue and the cost of servicing these seats (2 extra staff and some other expenses) is 47% of the remainder. So of the revenue collected, 71% goes to cover costs; the rest would go either into paying down the cost of the expansion, or to profits. That's where the extra $50,000 comes from.

The payback period was also examined, and is simply the total cost of the project divided by the annual added income. Five years was identified as a suitable payback period, and the project should fall within this criterion. A best case scenario would see the patio paid off in 3.3 years and an absolute worst case scenario gave a payback period of 13 years.


The GSS is capable of paying for the whole project itself. Each year every graduate student pays a $5 fee for capital improvements (CPIF). Between the surplus from 2008 and the 2009 funds, there is $65,000 in CPIF funds available. General revenues for the GSS also had a surplus in 2008, from which up to $40,000 is available. That could cover the upfront $98,000 payment to the contractor.

The two-year $41,000 interest-free loan from the contractor could be paid off from extra pub revenues once the new patio is up and running. This leaves the GSS still short $35,000 on the project, but that could be paid for with a loan, more of the 2008 surplus (which was $69,000 in total), outside funding, or sponsorships.

This project may result in some short term cash flow problems, but all of the GSS's programs and services should remain unaffected. The GSS makes annual budget including all the annual projects, parties, events, etc the GSS puts on which would remain intact.

Current Situation

While council did have the opportunity to discuss the issue at the last meeting, the discussion got severely side-tracked by a lengthy Economics 101 lecture necessitated by a very few people at the meeting who either did not understand, or were presenting confusing information to council. These people were former and current executives. Although the GSS executives are against the project, council is ultimately the body to make this decision, a decision that will have to be made at some point. Too much work has gone into this plan from too many people for it to fail due to continued lack of quorum.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AMS Council: July 29, 2009

Highlights from AMS Council tonight:

  • Art Gallery gets $23,000
  • New pricing policy for Whistler Lodge in February 2010

Long overdue, you can now get the agenda and documentation on the AMS's own website!

Geoff Costeloe wants everyone to know he is hot and sweaty. But I'm pretty sure he didn't mean it in the fun boy-girl way.

Art Gallery Renovations

Jeremy Jaud gave an in camera presentation

We were let back in just in time to learn about humidity control... oh the intrigue and secrecy of the AMS Art Gallery. Motion to allocate $23,000 to the Art Gallery for reasons unknown passes unanimously.

Budget Increases

Due to a miscommunication, Speakeasy training budget was only set to $5,000. This was upped to $10,732.50.

Voter Funded Media budget was set this year to $3,500, but code specifies the budget should be $8,000. Full budget restored! YAAAAY!

Blake's Broadcast

Looking at plans to use UBCcard at food outlets, will be looked at more in depth by Business Operations Committee; Working with code and policy re: electoral code changes; Visit from UBCSUO (UBC-O student union); Met with Anne Dewolfe and Alnoor Aziz about McInnes Field issues, later spoke to Brian Sullivan who said that UBC will open up the field to student bookings, still waiting on specifics; Working on SUB, HR

Johannes's Jargon

Went to Montreal for 22nd annual Conference on First Year Experience; Met with Anna Kindler re: First Year Seminar Program; Met with Andrew Parr about housing; UBC Bookstore in the past has been closed the Sunday before classes start, now they will be open; Progress on liquor issues; Internationalization report generated

Crystal's Chat

SUB Renew coordinator working with faculty deans about integrating SUB into classrooms; All president's dinner; FirstWeek; Renos at art gallery “as we heard about” (um... we didn't); Creating more club offices in IFPO/copyright space.

