Saturday, January 31, 2009

Senate, anyone?

While I've been busy blogging about most of the ongoing races, I sort of let it slip from my memory that there aren't any people running for Senate this year. It turns out that only 2 people submitted nomination forms, and as a result they automatically get seats. Currently, the available seats are being offered to this year's Senators. I'm quite frankly astonished by this practice- rather than opening up nominations again, they have decided to simply offer the seats to people who did not apply, and who could take the seats without actually going through an election.

[ hat tip to, and more analysis from The RBT]


Friday, January 30, 2009


Science Week 2009 Jello Wrestling

I've got photos from Jello Wrestling here, and will have more from the last debates up later today as well as commentary on both events.

Before that, though, I should get some sleep.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

A summary of endorsements (so far)

Here's a summary of the endorsements from all the different blogs!

UBC Insiders

President - 1) Blake Frederick, 2) Alex Monegro, 3) Paul Korczyk
VP Academic and University Affairs - 1) Johannes Rebane
VP Administration - 1) Kommander Keg (yes, even I'm surprised by this one) 2) Tristan Markle
VP External - 1) Tim Chu 2) Ignacio Rodriguez
VP Finance - 1) Tom Dvorak, 2) Ale Coates
Board of Governors - Michael Duncan and Andrew Carne

UBC Spectator

Kristian Arciaga

President - Alex Monegro
VP Academic and University Affairs - Johannes Rebane
VP Administration - Crystal Hon
VP External - Tim Chu
VP Finance - Tom Dvorak
Board of Governors - Bijan Ahmadian and Michael Duncan

Saša Pudar

President - 1) Blake Frederick, 2) Alex Monegro
VP Academic and University Affairs - Sonia Purewal
VP Administration - Kommander Keg, followed by Tristan Markle
VP External - Iggy Rodriguez
VP Finance - Tom Dvorak
Board of Governors - Bijan Ahmadian and Michael Duncan

Justin Yang

President - 1) Blake Frederick, 2) Alex Monegro, 3) Paul Korczyk
VP Academic and University Affairs - 1) Sonia Purewal, 2) Johannes Rebane, 3) Jeremy Wood, 4) David Nogas
VP Administration - 1) Crystal Hon, 2) Tristan Markle
VP External - TBA
VP Finance - 1) Tom Dvorak, 2) Ale Coates
Board of Governors - Michael Duncan and Andrew Carne

Stephen McCarthy (a.k.a. Serious Steve)
President - 1) Blake Frederick, 2) Alex Monegro, 3) Paul Korczyk
VP Academic and University Affairs - 1) Johannes, 2) Sonia, 3) Jeremy, 4)David

Gossip Guy (kind of endorsements in the form of photoshopped heads)

President - not yet up
VP Academic and University Affairs - Johannes Rebane
VP Administration - Crystal Hon
VP External - Tim Chu
VP Finance - Tom Dvorak
Board of Governors - Michael Duncan and Bijan

Radical Beer Tribune

President - 1) Alex Monegro, 2) Blake Frederick, 3) Paul Korczyk
VP Academic and University Affairs - 1) Johannes Rebane, 2) Sonia Purewal, 3) David Nogas, 4) Jeremy Wood
VP Administration - 1) Kommander Keg, 2) Tristan Markle, 3)Crystal Hon, 4) Water Fountain
VP External - 1) Iggy Rodriguez, 2) Tim Chu
VP Finance - 1) Tom Dvorak, 2) Ale Coates
Board of Governors - Michael Duncan and Andrew Carne

Fair Vote UBC

President - 1) Blake Frederick, 2) Paul Korczyk, 3) Alex Monegro
VP External - 1) Tim Chu, 2) Iggy Rodriguez, 3) Fire, 4) King's Head

Will update with new endorsements as they come in.


Quote of the day

"I hate democracy."
- Sarina Rehal, AMS Elections Administrator 2008/09



Here are my endorsements for the election. I'm trying to have be brief in my explanations. I do have a qualm with this election- namely, there are no candidates that really stand out, or that are particularly wonderful. So overall I find these elections sort of disappointing, but I do feel like there could be a really good exec next year. If only we could combine candidates into a supercandidate...


My first choice is Blake Frederick, my second Alex Monegro, and my third Paul Korczyk. I feel like Blake has a stronger platform that covers more issues and lays out concrete ways in which to address them. He also has more experience in the AMS than do either of the other candidates, which means that he'll know how to work within the constraints of the AMS and won't have to spend as much time learning the ropes. Alex is my next choice. His platform isn't quite as in-depth, but I think he has a fair understanding of some issues.

VP Academic and University Affairs Candidates
My endorsement for this one is Johannes. While none of the candidates really stand out for me in this election, I feel like he has the best grasp of the issues and seems to be the best for the job. His platform addresses things like first year education, and lays out ways in which tutorials and labs can be improved, partially by addressing TA teaching reforms. Other candidates do have decent platforms as well, but has particular weaknesses. Jeremy withdrew and re-entered the competition, which makes me doubt his motivation to really do a good job, although I do like his platform and dedication to his cause. Sonia has a good platform, but doesn't work well on a team as was evidenced last year in SUS, and I'm not convinced that she'd really push the points of her platform through (plus, there are very good reasons for why we shouldn't allow people to retake courses they do poorly in, among them things like space limitations- the university shouldn't pander to people who are trying to get into med school, and chances are that students will do better the second time around simply based on regression towards the mean). She's enthusiastic, but doesn't know how things work, and I feel her platform points are generally unattainable. It sounds nice on paper, though. David Nogas also has good ideas, but I'm not sure how effective he would be in implementing them. So I feel that Johannes has the greatest number of strengths, despite his lack of experience.

VP External

I don't particularly like either of these candidates- I'm sure they're great people, but I don't think either of them would be particularly great. That said, I'm voting for Tim Chu. I feel that equity is important, I feel he has more experience, and I feel that he would be better at negotating, partly because he has more tact and is less abrasive, unlike Iggy, who insulted people he would work with, and who I don't feel would be a good team player as a result. He also doesn't seem to care much for equity, which is problematic if he has the one to work on it. Kudos to Tim's team for running a good campaign, as well. I do wish he'd focus on more things than equity and lowering tuition (which I'm pretty sure won't happen). But I feel that he has the ability to learn quickly and do a good job.

VP Administration

My pick is, surprisingly, Kommander Keg. He's said some smart things in this election. Tristan comes in second- he has the most experience, but I feel that he doesn't connect with students. As a SUS AMS rep, he never showed up to a single meeting, for instance, and I feel that that sort of thing reflects poorly. And I'm not sure how much I trust Knollies. Crystal lacks experience, and I feel doesn't have as good of an understanding of issues as Tristan.

VP Finance
I don't feel like either candidate is particularly stronger than the other. Ale has more experience, Tom seems to have a better understanding of issues. Ale has little business experience and wants to focus on things like building a new used bookstore, while Tom wants to focus more on supporting businesses and earning revenue that way. I feel he has a better grasp of what the position entails. I don't feel particularly strongly, but I feel he has just a slight edge.

