Thursday, February 28, 2008

Caption Contest

"VP-Admin elect Tristan Markle adding 'Right to Cheat' to posters in support of
VP-Academic elect Alex Lougheed"

This was obviously meant to be public. If you're not up on the controversy surrounding the VP Academic race, refer to the Ubyssey here and here. The implications of publicly discrediting a fellow executive-elect are unclear, but probably relevant to future working relationships. Tristan, and Nathan Crompton, the runner-up in Alex's race are close friends and colleagues. Retrospective and analysis about executive dynamics by Gina coming soon.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Right To Be Cold - Sheila Watt-Cloutier at UBC

Terry* presents the latest in our Global Citizenship Lecture Series: Sheila Watt-Cloutier's talk, "Right to Be Cold" will take place this Friday, February 29th, at 12 noon in the West Atrium of the Life Science Centre. Map.

In the past two decades, Inuit across the Arctic have reported profound changes to their environment and wildlife — changes where their human right to life, health, subsistence, safety and security are all being violated as large countries emitting greenhouse gases continue their business as usual. Yet even as this immense struggle is ongoing, Inuit are now also faced with a renewed interest in the Arctic from a world hungry for its resources and newly opening shipping routes.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier will discuss the need for our world to re-connect around our shared Arctic, our shared atmosphere, and ultimately, our shared humanity. Individuals, communities, corporations, industries and nations must realize that the challenges in the Arctic are connected to the cars we drive, the industries we support, and the policies we create.

More info at the fabulous Terry* website:

Terry Limerick:
(with feeling!)
"There once was a project named Terry
That wanted to make people wary
Of things going on
In the world that are wrong
Without making it all seem too scary."


CFS Politics. What fun!

You've probably noticed them: ads on the 99 B-line with smiling, ethnically diverse young people with "I am CFS" drawn on their outstreached hands in marker. The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which is one of the two main federal student lobbies, is gearing up for a huge publicity campaign in the next month to try and prevent SFU students from withdrawing as a member student association of CFS. Numerous other member student societies, including the Kwantlen Students Association, and UVic Graduate Students' Society, which have also submitted notices of referenda for defederation from CFS. Our student society, the AMS, is a founding member of CFS's rival federal lobby student lobby, CASA, which formed in 1995 as a breakaway group from CFS of five Candian student unions. The two networks have distinctly different approaches to lobbying, and have differently leaning politics on higher education issues. Also, CFS has much higher membership fees than does CASA by about an order of magnitude (compare 430 000 in dues that SFSS pays to CFS to 47 000 that AMS pays to CASA).

But this story is about the CFS. The Simon Fraser Students Society (SFSS) has been a member student society of CFS since its founding in 1981. In return for about half a million dollars a year of membership fees paid to CFS, they get some student services (like a discount card, rental listings, student phones, and some other stuff) and more importantly, a federal lobbying office and participation in national campaigns, including the national "day of action" which you may have heard of.

Last March, the SFSS included a question about leaving the CFS in their yearly referendum. While only about 5% of students voted in the referendum, 78% of those who did vote wanted out. Proponents of SFSS leaving the CFS cite the high membership fees, redundant services and ineffectual lobbying of the CFS, as well as corruption associated with CFS-friendly student association executives. (SFU, Douglas College, and Kwantlen College all have had tragically good examples of this in hte last fe years). Anyway, despite the clear majority in favour of leaving, last March's referendum was "non-binding", since CFS has its own detailed rules about how a member organization may leave the Federation. last March's vote was intended to get a feel for how students felt about the CFS. This March, the next step is being taken with the official referendum (in accordance with CFS rules) which will determine whether the SFSS stays leaves.

This month I got a couple media releases from the KSA detailing how the CFS's "secret war-plans" for the "no" campaign had been revealed. These plans included more than a hundred thousand dollars to fund the campaign, plans to fly in pro-CFS campaigners from all over the country (both students from CFS schools, and CFS staffers), and even plans to try and hire CFS-loyal individuals into the staff of member's student unions. CFS national chair Amanda Aziz rebutted that the "war plan" document was authored by Summer McFadyen of the CFS-BC office alone, with no collaboration from the national office. CFS lawyers have demanded an apology from the KSA, which deliberately leaked the document. More details and opinion in the Maclean's on Campus blogosphere HERE, HERE, and HERE. While from the CFS's perspective, it makes sense to invest a lot of resources to prevent the loss of member schools (and with them, member school's yearly dues), these campaign plans would probably overwhelm any effort the "yes" side could possibly hope to match. While the "yes" side is subject to campaign spending limits according to SFSS referendum rules, expenses paid by the CFS wouldn't be included in these regulations. Moreover, from the leaked documents, it's obvious that many prospective campaigners aren't even students, and are employees of NDP and Union affiliated groups.