Tom's Tirade

Interviewed for HR Director; Got pulled over by Washington State Patrol but talked his way out of it; Met with Simon Fraser Student Society, hosted by health plan reps; Business Operations Committee still doing marketing and promotions; Spent some days in catering kitchen to see how things work and see what can be improved

Pavani's prose

Putting together professional development workshop for coordinators and assistant coordinators; Shinerama team got started; Tutoring working on training tutors, putting together exam database and updating LEAD website; Speakeasy working on training; Food Bank recruiting volunteers

Tim's talk

On July 23, BC Gov't cut $16M in PSE funding: BC Gov never released info, only found out when people tried to apply for newly non-existent programs, external policy committee will look at it their next meeting; Creating Transportation-Olympics committee to suggest things for Translink to look at when considering Olympics reroutes; 40th anniversary of UBC childcare – attended block party; Simplifying U-Pass exemption application; Working on Imagine day, will have U-Pass costume walking around; Working with UBC Pride for pride parade entry this Sunday

Catering Motion

Ever since UBC Food merged with UBC Housing and Conferences, staff in the department have been instructed to recommend only Wescadia (the university's catering company), and not present AMS Catering as an available option. They would like to pressure them to at least present AMS Catering as an option and have AMS council endorse these efforts.

Tom Dvorak made the point that the AMS uses catering income to pay for services that the university should provide, but doesn't. He has addressed this issue with both Brian Sullivan and Stephen Toope. B.Sul was decidedly on UBC's side, while Toope was much more sympathetic to the AMS, but the end result was "we'll look into it." The motion was passed unanimously and now the exec can go back to them with a council motion in hand.

Noise By-law

Johannes sits on a campus development committee where a lot of stakeholder groups on campus come together to talk about development issues. At a recent meeting David Grigg (with C&CP) presented a proposed noise rule for campus. This would require any group booking space on campus through Classroom Services or UBC Athletics to pay a deposit to make a booking which would be refunded only if there were no noise issues with the event. Where it gets worse is that they wanted to impose a limit of 55 decibels between 7:30 am and 7:30 pm, which is the level of a noisy office, and a level which council certainly exceeded at certain points tonight (mostly when Dave cracks jokes). In addition it would limit overnight noise to 35 decibels, which is the volume of a bird chirping.

This would have made for a ridiculous rule for a number of reasons (one is that nobody on campus even has equipment to measure decibel levels) and Johannes put a motion on the agenda for AMS council to oppose it. In the meantime, David Grigg and Anne DeWolfe quickly back tracked, saying that they will review it further, and also saying that it was intended to apply to "outside" groups like film crews, but not to students. (I have read the draft, and nowhere in the proposed rules is that distinction made.)

Since it was taken back for further review, Johannes instead wanted the motion referred to the Campus and Community Development Committee (an AMS committe), rather than opposing something that was being revised anyways. And that is what happened.

Whistler Lodge During the Olympics

Ordinarily, to manage the demand for beds during the winter break and reading week, the AMS runs a lottery open only to UBC students. If you win the lottery, you can book up to six nights during these periods at $30/night. (No lottery system the rest of the year.)

The agenda has the full details but the basic idea is that during February 2010, only half of the lodge (21 beds) will be operated under the lottery system. The other half (also 21 beds) would be rented out on a first-come, first-served basis at market rates, between $150-$200 per night. Students who don't win the lottery will have first crack at these rooms at the market price, but if it still doesn't fill up, these bunks would be made available to the general public. The idea is to capitalize on the Olympics to bring in some extra cash.

For further background, in 2007 VANOC presented the AMS with a plan to rent the entire lodge for two months encompassing the Olympics and Paralympics for a sum between $128-224K. At the time, AMS council turned it down because they believed it would be better for students to have access to the lodge during that period. Now the proposal on the table is a hybrid: allow student access and make profit.

Tom compared the potential revenue under the status quo versus the proposed system. If the market price was $149, the expectation was an extra $61,000 and at $199 that would go up to $91,000.

So where would this extra cash go? There are some projects at the lodge that are worthwhile, but never deemed worthy of dipping into other funds or savings. Examples include: trimming some trees that are in violation of fire code, a new TV, and the installation of lighting and a camera in the hot tub area. (It's for security, how dare you suggest otherwise?! But, uh, chances of the live feed going directly into Tom's office are probably about 50/50.)

The extra income would be especially welcome this year since business is down about 30% because of swine flu. Apparently the lodge regularly welcomes groups of Mexicans over the summer months, and due to swine flu and the recent decision of the federal government to start enforcing visa rules more strictly for Mexicans, there have been a lot of cancellations.