Board of Governors

My picks are Andrew Carne and Michael Duncan. Andrew really knows the issues, and Mike would be a good advocate for students. Both have experience with the AMS and know how the system works, which is good. I'm impressed by Andrew's attending BoG meetings just for interest- it shows that it's something he's explored, taken interest in, and that he's willing to take initiative to find out what things are about before doing them. Bijan I feel shot himself in the foot with the Farm statement, and I don't really trust him to represent student interests as a result. In fact, I don't trust him at all to represent students, given his most recent shenanigans. Blake would be fine, but I don't feel he's as good as the other candidates. The same goes for Tristan.

I'm going to look into the student legal fund society candidates, but that's it for now!



You can now vote at! It's quick and easy- remember to rank you choices for candidates. Please note that you only have 2 minutes to make your selections before it times out (yes, it's really silly). I'm a little disappointed by how little advertisement there has been of this election, and how little effort has been put in to let students know that voting is going on, and to let them know where they should go to vote (so much Webvote confusion!). Also, the last debate will be taking place today at noon in Ike Barber- please come and see the candidates one last time. I will be posting my endorsements later today. Thanks!


Pit Night!

There was a somewhat peculiar piece of business at tonight’s AMS council meeting. Should AMS councilors be allowed to sneak into Pit Night via a back entrance after council meetings?

After receiving a number of complaints (from myself included; the Ubyssey also wrote an editorial), the AMS’s Business Operations Committee recently decided to disallow entrance to the Pit via the back door. By eliminating the greasing of palms at the back door, I hope that there will be no more motivation to keep the line at the front door unnecessarily long when the Pit is nowhere near capacity. It will also mean that money that used to go to bouncers for bribes can now be used for more beer! Good on the AMS for being responsive on this issue.

Whoooo Beer

Thankfully, council found a way to fuck with it. A frivolously-worded motion was passed in 2005 outlining that at every third AMS council meeting, councilors could sign up to get preferential entrance to the Pit after the meeting. (They pass a Pit List around the room for people to sign up, then sneak them in a back entrance after the meeting is over.) At some point in time, this started occurring at every second meeting, and then at practically every meeting. Chris Diplock presented a motion tonight to rescind the not-entirely-followed 2005 motion. His motivation was quite clear: everyone should have to wait in line at the front door to get in, councilors included and that it sends the wrong message to reserve this privilege for themselves.

Surprisingly, Alex Monegro defended the practice. He argued that councilors, unlike paid staff, don’t get any renumeration for their many hours given to council. Perks, even very small ones like this, are deserved and should be kept intact. Yikes, I sure hope this is not indicative of his leadership potential.

An engineering rep also argued that being at council meetings meant missing social activities and that preferential entrance to the Pit eased that problem. The rest of the debate was either about indifference to having the Pit List/in support of equitable access.

Side note: If you are not an AMS hack (yet you read this blog, a peculiar combination), you might be amazed that something idiotic like this gets so much debate. Alas, the whole meeting went for more than 6 hours.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to speak before the question was called. The whole thing seemed like a pretty clear case of whether council wanted to put their own interests in front of those of ordinary students who just want a night out at the bar.

Major fail. In the end, council inexplicably decided to keep the Pit List intact, for them alone. I know this isn't the first, nor the last, nor the most blatant display of self-interest, but I'm pointing it out anyways. Despite the result, I hope to never see the Pit List passed around again. I’ll be watching.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jeremy Wood- must we really resort to these tactics?

As a member of Jeremy Wood's facebook support group (and please note: I support everyone in the elections if they have a facebook group and invite me to join it), I have received a message with the following excerpt in my facebook inbox:

Just a note: I've heard a lot of you saying that after me you would put Johannes Rebane as a second choice. Given the new condorcet system of ranked voting this is a dangerous choice! Johannes has a lot of his own support and unless you guys put him as your 4th preference, you'll only be helping him out.

Now, I understand that this is an election, and that it's being run somewhat differently. However, I fully do not support these sorts of statements. Dubbing someone a 'dangerous choice' simply because you don't believe in his ideas is a bit extreme. It also makes his seem afraid of a the candidate, which I feel is a weakness- I want someone who won't resort to these kinds of tactics in an election. For shame. Yes, there may be strategic voting involved, but what happens if you put someone competent fourth just because you're afraid they're your biggest competition? Biggest competition often (although not always) means that they're a competent, capable candidate- and putting them fourth only messes up the system. Not that I think it will matter in this race.

Also, this is coming from a candidate who pulled out of the race to then come back in. I know that Kerry was a flip-flopper, but even he didn't go to these lengths. It doesn't say too many good things about a candidate's motivation if they only re-enter a race because their friends/supporters told him to- it means, despite what he may say, that he lost the will to do the job and had to be encourage by people who were ideologically aligned with him to convince him to go back. I think it means that he wasn't that firm in his stance, and that he wasn't doing it to improve the system or represent students. If a candidate is dedicated to his/her cause, it means that they want to change the system, and their ideas are important to them, even if they're not important to others. Someone who can't hold his own and relies on others to persuade him to continue to run makes me worried about how he'll react if everyone else is opposed to his ideas if he is elected- in this case, I'd be worried that he'd give up on his plans. And by "he", I don't necessarily mean Jeremy- I mean any candidate who is elected into a position. But it applies in this case as well.


Condorcet voting

A brief explanation, in case people don't quite know what it is.

1.) You rank the candidates on the ballot. Tied rankings are allowed, as far as I know.
2.) Each candidate is compared to the other candidates on the ballot.
3.) The votes are counted by pitting every candidate against every other candidate in a series of imaginary one-on-one contests. The winner of each pairing is the candidate that the greatest number of voters preferred. Each voter's preferred candidate is the voter that ranks highest on their ballot. For instance, take the race between Ale and Tom. They are paired against one another, and the number of votes where Ale is ranked higher than Tom are counted, and then the number of votes where Tom is ranked higher than Ale are counted. If Ale is preferred by more voters then she is the winner of that pairing. If Tom is the one preferred, he wins that pairing. In this way, all pairings are considered. If one candidate beats every other candidate in these contests then they are declared the Condorcet winner.

Hope that makes sense! Didn't have time to post this earlier, but take that into mind when you vote. I personally like this system- while it means that popularity sort of still trumps the system, I think it would be beneficial in races where there are either two people getting elected to a position, or else when there are no amazing candidates and voters might actually have to think about who they vote for and consider things like platforms and stuff if they take the time to learn anything about the election- it essentially encourages being informed. Obviously it's not perfect, and people will still vote for whoever their friends are, etc. I just really like the choice of being able to indicate my preference for candidates, because sometimes it's not all that clear-cut of a choice to make.


Debates, January 27

Today's debates were definitely the most sparsely attended, as seen here:
AMS Electoral Debates, January 26

It's too bad this debate was empty; I thought this was the best chance to get a feel for the candidates, since they'd had a chance to thoroughly adjust their platforms and approaches.

AMS Electoral Debates, January 26
VFM Coordinator Mitch Wright moderated the debates, as AJ was apparently nowhere to be found. He did a capable job, once again requiring candidates to stay within their timeframe, but unfortunately continuing the tendency to disallow actual debate.

First up were the presidential candidates:
AMS Electoral Debates, January 26
After a week of speaking, I felt that they were (finally) on top of their game. Blake's core message was, as Naylor put it, "I am experienced and not crazy", a far cry from his fiery showing at the first debate (which he tempered with an interesting personal anecdote about familial and socioeconomic barriers to university). Alex moved away from his earlier focus on facilitation and team leadership (which are, admittedly, an important part of the role) and opened with commentary on education and engagement. Paul retained and reiterated his desire to communicate and lead via consultation.