In any case, this is just a prelude to the actual campaign. Is the CFS a self-aggrandizing parasite, or real advocate for students on a national level? How effective are they? Of what value are services they offer? Is support for the CFS based in its value as student-issues lobby, or because it's a leftist organization? All questions that will come up. The war of words has already started in SFU's student newspaper, The Peak. Have a taste of the debate: "Why we should leave", and "Why we should stay". More opinion here, here.

This business with CFS actually does bring up more general questions about high-level student advocacy, lobbying, government relations, and the role of the student movement generally. Should they be larger, and deal with issues outside of higher education, have partisan affiliations, and campaign through protests? (like CFS), or be more narrowly focused, not spend money on publicity, and engage on policy with government in closed-door meetings? (like CASA). Or are these national groups necessary at all? The VP external position in the AMS is purportedly the least busy of the portfolios. There's no saying what a motivated VPX could do individually if they spent enough time in Ottawa and Victoria.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Vancouver Quadra by-election rush

UBC's federal electoral riding, Vancouver Quadra, is having a by-election on March 17th. And if you live on campus, you can vote in it. (Click the image to enlarge)

Quadra is one of the wealthiest and best educated ridings in the country. It contains most of Vancouver's West side, including UBC. This by-election race has many so UBC connections that make it an great opportunity to get UBC issues out into the community. Lets count the connections: the Quadra riding was vacated by incumbent Liberal MP (and former cabinet minister) Stephen Owen last year. He left politics to join UBC's executive as VP External, a post he resumed last August (find out what Gina thought of that HERE). One of the candidates in this by-election is actually a current UBC student. The NDP's Rebbecca Coad is a political science student. The Green Party's Dan Grice is a recent UBC grad, in Classical Studies and Archeology, and a former AMS councilor for Arts. The Conservative party candidate, Deborah Meredith, is a UBC professor of commercial law in the Sauder School of business. The Liberal party candidate, Joyce Murray, lacks an obvious UBC connection, but she's a former BC cabinet minister and co-founder of Brinkman Reforestation Ltd, which some of you tree-planters have probably worked for.
By-elections typically have lower voter turnout than general elections, which makes them a bit unpredictable. Owen, who won the riding three times with big margins with the Liberal Party, was definitely a popular MP. But with him gone, and strong local connections for all the candidates, it's quite an interesting race.

Nitty Gritty:
  • if you're a student living in the Quadra riding, you can register to vote in this by-election in two ways: going to the Elections Canada Quadra office (suite #218 5511 West Blvd.), or registering on the day by bringing two documents with your name and adress on them, like phone bills, or your housing contract, or some other official mail. You can call them for information at 1866 564 6466.
  • Come to the candidate debate this Monday the 25th at UBC. The four main party candidates will face off in the Meekison Arts Student Space in Buchanan D (room 140) at 2:00-3:30.
  • Get a feel for the candidates: campaign websites and facebook groups are up. You can also read some (somewhat painful) candidate interviews that Jacob Cosman of the Science Undergraduate Society's rag the 432 conducted HERE. Thanks to Jacob and the 432 for those.


Friday, February 22, 2008

A place to sprout?

About 20 students crowd sociably around tables cradling bowls of vegetable soup and mugs of coffee in mismatched dishes. Others wander in empty handed and leave munching apples or organic chocolate. Two people behind the counter cut thick slices of bread and open jars full of brownies and muffins which they hand over on plates, taking coins in return. Some music plays in the background and people read campus newspapers or talk to their table-mate (who they probably just met) while they eat. This is Sprouts, the cafe/grocery which is run by the Natural Food Coop, an AMS club, at a typical lunch-time. Sprouts, located in the corner of the SUB basement (across from the health and dental plan office and AMS food bank) is bustling with volunteers, great local and organic food, customers, and community this term. Just look in any noon-hour of the week to see for yourself. But it hasn't always been this way, and it has been a challenging and sometimes turbulent road to get to the yummy, warm and fun space I've described. The store, which opened in 2004, at one point lost nearly all of its student involvement, is in 30 000 dollars of debt with the AMS, and came within inches of collapsing, and the club being de-constituted. But as the Natural Food Co-op's president, Caroline Walker says, this was a project that just was not allowed to fail.