Of all the questions I was not expecting to hear tonight, Colin Simkus wanted to know why we weren't planning on charging even more than $200/night as a market rate? Tom reminded everyone that what you get is a bunk in a communal lodge. BOC felt that over $200 would qualify as highway robbery. In the end, the motion passed as presented.

Conflict of Interest Motion

If you are a keen reader of UBC Insiders, you'll remember that a very similar motion came to council at the June 17 council meeting but it was tabled because Matt Naylor, who submitted the motion, was not there to motivate it. Matt's back and so is the motion, but this time it's coming from Code and Policy, outlining the exact changes they'd like to make to Code. Matt's underlying motivation for this is that it would protect the society from a legal perspective.

Dave took the opportunity to give us all a primer on Robert's Rules, which I won't go into here. His main point was to make people aware about what Robert's Rules already say about conflicts of interest and to point out that the proposed amendments go beyond what is prescribed in parliamentary procedure.

Bijan spoke next, pointing out that this would be problematic for BoG reps. (that was kinda the point...) He brought up Mike Duncan's situation as an example. Under the proposed changes, he would not be allowed to participate in any discussions about the New SUB project since those negotiations are between the AMS and UBC. As director of both UBC (as BoG rep) and the AMS (as councilor), Mike would be considered to be in a conflict of interest. But the silly part of this is that the AMS appointed Mike as a lifetime member of the New SUB committee.

For the record, Mike Duncan doesn't even come to council anymore. That's not meant as a dig; simply information. After sitting on council for a number of years, and being "Mr. AMS" 24/7 for his entire year as president, he has certainly put in his time and has earned a reprieve from council meetings.

Bijan also pointed out conflicts with Johannes being on the UNA board of directors and Tom being on the Alumni Association board.

Geoff Costeloe wanted clarity about what the definition of a "director" is. The answer from Matt Naylor is someone who has a fiduciary responsibility towards the group in question. Tahara got clarification that this policy would indeed apply to all motions, not just ones in camera.

Tom pointed out that one of the main reasons he is on the Alumni board is to act as a liaison. How can he possibly liaise if he is removed from the discussion? Colin Simkus wished that there was more flexibility in the wording to allow more discretion in determining what is and isn't a conflict of interest, and with that Andrew Carne motioned for it to be referred back to Code and Policy. And that's where it went.

Electoral Code Changes Consultation

Code and Policy is currently doing consultations about Electoral Code. They have even set up a wiki where you can give your thoughts about electoral code.

AMS Engagement Levy

I haven't looked at the proposal for this, but from what I understood, the idea was to introduce a $5 fee that students could opt out in one of two ways. One would be to apply for an opt-out in the normal opt-out period at the beginning of the school year and the other way would be to vote in AMS elections. If a student did neither of those, the money would be put back into projects meant to stimulate engagement with the AMS. This plan was not up for any decision tonight. The motion was merely to refer this to an ad hoc committee to look at it and report back which they will do in October.

Of course, the obligatory Lougheed joke was made that for him the levy will be $35. And no Alex, we're clearly not ready to drop it yet... until you come up with another equally fertile source of AMS council humour.

Ad Hoc Representation Engagement and Reform Committee

Since the AMS Engagement Levy was referred to this committee, it suddenly became necessary to actually have people on the committee. The membership appointed was:

Matt Naylor
Will Davis
Maria Cirstea
Ekatrina Dovjenko
Jeremy McElroy
Tim Chu
Geoff Costeloe
Colin Simkus (at large)


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Did The Killers Kill the Liquor at Thunderbird Arena?

The new Thunderbird Winter Sports Centre is currently applying for an amendment to their liquor-primary licence. The matter will be coming before Metro Vancouver's Electoral Area committee for approval this Friday and there seems to be a significant hurdle in the way: as a result of past violations, the RCMP does not support it.

Thunderbird Arena currently has a liquor-primary licence which covers the seating area in Father Bauer arena as well as the location of the former Thunderbar. When the new facility was erected around Father Bauer arena, the new areas were not covered under the existing liquor licence. As a result, UBC Athletics is applying for an amendment to the existing liquor-primary licence to cover the seating area and floor of the new arena. This application is not only in UBC's interests, VANOC wants it too. It's in the venue agreement, and so UBC does as VANOC wants.

