Sunday, January 28, 2007

Issue of the Day: Services

The largest chunk of the AMS' discretionary budget, and their largest non-food/beer source of relevance to UBC students, is their services. (Full list here). It should be noted that Services are administered directly by the Executive Co-Ordinator of Student Services, a hired (non-elected) position that serves as the sixth member of the Executive Committee.

Some services partner directly with the University for delivery. These include Tutoring (LEAP), Joblink (Services), and First Step (Orientations). Others can refer to University resources, like Speakeasy (Counseling Services) and Safewalk (Campus Security); in these examples, they work closely with their University colleagues, but they don't program jointly.

Interestingly, though, many of the Services derive their value from the fact that they're not University services. The argument goes that AMS provision of the service serves a political/lobbying aim, by highlighting the University's weaknesses and addressing problems "our way." These include Safewalk and Advocacy.

It's Safewalk that often generates the most controversy. It's the most expensive service, simply because of staff time. Depending on whose numbers you use, it costs on average $30-$60 per walk. That's expensive. (They used to operate a van, but can't anymore for some "union reasons" of which I'm not aware.) There are times when Safewalk is rarely used, but those who use it and operate it swear by it, and argue strenuously that it makes a much safer environment. Every year there is discussion about reducing its cost or looking at a new model, but nothing ever comes of it, and it retains its operational efficiencies.

Services are constantly in flux. Three years ago the AMS canned Orientations, then the next year helped build First Step. VP Finance candidate Brittany Tyson advocates making the Student Tax Assistance Clinic a full-fledged AMS Service (it's currently an AMS club), which would guarantee it a year-round co-ordinator, but at the cost of staffing it.

We leave it to readers:

  • Which services give you the most value? What do you use/not use?
  • Which do you see as central to the AMS mission?
  • Ought we to re-visit the debate over Safewalk's efficiency?
  • What other services do you think the AMS should have?