Monday, January 22, 2007


This morning, Maxwell Maxwell and Jeff Friedrich had an excellent mini-debate on one of the posts below. It's well worth reading, as it highlights the candidates' distinctions, and provides some excellent discussion on the AMS. So we've reproduced it here.

Maxwell Maxwell:
To use a favourite word of mine, I think you misunderestimated my proposal. I understand that it is possible to throw events in the SUB, and the AMS can help.

However, it's not very easy to do, and nearly impossible to find out about. One of the reasons for this is the AMS web site. It's extremely hard to find anything useful on there, and when you do, it's often buried in a jumble of AMS-speak that normal people don't have the time or inclination to translate [Good point - ed.]. What I'm proposing is a simple system for making money available for Dick and Jane, who don't know the first thing about the AMS, so they can throw a party in the Sub without spending hours messing with red tape.

If the AMS does, as you're telling me, make it easy for individual students to get money and resources to throw parties, how come almost none of them do? Why are all the events either at the frat houses or AMS club beer gardens? But I guess I've been wrong all this time, and the SUB is actually a vibrant hub of activity every night. Somehow I was too busy looking at the cobwebs and empty rooms to notice all the wild parties.

In your platform (which I read all ten pages of) you say that "to a certain extent, it's not our role to be throwing students a party." I couldn't disagree more. The AMS mission statement is supposed to be "to improve the quality of the educational, social, and personal lives of the students of UBC." Yes, I think it's great when AMS clubs have parties. However, even with them, on-campus life is still lacking. The AMS mission statement obvious implies that it's the AMS's responsibility to do something about it. In other words, it is, in fact, our role to be throwing students a party. When our leaders believe otherwise, it's no wonder a Saturday night on our campus often resembles an early Sunday morning in a damp Welsh fishing village.

Platforms, fees, and Jeff's response behind the jump

Anyways, let's look at your platform again. It's full of the kind of meaningful issue-tackling my critics accuse me of avoiding (take this section, for example, here reproduced in its entirety: "Web Vote: If you're a constituency exec member you'll know what this issue entails. It need resolution in a speedy way"). One of those issues you raised has to do with me, and I think it need resolution in a speedy way, too.

You say that I think the AMS is wasting my money while I'm enjoying the resources it provides. That's not actually what's going on. I object when you waste money, not when you use it to create and sustain a set of excellent student resources. I don't think you guys are wasting money on the U-Pass, CiTR, AMS clubs, the health plan, or keeping the SUB open. You're wasting it on things like that $40,000 interior decorating job on your Council meeting room, the sliding doors you bought and then got rid of and the hideous "conversation pit" most people refer to as the "airport lounge," and all the other money sinks most people don't end up hearing about.

And then there's the matter of fees. During the debate (which, I admit, I sounded like an idiot for most of), you told me my fees were between 40 and 50 dollars. Five minutes later, they had magically shrunk to thirty bucks. In your platform write-up, you give a concrete number: $33.50. The funny thing is, if you go to the AMS web site and poke around for a while, there's a list of fees which the VP Finance has kindly provided. When you add all those fees up, you get the amount my friends and I actually paid: $456.96.

Now, I certainly don't think that you guys waste all $456.96 of my money. I realize that most of that money goes to valuable programs like my U-pass, the clubs, the SUB itself, and all the wonderful resource groups we've got. I also realize that AMS businesses pay for a big chunk of AMS costs. But still, $456.96 is a lot of money, and when I'm paying that on top of tuition, books, and room and board, I'm upset when the AMS wastes a single penny of it.

One more thing from your platform. You ask: "Is everyone going to be wearing an AMS sweatshirt by the end of next year? Probably not, and nor should they."

Well, why shouldn't people care about their student government? I think that with a few changes (an easy-to-navigate Web site, better events, and working e-mail correspondence, for starters), the widespread voter apathy present at UBC can be greatly reduced. The AMS is making progress towards being able to communicate electronically with its members (UBC is letting the AMS sign people up at registration to receive AMS e-mails, finally giving student government access to the amazing technology of 1994), and that should help things a lot. The problem seems to be that our current AMS is unwilling to change its strategy and unable to believe that the problems which plague it can be dealt with. Kind of self-defeating, don't you think?

Jeff Friedrich:
I don't think I misunderstood you. I do agree that we can do things to make it easier for the average, unaffliated student to throw a party and I don't pretend that SUB is hopping every night. I'd suggest it's a bit more complicated than you're making it out, because as soon as you have a pile of money available to any student with minimal red tape- demand will outstrip supply, and some lame parties will get money. No sooner will we hear: "why is the AMS wasting my money?" But I like the idea, and I don't think we're saying different things.

The renovations: You'll note that I gave you your best mud sling this campaign- I was the one who told you I wish we could reconsider the council chamber reno. That said- I never said it was a waste of money- I just don't think it's a first priority. The whole fucking building needs renovating- so it's hard to describe any project as a waste. There was also a good business case- that room is one of our biggest rentals for conferences, and we need the money to support what we do (the alternative is hisgher fees). Could you suggest that we don't consult properly? That our renos are clumsy and lack consistent style? Sure, I wouldn't argue that that's an area for growth. I just hope you thank me next time you use the council chamber thing.

The party thing and our role: There is a long list of canidates who were going to end apathy and make the AMS "cool." You or I won't be the ones to end it. You might think that's defeatist- but it's the reality. One of the biggest "wastes" of money the AMS had for years was a big party we throw called the Welcome Back BBQ- it's taken a lot of hard work to make that event succesful again. So I do wish for a day that the AMS throws parties and everyone comes, and I was the lead organiser of Farmade this year, so I do believe we need to do more of it. That said- I still think it's a better use of AMS time and money to help the Maxwell Maxwell's and student groups of the world to throw parties.

Fees- the AMS fee is $33.50 and yeah, I was a little unclear about that in the debate. I don't know every number in the AMS. It goes up to $450 because of the U-Pass and Health and Dental plan, but those are pre-negotiated deals and we don't do much more than manage the money (to make more money) and sign the check every fall. The portion that is eligible to waste is $33.50, and every student can opt out of about half of that. If you have problems paying the $450 there are subsidy review committees. If you took the time to look at it, I think you'd appreciate that it's really not such a bad model. And yeah- I think we'd be that much cooler and able to do things if we convinced more people to believe in the power of their student society.