As required by Metro Vancouver, some public meetings were held to discuss the plans and get feedback. Predictably, and in this case fortunately, the UNA objected to some of the items in the application. Because the process of obtaining an amendment to a liquor licence is tedious, Athletics threw in everything they think they might want at some time in the future, even if they don't need or want it at present, to leave themselves more flexibility. This resulted in some absurdities, such as proposed serving hours stretching all the way from 9 am until 2 am, and the licencing of an outdoor patio area that they currently don't have any use for.

The 9 am start is interesting to me; I don't think there was any particular reason for it other than that they were asking for everything they could. By doing so, UBC is now on the record as not objecting to morning drinking, starting as early as 9. On the application form the reason put forth for the early start time was so that people can drink mimosas – maybe it should have listed Beerios instead.

Regardless, things were going relatively smoothly until the RCMP dropped a bombshell. In a four-page letter (linked above; highly recommended reading), S/Sgt Kevin Kenna outlines some serious violations that have occurred at past events in the arena and that they do not feel Athletics is capable of living up to their responsibilities. What happened to prompt this strong objection?

"In order to promote events in the interim while the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch is considering the application, UBC has been granted a Temporary Change to its existing licence in order to allow a beer garden during certain events at the arenas. Management of the Temporary Change licence has been problematic and the Licensing Branch has had to rescind its approval after complaints about beer garden use at a recent concert." - David Boote, planner with Metro Vancouver

So Athletics got a Temporary Change, but that was rescinded due to poor management. At the next concert, they instead got a Special Occasion Licence (SOL). How did that work out?

"At a recent event where a Special Occasion License was obtained for a beer garden, there was such blatant abuse of liquor service (operating two beer gardens, poor security, over service) that all future events were not allowed to apply for a Special Occasion License." - S/Sgt Kenna, RCMP

Strike two. Without the Temporary Change licence and no chance at an SOL, the next event had no alcohol service. Problem solved, right?

"Despite the fact that the next concert was [non-alcoholic], both drugs and alcohol did make their way into the event. The police encountered minors in possession and consuming both alcohol and narcotics. As well, there were many inebriated persons either on the main floor or in the stands or back stage. Numerous patrons were observed smoking marijuana in the "mosh pit" as well as parts of the stands. During this event a male was "head butted" and required an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Before this event even started, there was a lot of "pre-drinking" outside the Centre and in the nearby Thunderbird Parkade." - S/Sgt Kenna, RCMP

Well, shit. There's no way these people should get a liquor licence. Ultimately though, the RCMP concludes they are willing to work with UBC to resolve the outstanding issues, but until it is all resolved, the RCMP does not support any liquor licence amendments. Brian Sullivan penned a response acknowledging past problems and promising to do better, but also trying to claim that they have an "established record of success" running licenced events. Can you imagine the fallout if such serious violations occurred repeatedly at student-organized events? I can't imagine saying "my bad" and promising to do better in the future would get you anywhere at all with the RCMP and the University. Someone please teach me how UBC gets away with this stuff.

All of this makes me worried. With liquor issues, one bad apple spoils the whole bushel. The RCMP would like to enforce every group the same way so they are not seen as playing favorites, though this doesn't happen in practice. While this approach is both fair and unfair at the same time, the result is that a small subset of troublemakers has the potential to cause real problems to the majority of groups that do follow the rules surrounding liquor regulations. Of course Athletics has promised to clean up their act, but why didn't that happen when any of the major infractions occurred in the first place? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Not only that, these are only the issues only from Thunderbird arena. Athletics also gets SOLs for Varsity games and does not follow the rules in getting those either! Their track record is established and it's dismal. Students get a bad rep for being irresponsible with alcohol but the worst violations are arising elsewhere.