AMS Electoral Debates, January 26
Paul clings to his outsider status, and resultantly I still don't understand how proclaiming your lack of operational and institutional knowledge of the society you aim to lead can be spun as a positive. The AMS is a complex and occasionally infuriating organization to work with and/or for, and every day on the job spent learning the ropes is a day that could've been spent getting the job done. Michael Duncan's immense knowledge of both people and procedure within the Society allowed him to very effectively use his time in office and I don't see Paul being able to carry that forward.

AMS Electoral Debates, January 26
As I've watched more debates and read through more material, I've come around to liking Alex more. I spent a year as the President's Assistant, allowing me to see a lot more of the daily happenings in the Executive Offices than most people, and with that in mind Alex's focus on teambuilding and stress on inter-Executive relations while maintaining personal goals and focus items seems both achievable and sensible. While nothing he's said struck me as particularly soundbite-worthy, Alex has a good grasp on the challenges ahead of him. His platform as presented doesn't really say anything, which is sort of strange.

AMS Electoral Debates, January 26
I like a lot of what I hear from Blake, but I don't know how much of it is possible. It's clear that he isn't afraid to play politics, although his occasional tendency to trip over himself could cost him in heated discussions. Blake has a lot of institutional knowledge from his years as AVP Academic and AVP External, but I'm unsure of his abilities to shape a team from a group of people who had just emerged from the concentrated antagonism of elections. Combine with his desire to run for Board and his singular approach to peculiar difficulties of doing either job, let alone both, and I'm left standing in the "damnit Blake you'd be a shoo-in for VPX" camp.

The other debate today was for the two Board of Governors seats:
AMS Electoral Debates, January 26

from left to right we have: Bijan Ahmadian, Tristan Markle, Michael Duncan, Andrew Carne, and Blake Frederick.

Bijan remains mired in his farm endorsement trading scandal. When pressed, he gave basically the same statement as was sent to the VFMs yesterday, and when Serious Steve asked him if he was, right now, committed to the Farm in its current size and location, he demurred and said that he would need to learn more about the farm before making a decision. I'm also curious about his workload; as a combined JD/MBA student, Bijan is taking 131 credits of graduate study over four years (per the Sauder MBA/JD website) to complete two professional programs simultaneously that are far from easy on their own. Frankly, I find it hard enough to make time for everything I do as an undergrad and have serious doubts as to whether Bijan would be able to work out all his commitments, or if something will give (and what that will be.)

Tristan continues to underline the importance of the SUB Renew project, and also uses it as a pivot to increase student engagement and empowerment on campus. His BoG projects intersect with his reelection plans in the VP Admin spot, and while he did suffer a bit of platform overlap (collision?) with Michael Duncan, he was able to stand out from the pack of other candidates. Bijan attempted to lay blame for the freeze in negotiations on SUB Renew since November at Tristan's feet, but Tristan was able to explain how it was a necessary tactic and one approved by council (as per Naylor) but Tristan let slip some items that were discussed in camera which is unwise in the best case and litigatable in the worst.

Mike presented a lot of successes from his Presidency and some goals for his BoG term. As mentioned above, he's had a strong year in office and wants to carry that momentum forward, along with his experience with multiple levels of administration and unique ability to engage. I hope he doesn't show up at BoG painted blue.

Actually, no. I hope he does; I just want to see what would happen.

Andrew was unable to make it to the first debate due to his involvement at the Western Engineering Championships in Regina. He provided a strong showing at this debate, informing students of his attendance of Board meetings out of personal interest for the past 1.5 years, his plans to more effectively communicate about the Board to students, and demonstrating the strong, informed voice he wants to bring to the Board to represent students.

Blake's BoG plans dovetail neatly with his Presidential ones, which led to a question about how he plans to balance the workload and focus of both roles. The question didn't really get an answer, which was disappointing; while Blake did point to Jeff Friedrich (President+BoG 2007-08) as an example, there were no ways or means given. Blake did, again, temper his speech from previous debates, choosing to focus on development and Farm issues rather than his prior goals of reforming governance and changing the way students are seen by administrators. I can't tell if he's worried about claims of idealism or if it's a simple rethinking; either way it's a lot less interesting.


The IBC responds

Response by Jason Ng to the statement made by AMS Candidates:

Several AMS elections candidates recently issued a statement claiming that we did not speak with them prior to issuing our endorsements for this election.

The International Business Club reviewed all the candidates' platforms, including those of the 6 candidates who issued the statement. Their platforms, as well as detailed discussion of them, are available online through their websites, Facebook groups, and through the AMS elections blogs.

We did not claim that we spoke with all of them. If the original wording on this page was misleading for the candidates, we sincerely apologize.

Our post on this page has been updated to clarify our position.

Best regards,

The International Business Club Team


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jello wrestling

Jello wrestling is happening tomorrow (Wednesday), contrary to the day listed in the poll. I would encourage y'all to come out and support Science week, even if you aren't science students. Perks include free entertainment, watching live wrestling, and potentially (and hopefully) seeing some of the AMS candidates duke it out in the ring. I mean, pool. Of Jello. It will be awesome.

[edited to add: I'll be there! Say hello? -gerald]


An interesting statement

I recently received an emailed statement made by some of the candidates running in this election. The statement is as follows:

The following represents a joint statement by Blake Frederick, Paul Korczyk, David Nogas, Sonia Purewal, Iggy Rodriguez, and Jeremy Wood:

Recently, the International Business Club elected to endorse a number of candidates for Executive positions in the AMS races, claiming that their "executive team has reviewed the platforms and spoken with the various AMS candidates." This is blatantly false. None of the candidates who signed their names here were contacted by the International Business Club. It should be noted that our complaint is not specifically with the individuals the club chose to endorse, but rather, the misrepresentation of the process as one involving an inclusive review complete with candidate interviews. In theory, there is nothing wrong with endorsing, or not endorsing candidates simply on the basis of their public statements and platforms, but it should be made clear what the process applied entailed. Students deserve to know the true nature of the process that is used to choose candidates for endorsement. Endorsements are a powerful tool for expressing particular viewpoints, but when they are issued claiming due diligence when none was done, their legitimacy must be called into question. We do not wish to attack the club, the candidates they endorsed, or their ability to issue endorsements. We seek to provide transparency of the process used to students through this joint statement, so that they will be informed as to the dishonesty used by the executive of the International Business Club when describing the methods utilized to determine candidates to endorse.

Now, I'm not sure if the club ever said that they interviewed those specific people- simply that they had "spoken with the various AMS candidates". I understand how this may be misleading, however. My question is, however- do endorsements make a difference? I would argue that they might in an important election (for instance, I felt that Powell's endorsement of Obama was significant- not statistically, but you know what I mean). But on a campus of several tens of thousands of students, most of whom don't even know who most of the candidates are, let alone the endorsers, it seems like it wouldn't actually play that big of a role. If you look at who tends to vote, and how they make up their minds, I find that most people either rely on those more knowledgeable than them to give them advice, or they may go and read candidates' platforms/read blogs/go to debates, or they may be told by candidates or candidates' friends to vote for them. There are very few people who are actually interested in the elections, and those who are tend to get informed- and I find that the more informed one is, the less of a difference endorsements actually make. If anything, they speak only of an issue of trust- that someone in an office trusts you enough to say that you'd be good in the position- and even then, the endorsement is powerful because it's assumed that people reading it know who the person endorsing the candidate is, how well they've done their job, and how much they trust them. So really, it sort of goes back to being friends with a friend of the candidate and to being informed. At least, that's my take. Unless, of course, you're endorsed by Obama. Or Putin. Both would be kind of awesome, especially if they both endorsed you...