Yesterday I sat down with Caroline, and Martin, the store coordinator (and baker of amazing bread), to learn about the road Sprouts and the Natural Food Co-op club have traversed, and what the outlook is for Sprouts and the club. First, a little history: The Natural Food Co-op started as a group of students that got together to buy organic and local food straight from distributors, to avoid paying boutique prices in '97. The space they had, in a random nook in the McMillan building (near where the bike coop used to have a space) was slated for renovation in 2003, and they got kicked out. So, the club had to re-envision itself. The idea of having a store came to fruition with the new space the AMS offered them in the SUB. As an AMS club, the space was free, though of course money was spent initially to renovate and prepare the space as a full-service grocery store. Several grants supplied the capital to do this. But, the renovations were over-budget, and so Sprouts started out about 15000 dollars in the red. Nonetheless, the store was launched, selling a wide variety of products from packaged goods and bulk grains to produce. Initially it was run by volunteers who were members of the club, but eventually the club hired staff to run Sprouts most of the time. The store never really made any money, and in fact, continued to go further into debt, as staff costs increased. As this was happening, many of the original natural food coop members graduated, and the club became less and less active. The buying collective stopped, and Sprouts, which was by this time mostly run by staff (and some volunteers), was the only manifestation of the club's existence. This being the case, maintaining an accountable relationship between the natural food coop board (ie. the club executive), and their hired staff became problematic. By the end of last year things got a bit out of hand. The financial situation was not getting better, with the debt mounting in order to pay staff wages. To compound this, Sprouts was broken into and had a thousand dollars stolen. By last spring, involvement had plummeted, and only two people showed up to the AGM. So, with the board of two, no membership, and a few store staff, an mounting debt, something obviously had to change. Katerina, the store manager at the time, came up with a new business plan that would see Sprouts turning from a grocery store into more of a cafe-style space with lunch items as well as fruits, vegetables, and bulk food. Unfortunately, there was no real plan to implement this, and so few people involved that come September, the store feebly re-opened and then closed again within the first few weeks of the term.

The story takes various more twists and turns (including a deportation, crazy personality conflicts, a change in vision, and a change in leadership), until things started looking up. Over the fall term, the AMS executive and staff helped Caroline and the few involved people put together weekly implementation plans, start understanding the finances of the situation, apply for grants to re-organize the space again, figure out a new menu, and learn all the mechanistic details of running a cafe from foodsafe certification to accounting. A club board was scraped together, and over the winter break, they re-wrote and updated the club constitution to contain concrete position descriptions, learned about volunteer coordination from the sustainability office, and completely overhauled the space to put in seating, new paint, different kitchen equipment, and a new flow. During the process of restructuring and rebuilding, it became obvious that it was financially impossible to have paid staff. Sprouts is now a 100% volunteer-run initiative.

When they opened up again this term, things started looking up. First, Sprouts is busy again. The buying co-op is up and running again for club members. Volunteers started materializing out of the ether to help with the daily baking and soup-cooking. The AMS executive and staff continued to be unrelentingly supportive. Community Eats partnered with Sprouts to bring students a free vegan lunch bi-weekly. The club has a functional executive board, and their new constitution recently passed through SAC. Also, without the cost of staff, and the higher turnover in sales, Sprouts is making money now. They're working on a memorandum of understanding with the AMS containing a re-payment plan which will see it get out of debt over the course of several years. There's even music jam sessions at Sprouts once in a while, coordinated with the club's new social coordinator and the indefatigable JAM superstar Rodrigo Ferrari Nunes. And most importantly, it's just an awesome spot to hang out and feel at home. The tastiness, affordability (1.50 for a perfect breakfast of coffee and thick slice of home-baked bread and butter?? amazing!) and social aspect of Sprouts are all things that only come about from the connectedness and ownership that comes along with a group of dedicated students creating a place they themselves really like and really believe in.

Caroline: "we've been really sensitive to how people use the space - the space is now more engaging. You usually have to sit with someone, since there's only a few tables, and no to-go containers... the outreach isn't as explicit now, but it's more effective. Being volunteer run, we also feel like we can be more idealistic with what we're doing, and fulfill our mandate better, with minimally packaged, locally sourced food."

To me the story of Sprouts (it's fall and rise) shows that student-run business is possible and incredibly valuable, when done right. Few other things can be so exciting and fulfilling and trully meet the needs of students so well. This example also proves how the AMS can be incredibly supportive to actually make such initiatives work - this project would have been impossible without the almost ridiculous support the AMS has given - financially, with its leadership, with its staff, space, and expertise. All for a good idea - which is of course, how it should be. The AMS sould look at incorporating more space for student-run business into the SUB renew program. The kind of support shown for Sprouts is a one-off in a way, due to the extreme screw-uppedness the place had gone through, but it can also serve as a model for many more businesses. Student businesses, supported by the AMS, could end up being an incredible service for students. So anyway, go take a peek, if you haven't already. Slip into the yellow diner nook with a brownie, strike up a conversation, and life is good.