The other way I see this liquor-primary licence as a problem is that currently the RCMP puts a cap on SOLs, based on how many people are supposedly attending these events in a given night. Once that cap is hit, they stop giving out SOLs for that day. For example, the RCMP will not approve SOLs for August 14th due to the Warped Tour occurring at Thunderbird Stadium even though the Warped Tour will not have any liquor service. Any night with a large event at the arena will lower the capacity for student-run events. I am also going to assume that the revenue from these concerts is going into Athletics's bottom line but that very little of it ends up going back into student programs. I would love to see evidence which suggests I'm wrong about this, but I don't think I will ever see that. The university is catering primarily to non-students, having negative impacts on student-run events; this is the War on Fun in a nutshell.

Finally, this warms my heart:

It is my belief that the UBC Athletics Department is moving too fast with their planned events at Thunderbird Centre, especially music concerts; and that profit is the main objective rather than ensuring that community interests are taken into consideration and looked after now and in the future. - S/Sgt Kenna, RCMP


Sing it, brother! This is the gospel I have been preaching far and wide. I don't want to start off on an even longer rant, but the ancillary model for UBC Athletics is broken. Too much of the department's attention is focused on increasing revenues without considering whether it is actually serving the UBC community effectively. There is not nearly enough accountability to those ultimately paying the bills and shouldering the impacts. I am immensely pleased to see that others see it the same way as well and I hope UBC is paying attention.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

AMS Council: July 8, 2009

Big party tonight! Highlights:

  • Olympics, Olympics, Olympics!
  • We support Iran... being referred to committee
  • 2009-2010 budget

There was a very full house tonight, 90-100 people for the hour-long Olympics presentation by Michelle Aucoin, UBC 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Secretariat, Kristen Harvey, PR person for VANOC (and former AMS president!) and Manon Chouinard, PR for the Integrated Security Unit. Although those were the speakers, the delegation was much larger including two RCMP officers, three ISU members and other Olympics Secreteriat staff.

Olympics Presentation

Michelle Aucoin and Kristen Harvey started off with some facts about the arena and spoke about the fields that will be paved over starting next week. There were questions asked about the impacts the paving/unpaving processes will have (not really answered), the arrangement to put grass back on the fields (Athletics is doing it, VANOC's paying). I asked why they were being handed over 5 months before the date specified in the venue agreement (because paving has to be done while the ground is dry).

They also gave a daily schedule of when games would start/end in terms of higher traffic around the arena and gave wishy-washy answers about how they would handle the crowds.

At this point, Kyle Warwick asked Michelle when the AMS was first contacted about these things and what input they had. Her answer was that she had extended an invitation to Blake and Tim to sit in on the sessions, provided they sign a confidentiality agreement; they refused. Kyle explained to her why they refused: they are acting on behalf of the AMS and must be able to communicate with the rest of the society. They also receive direction from council, which is impossible if council has no information. Michelle's response: "I understand that is your perspective." In the end, the answer (inferred but not stated) was that the AMS was not involved up to this point, nor was an offer extended for them to be. The point is that involving two execs as individuals (which is the effect of the confidentiality) is completely different than involving the AMS, or "students".

It should be noted at this point that Michelle Aucoin is a former executive coordinator in the VP Students office (the position Anne DeWolfe now holds). She described herself as having always been an advocate for students, while also letting us know "This is not a stakeholder process and this is not a consultation process. Tough decisions had to be made," later adding "To expect major changes to these plans, you will be disappointed." Disappointed only scratches the surface for this presentation.

They discussed the road closures for the period of Feb 4-12, which includes Wesbrook Mall between Thunderbird Road and 16th, the northbound portion of East Mall for the same stretch, and Thunderbird Road from Wesbrook to East Mall. The areas will all be open to pedestrians, but not vehicles. Access to the UBC Hospital, and emergency vehicles at the RCMP and Fire Hall will remain intact.

They described alternate parking arrangements for Fraser Hall and the Frats/Panhel will be provided at the Thunderbird parkade, saying that these stakeholders are pleased with this arrangement. Kellan Higgins, who was there on behalf of one of the fraternities, later stood up to clarify that the fraternities are actually not pleased with the arrangement.

Colin Simkus wanted to know whether environmental assessments had been done, as required by law. Kristen answered that they had been working with Joe Stott on the permit process. Oi.