Having a business club endorse commerce candidates hardly comes as a surprise. Neither does the fact that some of their "research" was conducted over facebook- limited privacy settings sure are great for journalism! However, it's their right as a club to go about doing their endorsements in whatever way they'd like- doing them wrong (and by wrong, I mean- not actually reading platforms, or not looking at other candidates) simply makes them lose their objectivity, which I find is important, although not always possible, when someone makes an endorsement. You just hope that bias motivates one to do better research- particularly that which involves looking into the other candidates.

The one thing I find rather amusing, however, is that had they not said that they actually had talked to the candidates, or implied that they'd done so (maybe even in person), this controversy wouldn't exist. After all, there's no way of checking to see if someone has read the platforms of the candidates- particularly not when they simply post a list of people they endorse. Secondly, given that it's a club in which execs probably personally know some of the people running for office, should it really be all that surprising that they chose to endorse 3/3 commerce candidates, or that they didn't look into the other candidates? After all, even if they'd done all their research, it's still likely that their initial biases still colour their perception of platforms, no matter how objective they try to be. I understand that the qualm is about representing information accurately, but this isn't something that can usually be proven- it just so happens that in this case, it was a blatant transgression.


In other election news...the BC-STV vote

Bruce Krayenhoff outlines benefits to students of voting in favour of the STV.

Why is the BC-STV Referendum So Important for Students?

First of all, research strongly suggests that more representative voting systems do result in better government, so students like everyone else will benefit from better, more stable and more accountable government if BC-STV is implemented.

However, there are a few reasons why BC-STV stands to be particularly beneficial for students:

First of all, voter turnout is about 9% higher in countries with proportional representation, and higher voter turnout generally means more even voter turnout, which means that students and young adults, being a low-voting demographic, are likely to turnout in substantially greater numbers. This will be a good thing in itself and it will force politicians to pay more attention to student issues and give the student voice considerably more clout in the legislature.

Secondly, being young and in a place of learning and ideas, many students would like more than two real choices at the ballot box. Indeed, if young people were the only people voting, the Green Party would be one of the major parties, but right now students who support the Green Party either waste their votes or vote strategically.

Finally, research suggests the implementation of proportional representation results in better environmental performance and lower unemployment, to name just a couple areas which matter to many students.

I have heard a number of students say ‘I think this referendum is even more important than the provincial election itself,’ and I have to agree. With a different party in power, we will see some change for the next four to eight years (i.e. until we vote them out again), but with a better voting system we will see lasting change for generations. Plus, a beachhead in BC will make the adoption of fairer voting systems throughout the rest of North America much easier to realize!


Presidential Platforms: Alex Monegro

After a bit of a delay, Alex Monegro's platform is up and running, and actually looks quite good. The platform outlines some interesting and important points. Below is some analysis of his plans for next year.

The first thing I like about Alex's platform is his approach to issues that are of importance to students- things like hiring/tenure practices, text book prices, and tuition. In some ways, he seems to have realistic expectations of what needs to be done- he doesn't talk about lowering tuition, for instance, but rather about curbing the yearly increases, which I appreciate. He also lays out concrete points that he wishes to pursue in order to achieve his goals, and I feel that his goals are both realistic and achievable. For instance, here's what he has to say about textbook costs:
1. Work with student groups such as IBook Union to create more student driven book exchanges that will decrease book prices to a significantly lower level.

2. Document for students sources of cheaper, used books and learning material in order to decrease the Bookstore’s monopoly on the book market on campus.

3. Demand that the university explain how the high book prices contribute to the student experience on campus.

I quite like the first point- I don't know if it's something that has been looked into previously, but I feel like it's a new idea. The second point and third points I'm not so sure on, however. While I like the idea of providing students with alternatives on where to get their books, I feel like most students already know. Furthermore, there are some things that he seems to lack knowledge of when it comes to the Bookstore- that their general book costs are driven up by classes in which required textbooks are not mass produced, and are therefore expensive. I'm also not sure about the monopoly on the book market- the Village bookstore, while technically not on campus, still provides books and is an alternative. As for the third point, most professors and members of the administration that I've spoken to on the issue are concerned about book costs. I don't want to analyze every point to death, but I think the gist of it is that there are some good ideas and plans that Alex raises in his platform, but I feel that he does lack some knowledge about how things (like the Bookstore) operate. His point on hiring and tenure, for instance, would be a salient one if the university were already not looking at ways to change hiring practices- and they are changing, albeit slowly.

There are some things that, while well-intentioned, I felt were funny (even if they were true). Well, only one thing actually, and it was "Currently many students have to wait ten minutes or more at a bus stop to get on a packed bus." Transit is definitely an important issue, and I am glad that it is addressed in his platform, but I feel like the plan he outlines neglects the problems that Translink is having with its system. When I last talked to a Translink employee, I was told that the problem with people having to wait/not having buses come often enough was caused simply by a lack of buses- that due to the UPass in part, demand exceeded supply. Another idea I liked: mixed-market housing, an approach that I haven't seen mentioned by either of the other candidates.

There are a couple of things I wished I'd see more of, however. I was hoping to see a greater breadth of issues covered- particularly about what happens next year with the Olympics, or what happens if the TAs go on strike when their contracts expire next year. I realize the latter issue hasn't really been talked about at all, but I feel it's one of significant importance. I also would like to see a better understanding of how the AMS works. While some points lay out concrete ideas, other are much more vague or idealistic.

So in overview, my take on platforms is that Blake>Alex>Paul. Blake's platform covers a breadth of issues, and he knows how the AMS works and uses that to his advantage. Alex's also addresses some important issues, but the sense I get from that one is that he lacks the knowledge base, and while he can point out issues concerning students and offer some interesting ideas about ways to address them, he doesn't have the depth of knowledge of the AMS and how it works in order to be able to work to get them achieved. And Paul's is too idealistic for me, and doesn't really lay out concrete plans for how to achieve his goals.


Monday, January 26, 2009


I get to campus today, and what's the first thing I notice? Ubiquitous chalk graffiti covering the sidewalks, walls of buildings. I can't seem to escape the bright colours telling me to vote for iRod. It's like being stuck in some sort of psychedelic dream, only one that's not going quite as planned because instead of seeing pretty splashes of colour that one is supposedly prone to experiencing in such times, I am instead bombarded by messages telling me to vote for a candidate who, had I not paid closer attention to the the message (and had I not been trying extra hard to concentrate in order to compensate for running on 4 hours of sleep), I would have confused for iPod . That extra stroke is tricky when you're tired.

