Friday, January 12, 2007

Candidate Questionnaire - Brittany Tyson

1) Why Finance?

Working under the VP Finance for the past two years has really given me a strong grasp of the portfolio. As Vice-Chair of the Finance Commission, I've learned quite a lot about the financial systems of the AMS, how we interact with our clubs, constituencies, resource groups, and services, and how our businesses operate. The AMS is such a large, complicated organization with so many different faces and I find that really interesting. I like seeing the potential for improvement.

2) How do you feel about the proposed Athletics fee referendum? What issues, if any, do you see?

Thinking optimistically, I think that by having a referendum on the proposed Athletics fee increase, the AMS will have a chance to engage students and find out how they feel about the current state of Athletics and Recreation facilities on campus, as well as the high user fees students face to work out at the Birdcoop, play an intramural sport, or participate in UBC Rec events like Day of the Longboat and Storm the Wall. Currently, students are charged $175.98 for the Athletics and Recreation fee, and then pay another $21 on top of that for the Athletics and intramurals fee. In addition to that, a year-long membership at the Birdcoop is another $264, and the facilities are often at capacity. Given the user fees students are paying and the fact that the existing facilities are often overcrowded, I think that students are entitled to a new facility on campus and that user fees decline, which is what UBC Athletics and Recreation is proposing: increase the fee from $21 to $45 to build a new facility and user fees will decrease by 70% over the next two years. I think this is a good deal for students.

3) The AMS is largely dependent on its businesses for operating revenues. With the arrival of University Boulevard, do you see this as a sustainable model? If not, what can be done to improve it?

I think there is room for improvement in terms of how we operate our businesses, which will be essential in the years to come, as students will surely be lured away from the SUB by other businesses coming into the neighbourhood. AMS businesses will be forced to compete. We need to be able to continue to offer our food and service options at student prices, keeping quality as high as possible. The introduction of debit machines at nearly all of our food outlets has been an effective push in the right direction, giving students more payment options. I think simple things can be done, such as changing the way students line up at our food outlets, which will allow us to serve more students, more effectively, in a shorter amount of time. That means more revenue to put towards our services, ensuring their sustainability. As VP Finance, I would ensure that money would be put towards renovations to our businesses, particularly the food outlets at the Pit Pub, to make them more efficient.

The AMS has recently developed a new Fundraising and Sponsorship package, which will be a great asset in terms of garnering financial support from outside of the AMS. I do think, however, that we need to be careful about where any fundraising or sponsorship comes from, as we have seen the student resistance to and problems associated with exclusivity contracts. Awareness is another key issue, as the AMS needs to do a better job of informing students of the options available to them in the SUB. We operate a wide array of businesses, from promotions to lodging at Whistler to photocopying and printing services, not just food outlets! By advertising our businesses, we can keep students informed and motivate them to support their student society.

4) Do you favor a bylaw amendment indexing AMS fees to inflation? How would you get one passed?

With the impending pressures on the AMS presented by University Boulevard developments, I would favour a bylaw amendment indexing AMS fees to inflation to ensure that the AMS business model will continue to be sustainable into the future. The AMS/GSS Extended Health and Dental Plan fee is already indexed to inflation, so I think it makes sense to adopt this practice with the rest of the AMS fees. Although an expensive undertaking, I think the best avenue to pass this bylaw amendment would be through a referendum, perhaps utilizing the proposed Athletics fee increase referendum to ask a set of questions that are relevant to students.

5) What skills do you have that suit you particularly well to the Finance portfolio?

I think my most valuable skill is experience. Because I have worked so closely with the VP Finance through the Finance Commission, I have a thorough understanding of the portfolio, which means I will not face such a steep a learning curve. I will be able to spend more time affecting change, rather than learning all about the position, having new information thrown at me from every angle. My knowlege of AMS financial systems enables me to make effective, relevant change.

6) If you could change one thing about the AMS, what would it be?

If I could only change one thing about the AMS, it would be to develop a competitive, sustainable framework for our businesses to guide and protect them through the developments of the next several years.