Adrienne Smith (who, it must be noted, was "unimpressed with the mention of herself in the May 6th Meeting minutes") is going to mentioned here anyways because she wanted to know about the impacts to Acadia Park residents. Michelle said they will always be able to get in an out of Acadia Park. They might not be able to use their normal route, but access will always be maintained.

Jeremy Wood (who is working for the AMS on Olympics issues) wanted to know about access to Osborne. VANOC has apparently scaled back their security perimeter so that Osborne will be completely accessible.

Andrew Carne wanted to know how soon the presentation and all the info in it would be available online. They promised it would be soon and that they wanted to get info out there as soon as possible. Kristen wanted to stress that they don't sit on information; they get it out there fast. (I am extremely skeptical about this.) Michelle mentioned that we are one of the first groups to hear about this and provide feedback, before naming a number of other groups who they already presented to.

They then outlined how they will be doing consultation (they called it that, but it is not real consultation) with groups throughout the summer and will be having open houses in the fall for people to find out more.

So you might be wondering what the plan for Translink is. How are they going to reroute the buses to get around the closures of Wesbrook Mall and East Mall? That's a good question, because Translink has not released their plans for that yet and we probably won't know until the fall.

At this point, Manon Chouinard got up and spoke about how the Integrated Security Unit will be doing security for the games. Police officers from across Canada will be coming to join the ISU. She spoke about how their number one priority is keeping the venue, the athletes and the fans safe. She also mentioned how they had to "make some tough decisions to lessen the impact on stakeholders," which came across to me as defending the huge cost overruns for Olympic security (currently five times the original budget!)

Bijan spent a bit of time putting some lips to some posteriors then Tim asked for clarification of the residence contract. Michelle deflected to Stephen Owen and housing having to answer those questions.

Geoff Costeloe asked what the AMS can do to help UBC make things easier for students. The answer: "I wish I had an answer to that," but that they hope to talk to students in small groups to see what they think.

Tahara Bhate asked about security and the security perimeter, because it was redacted in the Venue Agreement. Michelle said ther perimeter will not go around Osborne. Manon took the floor to talk about searches. The ISU will only search you if you are trying to enter a venue. They pledged not to do random searches, though they also stated that the RCMP is still on charge on campus during the games and what the RCMP does is up to them.

A guest and UBC Alum listed a number of concerns with the lack of consultation, the limitation of free speech and the vague wording of the residence contract. She pointed out that if you wear a Pepsi shirt to an event, they might kick you out because Coca-Cola is an official games sponsor, and brought up a big incident from the APEC protests where a Tibetan flag was removed from the GSS, which prompted Dave Tompkins to ask what would happen if he were to walk into a venue in a T-Shirt with pepsi on the front and a Tibetan flag on the back. Kristen Harvey admitted that he could be kicked out for the Pepsi shirt. Manon said that from the ISU's perspective, a T-shirt does not constitute any kind of security threat; they want to be on the lookout for actual threats.

The guest then brought up the subject of protest pens. The answer wasn't totally clear, but they will provide "Safe Assembly Areas" that will be visible and won't be fenced in. Protests will not be limited to these areas as long as they aren't disrupting others or traffic. Manon: "We will respect the Charter of Rights and Freedom of Speech, as long as you're doing it peacefully."

Dave Tompkins noted that nothing in the past or present had addressed the AMS Whistler Lodge.

Rory Green asked about the overall communications strategy. They basically admitted they didn't have a great plan on how to reach students and would like advice on that.

I asked about the $10M donation to the arena. Earlier in the meeting, Michelle had wanted to clarify that no UBC money was going into it, that it was from a donor, that the arena would be named after someone, but wouldn't say who (because they don't sit on information, remember?). This super, top-secret information can be found in last month's Board of Governor's documents: it's going to be named after Doug Mitchell. However, the document also implies that the money is coming from a variety of sources, not just the Mitchells. So I told everyone who it would be named after and asked exactly where the money was really coming from. Michelle "can't disclose that."

There were a few more questions about how it would affect grad students, involvement in Translink's transportation planning process and more warnings from the UBC Alum guest about the ISU using surveillance tactics on anti-Games activists.