As the morning slowly matured into the afternoon, I relocated several times around campus, only to find that, like rapidly replicating E. coli, the chalk graffiti had multiplied exponentially within a matter of hours. Had I more energy, I would have been tempted to try to model the rate of change in surface area covered by chalk, hoping to see a sinusoidal curve approaching some sort of steady state at which candidates had used up the chalk stores of Vancouver. The cloudiness in my mind cleared for a brief moment in which I contemplated the meaning of the messages elegantly written onto the sidewalks and walls of buildings. My first thought was that UBC would be greatly prettified if only it had more colour. I must admit, nothing makes me happier than a tasteful colour palette complete with pinks and blues, and several building at UBC, including, but not limited to, the likes of the Buchanan tower, are quite devoid of this quality. Campus developers, take note. Colours on campus > no colours on campus. There are psychological studies that have shown that specific colours make people happier- I think this is particularly important during election time. In any case, I think this thought summed up to "the campus has been Chalkified". Also, the explosion of colour reminded me of this:
Just imagine Buchanan Tower instead of the building in the ad. Seriously.

Momentarily distracted by this thought, my next one fell to the actual messages written on said surfaces. Mostly, I was thinking about how much messages actually said about candidates, and whether they actually convinced me to vote for people. I don't normally succumb to orders that easily, but when they're written in pretty colours? I don't know... it's sort of tempting. However, the quality of the artwork also matters- the more artistic, the better. Which means that creative fonts get bonus points, and scribbles or boring fonts like Times New Roman or Arial take you into the negative domain. Furthermore, you definitely lose points for assuming that I'm going to vote for someone based on the number of times I see their name. In fact, the more I see a name, the more annoyed I get with seeing it. There's a delicate balance to be struck- I need to see your name in order to know you exist, and to be interested enough to look into your platform. But seeing your name too many times makes it seem like you went crazy with the chalk. Which is great if you're playing hopscotch or drawing amazing works of art on the sidewalks. But not so much if you're just writing "Vote _____!". Where are the catchy slogans? Things like "Vote for Iggy, it's no biggie" or "Vote for Tim on your whim". Or something catchier, because I've never been good at poetry or catchy rhymes. In any case, I was impressed by Iggy's ability to coordinate a chalk onslaught. I was similarly impressed by Tim's rapid response team quickly getting on the ball to also launch a campaign chalk ad. Most interesting, however, was the person who wrote something along the lines of "The university is making money off of student loans! This must be stopped!". I also enjoyed the chalk ads referencing one another, in perhaps the best display of debate (instead of Q&A sessions) we've seen so far, where candidates actually make attempts at refutation. They have a ways to go, of course, but addressing each other in something other than question format is, I feel, a step in the right direction. I feel this second thought could be summarized by "Chalk wars? I think they have potential."

In general, I'm rather dubious of the effect of campaign posters on persuading voters of anything. I feel like their only purpose is to educate people of the existence of the candidates. I can't say I'm particularly impressed with this year's campaign posters (come on, guys- weren't you inspired by Obama's Hope poster?), and I feel that for the purposes they accomplish, chalk ads do the same thing, but in a more aesthetically pleasing manner.


Guest Post: Part I

This is Serious Steve from the Devil's Advocate with the first part of a guest post. By posting here I am freed from my obligation to be hilarious, so I hope I make up for that in analysis.

I'm going to talk about races in which my opinion is fairly settled, which means this post will be about the VP Academic and University Affairs and President races.

VP Academic and University Affairs

Who should win?

David Nogas has a sprawling, unfocused platform that seems to touch on everything (transit, CASA, a long ramble about an "everything class") except the main focus of the VP Academic and University Affairs position. He has been unclear in the debates, and is unconvincing that he would be able to use the position to make even the change he wants. Next.

Sonia Purewal has Council experience, and her platform talks about the right things, though her debate performances and "about me" section leave it clear that her forte is complaining about UBC. Don't get me wrong - she has some good ideas about how to fix it, and she may do a half-decent job on the academic front. She wants to review retaking finals, reform tutorials -- though I'm not exactly sure how -- and do something about class scheduling. Not awe-inspiring stuff of legend, for sure. Her council experience is an asset, but I'm not convinced that it is a huge asset. She doesn't point to anything specific she achieved as a Council member, which would be nice in convincing me that she is able to achieve change within the system she describes as a "quagmire".

Jeremy Wood. Oh Jeremy. He is by far the most interesting candidate in this race, if only due to his magnificent and brief non-candidacy. He's also the only candidate who is convincing on campus community issues such as the UBC Farm, RCMP relations, and Market Housing (which he capitalizes to emphasize its relationship with Evil). Speaking about equity and a student-centred campus in the debates, he comes across as knollie -- or "radical wing nut" if you read the D.A. -- but interestingly he is not endorsed by the Knoll.

If Jeremy had run a clean campaign and stuck to the issues he promotes, I might even pick him, as he seems to be the only one with a clear vision of the "University Affairs" side of the portfolio; however, his big mistakes during the campaign make me wonder whether a VP Jeremy would bring the right professionalism and direction to the job that is required to make an impact within the University. Would he focus on doing the right things in a pragmatic way, or make himself irrelevant by railing against Housing and Conferences, over-focusing on Equity, and wrecking any chances of a working relationship with the police? I wouldn't gamble my vote on finding out.

And finally, Johannes Rebane. Johannes has made it clear that he has detailed though somewhat minor academic goals: increase value in labs and tutorials (which seems to be code for "make TAs speak English"), extend academic choices through a Pass/Fail option for electives, and connect career resources to better serve students. He's also against commercial development on campus, though like Jeremy implied in the first debate, I doubt he has the necessary drive and experience to make an impact in that area. He has, however, run the best campaign. He has stayed out of trouble, he has plenty of poorly photoshopped posters and a flashy website, and he has a Facebook group second in size only to Bijan Ahmadian.

A year with VP Johannes will likely not mean much change to campus planning, RCMP relations, the UBC Farm or childcare: I doubt he'll set us back anything, but also doubt he'll make major changes. I feel more optimistic about his academic plans, and if his self-promotional blurb about accomplishments as CUS VP Academic is faithful, he will have the drive and know-how to get his goals achieved.

I wish there were a funny and insightful joke candidate running for VP Academic and University Affairs - I'd have no trouble making an endorsement for them. As it is, it's a tough call, but I'll probably vote Johannes > Sonia > Jeremy > David.

Who will win?

In the old electoral system, Johannes Rebane would win this election handily. He has the largest audience to market to (300+ in his Facebook group compared to under 100), has some high profile endorsements, will get the Commerce vote, and faces a rabble of contenders who are mistake-prone, unaligned with any electoral blocs, and not doing a very good job of campaigning.

The new Condorcet system makes it a bit harder to predict. Johannes will probably still win; however, if voters for Johannes prefer Sonia over Jeremy, and those for Jeremy prefer Sonia over Johannes -- which isn't an all to unlikely scenario -- then Sonia could end up being the "best compromise" candidate. However, I find it unlikely that many voters will know more than the one candidate that convinced them to vote, so such a pronounced effect may not happen. In any case, this race will be a very interesting test of the new system.


Who should win?

We can start by ruling out Paul Korczyk. Paul is the outsider candidate, and he makes it very clear in the debates that he is also a one-issue candidate. That issue - student engagement and communication - is huge, but his attention to it to the exclusion of other issues tells us he isn't the right person for the job. Mike Duncan talked about student engagement as part of his platform, and look what he's done: not much. (Engaged some students on the NCAA issue, maybe.) If Mike Duncan can't do it, I don't have much faith in Paul. Sorry, Paul. (Disclosure: in case you didn't hear from his numerous debate references and my reaming of Jeremy Wood over his statements about advising, I work with Paul in Residence Life. I find it tough to disendorse him like this, but it has to be done.)