Sprouts web page


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

UBC Insider mission statement

We here on the blog have been feeling that lately we've been losing some focus. With more boisterous and demanding readership, an election campaign, and fewer (non-graduating) writers, the pressure (and temptation) to spit out easy personality-centered posts is hard to resist. This is an attempt to step back and re-balance. Though it may not be in your face, this blog is and has always been based on a certain type of philosophy, which goes beyond reporting news, or having a personal pulpit. By creating this mission statement, we're laying out the values and goals we aspire to with our blog. We hope that it will give both ourselves and our readers clear(ish) expectations of our journalism, and our community here on the blog. We hope that by laying out these expectations and aspirations, we'll help ourselves live up to them, and help you understand the place we're coming from. Bear in mind that this exercise is somewhat platonic - this is a chair in the sky - but this is the chair we'll be trying to approximate, though we may not always make it.

Our Mission:

  • To use our experience, networks, and knowledge base to empower UBC students to educate themselves about campus and university affairs. We will present issues, deliver background as clearly as possible, and use those issues as springboards for open discussion.
  • To be inclusive. We will strive to engage as many students as possible and invite our fellow university community members to participate in discussion that is relevant to them.
  • To thoroughly discuss the issues themselves and where people fit into them rather than the other way around.
  • To provide intelligent and insightful commentary and perspectives on issues relating to UBC and the UBC community.
  • To create a lively and respectful forum for debate and discussion of campus and higher education issues

Our Values:

  • The balance of facts in concert with perspective; the understanding that this balance is fine but adjustable.
  • Respect and trust in each other.
  • Refusing to obliterate our unique voices and positionalities (or those of our readers) in pseudo-objective conceits.
  • The assumption of the intelligence of our readers.
  • Accessibility to UBC's complete student body
  • due diligence with facts and source checking.

Our philosophy:

Think of our blog as broccoli: it may not be the most attractive and appealing food, but damn if it's not good for you and ultimately delicious. While we may have named ourselves the "insiders," we do not subscribe to the duality of in/out; we recognize the value of different brands of involvement unlike our own. Relating items from the weekly news-cycle to longer term issues is a priority. Gossip will be minimal, but juicy when we do run it. The AMS is not the centre of the universe. Our posts will be accessible on several levels of previous knowledge. The spirit of investigation and depth of analysis are important to us. We write what we're interested in, without presumptions of doing everything and satisfying everyone.


Friday, February 15, 2008

VP Administration Special Election results

Tristan Markle 446

Shawn Stewart 306

Stephen McCarthy 280

Mike Kushnir 194

Yian Messoloras 189

Stephanie Ryan 104

J Mac The Keg 44

Aaron Palm 42

Congratulations to Tristan! Looks like the knolligarchy managed to swing it for him. Pretty good voter turnout.

One more note: EA Brendan Piovesan resigned, effective today. Someone else will have to be hired to run the referendum. With this we conclude our elections coverage. Whew.

AND: best quote of the day from a defeated but happy Mike Kushnir: "I can't get elected, but I can run a fucking beer garden!!"


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Check in.

Hello everyone.

I would invite us all to think about what sort of issues we have yet to cover on this blog. We've been feverishly covering the elections, but we would like to continue to focus on the issues.

We of course accept emails too, if you don't want to leave a comment.

Thank you.


Monday, February 11, 2008

VP Administration post of awesomeness

Candidate analysis, random thoughts, EA deprecation, and who Maayan is voting for all rolled into one glorious post.

Well, voting is now on for the re-vote for the fifth AMS executive position. The VP Administration race was cancelled in mid-campaign two weeks ago. Despite the fact that this cancellation was not allowed by AMS code, and caused confusion and inconvenience, this second round of elections seems to have elicited a better crop of candidates. This race is actually the most competitive, with four strong contenders. I've read all the platforms in detail, and I know three of the four serious candidates in varying degrees. Here's my analysis on each.