It must be stated that Michelle Aucoin has a tendency to be condescending in answering questions. The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Secretariat is basically a PR office. They exist solely for the purpose of communication and it isn't done very well.

I am particularly annoyed because the question I asked about the dates being pushed up for field usage was something I had already emailed her over the weekend, and had gotten no reply up to that point. The venue agreement was used many times as a defense about why things are the way they are, but in instances when they've chosen to deviate from the venue agreement, are dismissive of the concerns.

I'm pretty sure many of the people in the room who asked questions tonight had a similar sentiment: all spin, no actual information or communication happening. While the presentation was useful in terms of having the opportunity to look at Olympics impacts, I certainly don't feel very much more informed than I was before.

Iran Motion

You care about the debate? Really? It went exactly the way you imagine it would.

Voting time. Bijan's clicker isn't working...

Bijan: I can't vote.
Dave Tompkins: That's because you're Iranian.

Funny? Lacking in taste? Everyone in the room laughed...

Ultimately, it was referred back to External Policy Committee from whence it came.

Blake's Broadcast
Executive Committee got a presentation from Pierre Ouillet and Brian Sullivan about UBC's budget which has a $20M structural deficit; looking for solutions, Blake and Johannes will be on university working group to look at this issue; an issue with the Aquatic Centre not letting in students over the summer was resolved, students let in free over the summer; AMS involvement in orientations: presence at residence events, imagine materials, rebranding firstweek events; Gayle Stewart – former UBC olympic secretariat passed away, sent condolences on behalf of AMS to family

Crystal's Chat
Sub negotiation meeting frequency increased to see better progress: want less of negotiation and more of a conversation; rejigging photocopier/IFP area in SUB basement; working on All-President's dinner, meet the execs event, clubs days with SAC

Johannes's Jargon
Vancouver Campus Plan now targets 35% student housing, question is: what kind?, want it to be more than just beds and desks; LEAD initiative working with Sage/Kotter, "change management consultants" to work on implementing things stemming from CWSEI; partnering with FoGS for career services for grad students; Internationalization issues now go through UBC's VP Research office, may see change in strategy as a result; meetings with Kevin Kenna (RCMP) and Anne DeWolfe (VP Students office) about liquor licence issues

Tom's Tirade
Spoke to other universities about how their business operations work, learned about other models and how they work; went up to Whistler lodge to look at some issues; Business Operations Committee will talk about what to do with Whistler lodge during 2010 Olympics; branding and marketing continue to be looked at

Tim's talk
UPASS subsidy applications almost done processing; met with committees; dealt with press regarding the Olympics and the residence contract; the colour of the UPASS this fall: BLUE!; setting up meetings with politicians to do some lobbying; U of Calgary execs coming to visit, Tim will host; working with Tahara Bhate on transit issues; working with GSS on a childcare conference

One thing that came out of constituency reports: in response to concerns raised during the debate over the ACF debt repayment motion, the AUS will release their budget publicly this year so people can see where the money goes and can see that they are trying to be fiscally responsible.

2009-2010 AMS Budget: Tom Dvorak

You can look at the materials here. Audiences, used to the mediocrity of Powerpoint, never fail to be impressed by the use of Keynote and its style and panache. The most impressive moment was when Tom made the Alma Mater Society go up in flames. But onto the content.

The AMS has a structural deficit in their budget. The money allocated in the budget is greater than the expected revenues. However, that's only a problem if all of the money allocated is actually spent. In practice, not all the money allocated to things gets spent in a given year.

This year the structural deficit is estimated at ~$250,000. According to Tom, the AMS currently has about $7M in reserves. So in the short term, this is not a problem to lose sleep over. However, it's irresponsible and potentially unsustainable to be constructing budgets with structural deficits built in. The budget committee has proposed some ways in which this issue can be looked at.

This includes a structural audit and a fee referendum to index the AMS fee to CPI, something the SUS just did recently. They also want to promote more volunteerism, rather than having so many staff that are paid. New business opportunities are also something to look at. (Tom's suggestion: JAPADOG!)

Due to an error in the wording of the NEW SUB referendum question last year, the AMS is also looking at deficit problems in the long term.