Blake Frederick is the ideological candidate in this election. We know where his priorities stand: free education! affordable housing! save the farm! lobby! protest! activism! Asked in a debate why he wasn't running for VP External, he replied roughly that he wanted not just a lobbying job, but a wholesale change in the focus of the AMS. An interesting point; however, Blake has been working as an AVP for two years. He's been at the forefront of implementing the two executive portfolios which relate most directly to his stated goals, under two left-wing VPs (Brendon Goodmurphy, former VP Academic, and Stefanie Ratjen, VP Externyl) who were focused on all the same things he is. How much more of the AMS needs to change to focus on these goals when its External office is already gung-ho? Blake would make an excellent VP External, but I am left with questions about his Presidential qualifications.

Questions such as: Will he micromanage the VPs External and Academic and reduce Executive productivity? Will he be able to lead a team effectively? Will he be able to put aside his ideology occasionally to work with the Administration, UNA, and governments? Despite these lingering questions, Blake has the experience in the AMS, is generally a good guy, and captured my heart in last year's election. I find his claim that "as students, we must demand more from our educational institutions and all three levels of government" gives me a vision of the AMS as a positive force of change rather than a reactionary institution with small goals. He's also stood out in the debates, having the clearest message of the three candidates.

Finally, Alex Monegro. Alex has a pragmatic platform with a greater balance of issues than Blake -- education concerns, the cost of tuition, student services and transit all get roughly equal playing time, though it doesn't have the cohesion that Blake's platform does. Either Alex doesn't have a full strategic vision for the direction of the AMS yet, or he doesn't know how to communicate that. His debate performances confirm this for me.

I am more convinced that, if he figures out where he wants the AMS to go, he'd know how to get there. Alex has positioned himself as the "team leader" candidate, touting his experience as VP External of the CUS and pumping himself up as the man to 'get the job done', not by focusing on ideological goals, but by managing his Executive team to achieve more than could be done by one person. The endorsements he has (including, most recently, Darren Peets) seem to corroborate this view of him. I don't know him at all, so I can't personally speak to his accomplishments as a team leader, but it seems to be his strength.

If I could combine Blake and Alex into a supercandidate with Blake's passion about the issues facing students and the university, and Alex's apparent leadership experience and common sense, I would heartily endorse this supercandidate. Forced to make a choice, however, I'm probably going to vote for Blake. In this race, I'll take a risk on the visionary candidate with the clear vision over the practical candidate, especially since the visionary has two years of very relevant experience under his belt. I don't think Blake's the perfect person for the job, nor do I think it's the perfect job for him, but I'll take Blake > Alex > Paul anyway.

Who will win?

This is tough. All three candidates have their separate bases of support: for Alex, Sauder students; for Blake, the knollies; for Paul, advisors and residents who know him. Given the higher proportion of commerce students who typically vote, as well as his Facebook group that is 100 people larger than his two competitors, I'm going to guess that Alex will win this one. The fact that he's a centrist candidate who may well place second in votes for Paul or Blake will also help him in the Condorcet system.

In conclusion... these are my opinions, and you can certainly expect them to quickly be contradicted by both the UBC Insiders writers and the Devil's Advocate editorial staff. I may even be disendorsed for switching horses and (gasp!) tacitly endorsing candidates. Be assured that I'll be back to my usual silly and insulting self over at the D.A.

But until then, you can chew on this analysis of these races. I heartily advise everyone to visit the candidates' websites and make up your own mind; allow me to inform your decision rather than make it for you. Cheers!


Interviews: Paul Korczyk.

The interviews continue! This one is chock full of hockey commentary, which I quite enjoyed, and give props to.

1.) If you had to choose one thing from your platform that you would work on, which would it be and why?
When players talk to eachother on the ice, everything breaks down, and you won't be winning too many games. In the dressing room, if players just keep quiet in their stalls, they won't have team spirit and won't be bought in. I'm sure you see where I'm going with this. Communication.

The AMS needs to revitalize how it interacts and communicates with students. I will personally inform residences of what we're doing, information in residence, if presented correctly, it can spread like wildfire. A more consistent and continuous online presence is important as well. Including, but not limited to media like Facebook, blogs, and presence on the New to UBC and FYI newsletter committees.

However, communication can't stop there. I will make sure to work with the VP external to ensure we have strong communication with the Provincial Government, CASA, and our other local students' associations. Preventing spiking tuition fees, improved child care, and a positive Olympic experience can only be achieved if we're effectively getting our messages across to the BC Government and City of Vancouver council.

2.) How would you describe your leadership style?
A leader needs to know how each position works, and how to act accordingly to best benefit the team as a whole. When Mark Messier came to the Canucks during the 'dark ages', his ego couldn't be controlled and it led to a negative presence. He was constantly at odds with teammates, and the locker room was in shambles because of it. It was the wrong way to lead the team, and the Canucks suffered because of it.

In contrast, my leadership is that of inclusion. Everyone brings valuable information to any team, and everyone has the potential for greatness. My leadership is based on drawing that greatness out of people, and not imposing my own beliefs or my ego on them. However, at the same time, when necessary, I'll fight for my team, and take a game misconduct if needed.

3.) If you had to select another candidate, other than yourself, for your position, who would you select and why?
Steve Yzerman, as a write in ballot. Yzerman was one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He's a born leader, both on and off the ice. His on-ice skill and leadership doesn't need to be backed up, his tenure with the Red Wings brought them out of the cellar into years of league dominance.

4.) What experience have you had leading a team?
Think of me as Mats Sundin coming onto the Vancouver Canucks. I've got a great amount of leadership coming into the new job, but it's coming from somewhere else. In a short amount of time, I'll be a great benefit to the team, but it will take me a few games to learn the ropes. I'm a very quickly learner, and I easily adapt to change and adversity. I can deal with anything that is thrown at me. Like Sundin, I've led committees, like the Leafs' powerplay, and I've been the Captain of a team, who is looked upon for decisions, as well as fighting for my teammates to referees and coaches.

5.) How are you different from the other candidates running for your position?
Many were shocked and angry when Mike Gillis was hired as the new General Manager of the Canucks. He had no previous experience in managing a national hockey league team, and he was thrust into the main role, making the hard decisions and leading a team of executives. His experience came from elsewhere, but has since proven that his lack of job specific experience did not hamper him one bit. He made some 'bold moves' and did a good job to ensure a competetive team 'moving forward', including eventually landing the biggest free agent of the offseason. His connections to the player agent world have been key in putting together some significant pieces of the puzzle.

Sound familiar? I have outside experience that will be extremely valuable. Right now, I'm working in a position that has me in constant contact with parts of campus I don't believe the AMS has connected enough with. The VP students' portfolio is diverse, and focuses on improving student life on campus, just like the AMS. I have dealt closely with many people involved with the portfolio's many programs, and bridging them together with the AMS will end up being a great benefit to students. Increased presence at the SLC, LEAP workshops in the SUB, and more cross-involvement with orientations will be great for students as well as the AMS.

Working UBC Waste Management and Sustainability offices is another important step in the right direction. Compost bins with big AMS logos on them will go a long way in showing students what we're doing for them.