Yian Messoloras - Yian ran in the first race, and is the apparent reason it was cancelled (due to bad campaigning), though this was never officially confirmed by EA Brendan Piovesan. Yian doesn't seem to understand terribly much about the AMS. His answers at Thursday's debate were a little painful. His main plan is to execute SUB Renew gradually, sutainably, and without increasing student fees at all (of course, that's what happens in the SUB every year when there's small-scale renovations). His experience in construction is to help him with this, and he wants student and faculty involvement in the design process itself. He believes consultations to be a waste of money. While Yian has his heart in the right place with his promise not to increase student fees for a new SUB, the extent of unmet need revealed through the SUB renew consultations indicates that pretty large project is what students want. The university, donors, and government are unlikely to give us money if they're not matching a contribution form students.

Tristan Markle - Tristan has put together a very comprehensive platform - maybe too comprehensive. He's got plans for just about everything from stopping the underground bus loop (which is already under construction), to sourcing ethical food, to giving clubs anti-oppression training. Tristan is thoughtful and very ambitious about this position. Unfortunately, half of his platform (the half he seems more interested in) isn't actually the chief concern of the VP Admin portfolio. As an active organizer of Trek Park and last year's anti-U blvd development petition, Tristan is the most interested in development issues. The internally-focused half of the portfolio isn't addressed very thoroughly. Though SUB Renew certainly has a link to the plans for U-Square, since the U-Blvd plan revision, Tristan's assertion that SUB renew makes U-Square irrelevant is pure fantasy. There’s no indication whatsoever that the SUB renew process will cancel other plans for the area. Moreover, it is not remotely within the VP Admin's power to "stop" the underground bus-loop construction. If you read his platform carefully, you'll notice repeatedly that Tristan presents things he hopes will be true, or plans to do, as irrevocable fact. This is quite misleading (especially if you don't know abut this stuff to begin with). The VP Admin this year will have to work fairly closely with Campus and Community Planning, and the UBC administration to make SUB Renew a physical and financial reality. I fear that Tristan's principled lack of respect for these people will not help him serve students in these interactions. Also, stepping on the VP Academic's toes constantly about development issues would make the executive team dynamics awkward. Don't get me wrong, I like alot of Tristan's ideas (the real-time sustainability counter, rooftop garden, and social justice audit are all great) but I have doubts that he'll be able to pull of even a fraction of the platform without pissing everyone off.

Steve McCarthy - Steve is the UBC debate society president, former residence advisor, and scribbler for our esteemed VFM rival/partner in awesome, The Devil's Advocate. Incumbent VP Academic Sarah Naiman actually convinced Steve to run - make your own conclusions from that. Steve's platform is focused and pragmatic, covering the three main categories of the VP Admin portfolio: SUB Renew, SAC & Clubs, and Student Life. He's on the right track for all of them. His idea for modeling a once a month activities night after Waterloo's "warrior weekend" is pretty cool. He plans to restructure SAC into less, better-paid positions, and aims to use AMS Link as an administrative tool as opposed to marketing it as a sub-par social networking tool. He wants to make groups that can't qualify as clubs into "affiliate groups", who would have booking privileges, to foster better connections with the AMS. Steve isn't afraid to say "I don't know" - which will help him, since he has alot to learn. Many of the ideas here are fairly mainstream, and they're all practical. Focusing on one special project (as opposed to Tristan's bazillion) is wise. Also, he's a got a great personality for this job, and is really smart.

Shawn Stewart - Shawn was a SAC Commissioner this year, so he's got the most thorough insight into the workings of the VP Admin portfolio. I don't know Shawn personally, but I'm impressed by much of his platform, despite the silly organization of his website into vague headers like "community" and "efficiency" (and the fact that you have to download word documents to view the full platform. grr). His plans for SAC reorganization, (specifically the creation of a Student Life commissioner) are detailed and make alot of sense. His discussion of SUB consultations and what will happen if this year's referendum fails was helpful. He's got generally good ideas about better consultation and engagement with Residence Life and other campus groups, and wants to create an AMS Frosh program for first years. I don't get how this differs from AMS Firstweeek, but meh. A good emphasis in Shawn's platform is the "gateway positions" section. Both students and the organization can benefit hugely from having volunteers work on interesting projects in the events and design departments in the AMS. These types of projects are fun; volunteers that enjoy what they're doing are some of the most committed and valuable members of a society. AMS Connect was supped to promote volunteerism in the AMS - I don’t' know how successful it's been. Anyway, Shawn seems pretty good. My main criticisms are that he annoyingly ends every sentence like he's asking a question, and he's ruined the future careers of lots of people in his outrageous "Let them Eat Cake" blog.

Mike Kushnir - Mike has been involved in ACF and AUS for years. He decided to go serious after his first bid for this position as "scary" Mike "the rabbi". Mike's platform is the shortest, and not very comprehensive, but most of the ideas that are there are quite concrete. He doesn't address the issues of Clubs and SAC at all. Go read it yourself, it's short. I think Mike comes from a good place, but he's ambivalent about SUB Renew, which will need immediate and detailed attention right off the bat. I feel like I need to see more here.