Council launched into a quite detailed examination of the budget and asked about why certain line items were changed, about the structural deficit and questions about how the various funds and funding sources work. It went on quite a while and showed that people really read through it. I also think it helped that the document that was prepared (linked above) was constructed and presented very clearly.

Budget passed.

Council was $1,337 under budget for Food and Refreshments last year. Next meeting we should definitely have ice cream.

Structural Audit

Motion #1: Council passed a code change allowing council to direct the budget committee to do things.

Motion #2: Council then used its newfound power to direct the budget committee (in conjunction with the oversight committee) to perform a structural audit of the AMS. This is connected to the AMS's structural deficit and provides an opportunity to have an even deeper look at where the AMS spends money and why.

Olympic Report Update aka Tahara's Motion

The AMS made an Olympic report in the past. Since that time, a lot more information has come to light (and more continues to come out). This report will be updated to reflect the new information available. This is useful because there is a lot of documents to sort through -we want to try and make it more accessible.

Video Surveillance

The AMS wants video surveillance in the SUB, primarily for security purposes. Their policy lays out why the cameras are there, what the cameras do, who gets to see what, and when, etc. People monitoring the cameras also have to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Interesting tidbit: By provincial law, if you have been recorded, you can go and request to see the image that was recorded of you. Finally, someone is thinking of self-centred commerce students!

Code and Policy

Motion #1: Currently the deadline for circulating the agenda and materials for council meetings is 48 hours in advance of the meeting (ie. Monday at 6 pm). The code change proposed making it 3 business days in advance (ie. the Friday before). The background for this is laid out in the May 6 council recap: Blake ceasing and desisting. This now formalizes in code something that Blake was trying to encourage to happen informally.

Motion #2: Some language in code was simplified to define who does and doesn't have to pay AMS fees. The end result is that some more people now have to pay AMS fees who previously didn't.

McInnes Field Motion

The EUS tried to book McInnes Field in order to hold a charity concert this school year. They were told that they could not book it. Instead, they were offered the football practice field, which is not Thunderbird Stadium, but rather beside it, at an exorbitant cost of $12,000.

The reasons for this aren't totally clear, but it has to do with field shortages. It is also related to the fact that the person within UBC Athletics handling concert bookings was recently let go and bookings now go through their finance director who is focused solely on maximizing profit with little regard to how it affects students.

Blake will be meeting with athletics and the VP Students office to try to bring dialogue over how this is completely unacceptable that students cannot reasonably secure any space to hold large events and wanted a council resolution to make his point.

Next meeting: July 29. Check out this Facebook event!

A special congratulations goes out Rory Green, who was pleased that the external office was not the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons this meeting.


Monday, July 6, 2009

AMS Council Agenda: July 8, 2009

Since the AMS has not yet mastered the art of putting meeting dates and agendas online yet, the next one is:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009. 6 PM. SUB 206.


The most interesting thing will be a presentation from Michelle Aucoin, Director of the UBC 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Secretariat about what to expect when the Olympics happen on campus. If you or anyone you know is curious or concerned about the impacts of the Olympics at UBC, I encourage you show up, and to spread the word! TIP: there's also free food. If you spread the word about that as well, you may have more success.

For example, UBC released a memo outlining how fields in Thunderbird Park are getting paved over for the duration of the Games. The fields will be handed over to VANOC July 17, 2009.

Curiously, the most recent UBC-VANOC contract regarding the arena specifies that VANOC's "exclusive use period" (ie. when they can take control of the fields) is not supposed to start until December 13, 2009. That's a pretty big five-month discrepancy, given that the original date would have allowed student/intramural use of the fields for the entire fall semester. That's no longer the case.

Of course, it doesn't end there. If you look further down the agenda for this meeting, you'll see a motion outlining how the EUS attempted to organize a charity concert for the upcoming school year. These plans unraveled because UBC Athletics would not offer them a suitable field for the concert, which was in part because of a shortage of fields. Wow, really? I wonder how that happened!

Also on the agenda: a motion about the unrest in Iran. You can read Matt Naylor's take about why this motion (and others like it) is utterly pointless.