6.) What would you say is the single most important issue concerning UBC students right now?
Education. Great teams always have those star players who can play multiple roles on the team. Think of the Detroit Red Wings, who have guys like Nik Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk. They play different positions, but they chip in all over the ice, and are great both on offence and defence. To win the Stanley Cup, you need a team where everyone is able to contribute on both ends of the rink. Similarly, to have a great University, you need professors that are stars in both teaching and research.

The university in recent years has been focusing too much on improving the researchers it's bringing in. Unfortunately, great researchers don't necessarily make the best instructors. The Carl Wieman teaching initiative has been great for the faculty of science, and the change in how the Wieman program science classes are being taught is remarkable. This needs to be funded and spread throughout the rest of the faculties. The LEAD program is a great step towards that goal, but moving forward, we need to make sure it keeps getting necessary funding and attention, and making sure UBC's new strategic plan includes a vision focused on teaching just as much as it focuses on research.

7.) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Time to take a break from the cheesy hockey analogies. In a heartbeat, I'd go back to Poland for a bit. I miss my family. My cousins have slowly been getting facebook the last few months, and while it's great being in touch a little more, it's making me miss being there. I haven't been back in three years now. I've missed two weddings through not being able to afford plane tickets, and it's been killing me. One of my other cousins is getting married this summer, but it's not looking much better for me being able to get out there, so if I could go anywhere in the world, it'd be Poland for Tomek's wedding.


Words from the wise man of past: Darren Peets

Many of you know him as the Firehydrant, some of you may know him as Darren Peets, but regardless of how you may refer to him, you probably all know him to be someone who knows a heck of a lot about the BoG. Below is an article he wrote for the Insiders about the race for the BoG. Enjoy!

Several candidates have asked for my endorsement, and it seemed to me that
it would be better if I did a comprehensive job of evaluating people instead
of selectively supplying soundbites. The catch, of course, is that I've
been out of the country since the end of September, and was very busy
writing a thesis in the spring, so I don't necessarily know how people have
done in current roles, or how they've matured. I'm trusting you to take
this with a grain of salt, use your own opinions and priorities, and just
generally think for yourself.

The Board race has a very strong set of candidates this year. Since I
served on Board and know all five candidates fairly well, I figure I can
offer more insight here than in other races.

First, Board is tricky, because it requires that students have a very strong
understanding of how the university works. They need to work with
administrators to improve UBC, and they need to work with other Board
members to resolve contentious issues to the extent possible before
the meeting. Student Board members have very few meetings and essentially
no power, but they have incredible access and an excellent opportunity to
guide change. A bright and interested student dragged in off the street
could do a decent job in most (but not all) AMS executive positions. This
is not true of Board. Fortunately, all five candidates have strong
backgrounds. I'll cover them in alphabetical order.

Bijan Ahmadian is a former student of mine. He can be quite stubborn when
he has an issue he's pursuing, although sometimes to the point of
infuriating people. While he'd be persistent one-on-one on some specific
issues, I can't picture him actually opposing the administration or Board if
it came down to it. His specialty is networking, and I have little doubt he
could call up any member of Board or the admin at this point and talk with
them. My concern is that he may view Board as a vehicle for personal
networking, rather than viewing networking as a way to serve students. He
has a year of experience, which is very useful, although most of the other
candidates still likely have more background on the issues. If he doesn't
know what he's talking about in the detail required, that may not stop him
from arguing his case, which would be extremely counterproductive --
hopefully he's stopped doing this (this would be more an issue when talking
with administrators than Board members). He would be best paired on Board
with someone who knows the University inside and out, so they can get him
well versed on issues and put his skills to work.

Speaking of which, next is Andrew Carne. Andrew has a very detailed
knowledge of UBC and most of its inner workings, and he's been watching
Board meetings for about 1.5 years. On quite a number of occasions, I've
seen him have "wait, what?" moments, where he's been immediately struck by
the absurdity of something UBC is doing or planning to do, often clearer and
faster than me. An ability to spot things out of place quickly is
important, since Board members have very little time with the material
before they have to vote on it. My one concern with Andrew is I simply
don't know whether he's good at talking with administrators and convincing
them to do things, although working with then-Dean Isaacson puts a bit of a
trial by fire under his belt. He has a history of first determining exactly
what his constituents want, then working hard to get it. He'd do an
exceptional job, overall, but it might be best to pair him with someone with
better networking or connections.

I don't envy Mike Duncan for the executive he had to hold together and keep
focussed this past year, but he seems to have done an excellent job, and is
well-known to the administration. I doubt he's made many enemies, although
he can sometimes spread himself thin enough to seem inattentive on some
issues and he occasionally steps on toes a bit through carelessness. It's a
bit hard for me to really know how he'd do in the Board role, since people
tend to mature a lot as President and I haven't been around to see the
results of this. He probably doesn't have quite the depth of knowledge of
Andrew Carne, but he has strong networking skills (as his Facebook friends
list indicates), and is good at quickly extracting the key message from a
large amount of detailed information, a useful skill. My guess is he'd be
better at strategic visioning than most, if not all, of the other
candidates. That's a large part of the President's job and it's a type of
thinking that takes a lot of getting used to. He'd do a very good job, I
suspect, particularly if paired with someone who can keep him focussed on
Board and on specific issues.

Blake Frederick I have trouble pinning down. Some of his thoughts and
opinions have been very well thought-through and well backed-up, while
others have been quite simplistic and based purely in idealism. (I'm a
practical, pragmatic person, not an idealist, as are essentially all Board
members -- they ignore and get frustrated by idealists). His platform's
introduction contains observations that are true, but not solvable at the
Board level, and assertions that are false but sound good. His platform
points blend President and Board, but most are really about provincial
lobbying (possibly due to his AMS history), and the language ("pressure",
"oppose", "demand", "prevent") suggests an approach incompatible with the
Board role. Blake knows a fair bit about UBC, and has a lot of things he'd
like to fix. I'm not convinced his approach would allow him to actually fix
much as a Board member, though. His presence serves to keep the other
students on track, but having people like that is more useful on bodies like
AMS Council, rather than Board, where only a handful of people would be
receptive. He'd be better in other portfolios, particularly VP External.

Tristan Markle is another difficult one for me. When Tristan first showed
up on Council, he came in with a background as a protester, and his
contributions were so far out in left field (framing questions around our
being in a corrupt capitalist system, with air quotes around words like
"money") that he was met with blank stares. He quickly recognized this
gulf, and became self-mocking to deal with it. He was elected to VP Admin,
where the practicalities of getting a building built changed his approach
(although the idealism and some old bad habits are clearly still there -- as
of several months ago he was still making statements in which a highly
questionable "should" would become an "is"). Again, I don't know how much
he's changed. In VP Admin, he's in charge of his portfolio and answerable
to The People, and there's no Man to fight. That's not true with Board, and
it's hard for me to guess whether or to what extent he'd fall back into
outbursts that they'd find insulting or incomprehensible. He has a very
detailed knowledge of specific parts of how UBC works, but not as broadly as
Andrew or Mike. I cannot imagine him networking effectively (or wanting to)
with this crowd, nor can I see him effectively convincing administrators to
change their approach. Some students like people who will take idealistic
stances and stick to them. I suspect Tristan would do this. I don't
believe it would be effective.