The two non-serious candidates, Aaron Palm and Stephanie Ryan have very different schticks. Aaron quotes fitting bible verses, and Steph spouts off her personal desire for slates to be re-instituted. Weird. I'll probably vote for Steve McCarthy in this election. He's pretty awesome, incredibly personable, and I know that he'll work well with the other executives. Shawn would probably be good too. To me, this race is between them.

Something that's come up in this race is the realization that the SUB Renew timeline is incredibly short. Choosing one of the three floorplans from Cannon Design to be placed on the referendum ballot through widespread consultation, and then promoting the referendum in about a month is pretty nuts. Maybe a post on SUB Renew is in order. Oh, and Mike and Steve's posters are way awesome.

Also, EA Brendan Piovesan managed to fuck up again (imagine that). One candidate's name wasn't on the electronic ballot for the first 12 hours of voting (see below post). It's fixed now, but wow. Just wow.

EDIT: This wasn't actually Brendan's fault at all. There was some communication problem with the university, which runs the WebVote system


oh, come on

This is a wholesale lifting of Alex Lougheed's facebook note, in which he notices that Stephen McCarthy isn't on the ballot.

How to vote in the AMS Special Election

The original can be found here.

Props to Alex for: voting at 1am, having eagle eyes, and also wicked MSPaint skills.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

AMS Elections: The VP Admin Strikes Back

I've had a busy couple days with Ubyssey, work, school, and photoshoots, so I haven't had much of a chance to post photos. Anyway, these are from Thursday's debates.
The elections start tomorrow: be sure to get the word out and encourage your friends to get informed and get their vote on!
Mike Kushnir is now running seriously. Also, his glasses aren't real. Mike is torn on a new SUB, because it means that an entire cohort of students will have to go without a SUB, but the current one is clearly inadequate.

Tristan Markle and the Technicolor Pants. Tristan's got bold plans for a Zero-Energy SUB.

Aaron Palm, of the Devil's Advocate, is running as a joke candidate. His shtick was to answer all questions by quoting the bible. Also, he wore an awesome suit.

Honestly, I was expecting the President of UBC Debate to be a stronger speaker. Steve definitely hemmed his way through a few questions but when he hit his stride was able to detail a fairly club-focused platform.

I'm not entirely sure why Steph Ryan is running; every answer was prefaced with "DON'T VOTE FOR ME." and it seemed more like a chance for her to use the debates as a soapbox for personal views than anything else.
PS: slates only bring diversity if you consider tokenism to be diversity.

Yian would stop talking, literally in the middle of a word, whenever I pointed a camera at him. The first time, I thought it was funny; the fourth time, I was (and am) firmly of the mind that this man should not be the VP Admin. Also, I fully admit that I pulled the worst photo of the bunch to include in this post.

For some reason, I don't have a picture of Shawn at the podium. He quoted his SAC experience and also presented several concrete plans to revitalize the portfolio, enhance club relations and generally springboard off his time in SAC.

Mike Duncan caught me taking a photo of Alex and Lois, and decided to make a face in the background... so I made him the foreground.

the crowd, mid-debate. Note Andrew Forshner not dropping the ball.

Blake Frederick, current AVP Badass.

Nate Crompton asking a question of the candidates.

Riveting. Debate. Action.

Just a quick profile shot of the candidates.

Aaron Palm is not pleased

Kasha Chang moderated the debates. It's a thankless job.

I sense a rivalry brewing.

Alex Lougheed, checking out his potential co-executives with SUS D.Finance Lois Chan.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Sterling example of effective advocacy - Universities Allied for Essential Medicines

Students spend alot of time agonizing over how to be effective advocates for change. Emma Preston, a founding member of UBC UAEM, and this year's BC Rhodes Scholar, tells of how this group made the university fall head over heals for them.

Billions of people, primarily in poor countries, lack access to lifesaving medicines; millions more suffer from diseases for which no adequate treatment exists. Universities can change this. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) is a hands-on student organization that focuses on changing university policies in order to increase access to essential medicines in developing countries ( Our mission is two fold. Firstly, to urge universities to ensure that biomedical end products, such as drugs, developed in campus labs are accessible in developing countries, and secondly, to facilitate and promote research on neglected tropical diseases, or those diseases predominantly affecting people who are too poor to constitute a market attractive to private-sector research and development investment. University scientists are major contributors to the drug development pipeline. At the same time, universities have an avowed commitment to advancing the public good. As members of these universities, our fundamental goal is to hold them to this commitment. With a small but committed group of students, representative of the diverse student body at UBC and with some key supporters in the local and international community, we weren’t afraid to think big.

The UBC chapter of UAEM has been active for over two years and is part of a growing global movement of students dedicated to making research and science more globally responsible ( This past November, UBC announced it self as the first university in Canada to commit to providing people in poor countries with easier access to its innovations, stating that “ensuring global access to discoveries and technologies developed at UBC is an important element in achieving the TREK vision. UBC technologies have the potential to generate significant societal impacts, and our technologies relating to the advancement of health, the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainability have the most obvious benefits for a global society.” The press release noted Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) as "catalysts" for the decision (

The UBC Chapter of UAEM (pronounced “you-aim”) was founded in 2005 by Patricia Kretz, currently a fourth year UBC medical student. Initially, the group consisted of a small number of concerned students meeting at random locations about once a week. A mixed bag of grad students, law students, med students and undergrads, we met everywhere from coffee shops to basements to the west atrium of the Life Sciences Institute. It soon became clear that when it comes to understanding access to essential medicines there are many difficult concepts, jargon and acronyms to familiarize oneself with before anything starts to make sense. There is no doubt that there is a steep learning curve. To address this concern and reach out to the greater student body, UAEM UBC held its first “teach-in” in the fall of 2006 at UBC’s Medical Student Alumni Centre. The aim of this afternoon was to go over the basics of intellectual property, licensing and patent law, the neglected tropical disease research gap, metrics (a.k.a. how a university measures its success), and what university students can do to address these issues.

Another key element in achieving our goals was communicating with UBC faculty and administration. One aspect of this was collecting signatures for the Philadelphia Consensus Statement (PCS), a document that was drafted at the UAEM international meeting at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2006. In a nutshell, the PCS is a document that outlines UAEM’s main goals and ‘signing on’ acts statement of support for these goals. In addition to a number of caring and dedicated faculty, UAEM was fortunate to gain the support of a number of big name global health/humanitarian ‘celebrities’ such as Paul Farmer, Jeffrey Sachs, James Orbinski and, a proud UAEM UBC signature, Stephen Lewis. In this regard it was very helpful to be a chapter of a larger international group and emphasized the benefits of being a multidisciplinary student group in which everyone could use their unique skills and contacts to their full potential.

With a member base and support from the local and international community, we received support from the Alma Mater Society (AMS) and eventually became an AMS club. We also established an advisory board consisting of a diverse array of individuals who had acted as mentors along the way including a journalist, physicians, a number of faculty members and representatives from the University Industry Liaison Office (UILO). With their support and the help of one of our more politically involved members, Gina Eom (of UBC Insider fame), we were able to arrange a series of meetings with President Stephen Toope, VP Research John Hepburn, University Industry Liaison Office (UILO) President Angus Livingstone and Technology Transfer Officer Barbara Campbell.

While we initially met with some valid resistance, the potential of what were proposing and its implications with regards to the Trek 2010 goals of global citizenship were hard to deny. Barbara Campbell emerged as our UILO champion and we were incredibly fortunate to have her dedicated support and commitment. We soon realized that you can’t use a one size fits all global access strategy for all technologies developed at UBC. Developing necessary guidelines and applying global access principles requires a lot of hard work and time on the part of the technology transfer officers at the UILO. As such we were very excited to find that the ideas behind these principles have already influenced the licensing of three new UBC technologies: a peer-to-peer software technology with applications in medical school curriculum delivery, an E. coli vaccine technology, and a new less-toxic formulation of antifungal and anti-Leishmania drug Amphotericin B.

While are starting to see the fruits of our labour in full ripeness, there is still a lot of work to be done. We are working towards developing undergraduate and medical school curriculum on neglected tropical diseases and starting a fund to finance research on these abandoned ailments. We are also in the process of starting chapters at other Canadian universities. As much as ever, we are welcome new members and support within the UBC community with open arms. If you are interested in attending our next meeting or in just finding out more information please don’t hestitate to contact us at:


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Yet another threat

Vancouver Campus Advisory -- New Threat Received
Tue. Feb. 5, 4:15 pm

Broadcast message to all UBC Vancouver Students, Faculty and Staff from President Stephen J. Toope

For the second time in a week, our Vancouver campus community has received a threatening message.

In this second case, an unspecific threat has been made for Wednesday. The threat does not specify a time, a location within the UBC Point Grey campus or the method of doing harm.

We must take such threats seriously, and we are working closely with senior RCMP personnel to address this new threat.

What can we all do when faced with such a threat? We are taking the advice of the RCMP to treat the non-specific nature of the threat with a higher level of community vigilance but to otherwise continue our normal activities.

However, because of the specific mention of the Biosciences building in the threatening message received last week, and the traumatic experience of the occupants who endured a full lockdown of the building at that time, classes will be cancelled tomorrow (Wednesday) in the Biosciences Building.

For details, see the RCMP news release at:

And please continue to look at for the latest information.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Voter Funded Media results!

Well, here they are at long last!

The Knoll - $1600
UBC Insider - Election Edition - $1500
The Devils advocate - $1400
Cavalier - $900
Let Them Eat Cake - $725
UVote - $600
The Underground - $600
The 432 - $600
Plain title: Awesome Content - $75
The Radical Beer Tribune - $0
Maclean's On Campus - $0

From the VFM administrator Paul Gibson-Tigh:

In the name of transparency, I am passing along the VFM results as they came to me, and then in the interpolated version (both in excel). The results were tricky to interpolate, as they made for a 'case of discontinuity' explained at the bottom of this page ( It was all planned for in advance by Mark. I encourage you to fill in the spreadsheets and see the wonders of interpolated consensus yourselves! I could try to explain the case, but I had to have it explained to me, so keep that in mind.

A total of 249 people voted in the UBC Insiders option (ranging from $0 to $2000) - which was the highest number of votes of any media. There's no real way of knowing how many people voted total - but lets say that 100 people voted, and didn't vote in the UBC-i category, that's still a pretty dire turnout for a contest that's supposed to raise the profile of campus elecitons. The consensus percentile, p, was 61. It seems that (acording to the spreadsheet I'm looking at) the number of votes for each media were not normalized to the total number of voters, but rahter to the maximum number of voters in a particular media (249, in this case). This means that the rule in the VFM code that states that not voting is the same as voting zero wasn't followed (I think, anyway. not sure). You can take a look at the Raw Votes spreadsheet, and the Interpolated Consensus spreadsheet for yourself - see if you can make head or tail of it!!

My major disspointment here is Plain Title: Awesome Content. I think Ian did a great job with the mini-paper. It was the one entry, to me, that actually reached out farther than the insular AMS in-croud, to target everyone else. And he did it with hilarity, opinion, and information. S0 boo-urns to that result. Also the 432 still sucks. Alot.

On a personal note, I just want to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you. It's been a great ride, and that's because of all the readers that have logged on, learned a bit, and maybe commented. The discourse generated here is really the thing that is wonderful to me. Pardon my moment of vanity, but it really is lovely to feel that our little blog is appreciated - so thank you!


VP Admininstration nominations - rumor mill

The race for the fifth AMS executive position, VP Administration, was cancelled in mid-campaign due to "campaigning irregularities." While this cancellation was probably contrary to AMS code, and details were never confirmed by Elections Administrator Brendan Piovesan, a new race is soon to launch. And according to the rumor-mill, and the volume of nomination papers being passed around, it looks like this is going to be the most competitive race of the election. As you can see below, numerous serious, high profile contenders have stepped up:

Stephen McCarthy - Steve is the president of the UBC debate society, and the illustrious person behind "Serious Steve" on our colleagues' blog over at the Devil's Advocate.

Blake Frederick - Blake was VP Academic (and fellow blogger) Brendon Goodmurphy's assistant this year, so he has experience working on issues in the executive structure of the AMS. He just got elected to Senate.

Tristan Markle - Tristan is a Science councilor and is also heavily involved in the AMS resource groups. He's also an editor of the left-wing campus rag, The Knoll.

Mike Kushnir - Mike, who ran as a joke in the first iteration of this race as "Scary " Mike "the rabbi", is apparetnly running again as a serious candidate.

Shawn Stewart - Another VFM contestant. The mind behind the persona of "le grand gateau" over at Let Them Eat Cake. Shawn is also a SAC commisioner, so he's got experience with some aspects of the Admin portfolio.

Patrick Meehan - Arts councilor, and politico.

Yian Messoloras - The apparent reason why the first VP Administration case was cancelled, and has to be run again, Yian wants to build a new SUB without increasing student fees by a penny.

All of the AUS - apparently a raft of AUSers want to run more jokes in this race than the rest of the elections put together. I sincerely hope they don't. This elections doesn't have much remaining credibility to lose, but any more jokes and screw-up could just scour whatever's left away.

As soon as these are official, we'll have some candidate questionnaires and analysis so that y'alls can make an informed decision.