For Board, I'd pick Andrew Carne and Michael Duncan, in that order of

The President's role is the other one where experience is especially
important -- if you don't know in detail how the AMS works and what the VPs
and staff do, they'll walk all over you for a few months until you figure it
out, and your presence will serve little purpose. If people look to you for
leadership and your response is "come back in a few months", they'll look
elsewhere. You can't change a complex organization you don't understand, in
part because the people who don't want to change can always raise some issue
you hadn't thought of or didn't know about. While it may seem a bit unfair,
I'm going to summarily dismiss Paul Korczyk on this basis (note that I don't
know him).

Blake I've largely covered, and there's a fair bit of overlap in skills
required for President and Board. The President sets the overall direction
of the AMS and changes things as need be. Blake can certainly set lobbying
priorities, although I'd question the effectiveness of the approach he seems
to favour (other than as a fall-back once diplomacy has failed). Other than
lobbying, it's not clear to me what he'd want to do with the role.

Alex is quite bright and would be an excellent team leader -- the VPs would
have a lot of autonomy and support where they needed it, while he'd likely
spend a fair bit of effort pondering where the AMS should be headed and how
best to get it there. This could (but might not) lead to significant,
low-profile internal improvements. Externally, he'd be trying to convince
people to implement policy, but in a friendly, helpful manner. I've seen
his approach used on the provincial government, and it was quite successful.
At the municipal level, I don't know how it will work. However, it's
difficult to guess what issues he'd pursue, because his platform is thin,
vague and buzzwordy. Alex, you can do better.

Of the two, I'd pick Alex and hope that he figured out what he was going to
do with his year.

At VP Academic I only know one of the four candidates, and haven't had a
chance to see her do much, so I don't think it's fair to comment.

At VP External, I know Tim a little, I've never met Iggy, and there are two
joke candidates, one the arch-nemesis of my pet Fire Hydrant. Tim is nice
and a great person, but he occasionally has some very strange priorities.
His platform has a significant focus on equity within the AMS, which is
neither a VP External issue nor an issue that any significant fraction of
the student body cares about. (Is it a problem? I don't know. Should we
study it? Yes, and AMS Council approved doing that almost a year ago. Is
it something you can base a campaign on? No.) Can we trade Blake to VP
External for Tim and a second-round draft pick? One thing I feel compelled
to point out if Council's make-up is at issue: a remarkable fraction of UBC
students live at home with their parents and commute (if I remember
correctly, just over 40%). When the motion came up almost a year ago to
study this, I asked how many people around the Council table lived with
their parents and commuted. One. If there's an underrepresented group,
this is it. And almost nobody mentions them.

If I had to vote in this race, I'd need to know Iggy better before being
able to choose who to vote for.

At VP Admin, neglecting the joke candidates, we have Tristan Markle as the
status quo candidate and Crystal Hon as the outsider. I just have to repeat
that -- Tristan Markle is the status quo candidate. I've pretty sure I've
met Crystal... once, and I have no idea how she'd do in the job. Tristan
has done a pretty decent job as VP Admin, is completely up to speed, and
would keep the project moving along rapidly. He seems to have a very strong
commitment to both sustainability and consultation, which are important
here. Someone new in the portfolio (as Tristan was last year) generally
feels compelled to put things on hold while they figure out what's going on
(or risk getting steamrolled by what's already in motion), and they
generally want to put their own stamp on the project, setting it back a
month or two. The one caveat is that the speed of the project and the
approach of Mike and Tristan to keep the project going full speed ahead and
leave the admin in the dust if need be (an approach I fully supported) may
have stepped on some toes. In that case, a change of face and short delay
may be beneficial, provided the negotiating experience isn't lost. But my
strong inclination is to support Tristan here. As for the joke candidates,
Keg and Fountain have far too much in common to be fighting. Surely they
can agree to the installation of campus beer lines direct to beer fountains?
Come on, you two, get to know each other better over a round of drinks, and
just be friends.

At VP Finance, I barely know Ale and don't know Tim. The budget is prepared
early in the year, and substantial change can only be made by someone from
within the finance portfolio. Neither has that background. One has a
commerce background and one has an AMS commission background, so both are
partway there.

I hope someone, somewhere, found this helpful. And again, keep in mind that
I don't know all the people or how they've matured, that I tend to be the
middle-of-the-road pragmatic type, which you may not be, and that you have a
brain and should make your own decisions.


BREAKING: Bijan's response

This just came into my facebook inbox after I tried to contact Bijan to hear his side of the story.

In recent days, I have come under attack based on a partial recording of a meeting of Friends of the Farm at which I spoke. Through this response, I hope to clarify both the context and my position on the UBC Farm.

I believe it is important to clarify that the recording a) represents only a fraction of a larger meeting b) was posted online without context by an anonymous blogger. Based on the way this blogger frames the issue, it seems to be part of a deliberate smear campaign designed to prevent me from being re-elected to the Board of Governors. As someone who has never taken democracy for granted, I find these politics of personal destruction disheartening.

After the Friends of the Farm mentioned that they had endorsed Tristan Markle for the Board of Governors, I explored the possibility of an endorsement from them. I was invited to present to one of their meetings, at which the group was going to vote on who to endorse as a second Board candidate. I was later told that my presentation resulted in a split vote in my favour, and therefore no endorsement was made for the second Board position. Clearly, many people at the meeting understood that I am supportive of preserving the Farm.

The clip refers to a specific project beyond general support of the Farm, for which I said I needed an endorsement to signal my relationship with the Friends of the Farm. I had discussed the details of that project with the group earlier in the meeting. Given the large number of stakeholders engaged with the Farm issue, I stressed that I was reluctant to make that project a top priority if students and the university administration would not see me as legitimately speaking on behalf of farm advocates.

My message has been deliberately taken out of context in order to imply that I am more interested in blackmail and the accumulation of personal power than in representing students. I have served UBC students in elected capacities for a number of years, and I am not unfamiliar with the political side of student politics - but to me, that accusation goes beyond the pale.

I have been very clear on my posters and website about my desire to ensure that the University meets its commitment to the UBC Farm through the creation of a refreshed academic plan across all disciplines for teaching and research on the Farm. While I have paid close attention to the Farm issue during my term on the Board, I am not a one-issue person. I have successfully focused on other matters such RCMP issues and student housing, and I will continue to do so if re-elected. I do not believe this election should be fought solely over one issue, and nor do I believe it should be fought through underhanded and misrepresentative character assassination.

Please note that the same thing was posted on Gossip Guy's blog as well. In any case, thoughts? Is his 1.5 minute response justified by the circumstances? Who could this anonymous tipper have been? Please discuss.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

BREAKING: Oh, Bijan, why must you disappoint?

It seems like a long-term participant in student politics has decided that selling his integrity is perhaps more important than actually doing what he was elected to do- namely, to represent students' interests on campus. This strikes me to be particularly unfortunate because Bijan is in position to be re-elected onto the BoG. Unfortunately, it seems like the comments linking me to the site with the information have been removed, but luckily I had saved the url.

"“I have been kind of clear that if you endorse me [..] I will have a very solid commitment [..] but if you do not endorse me, then i won’t be emailing people saying this is my project this year. If i get your endorsement, this it is a contract for me, and anything otherwise would be a breach of contract from my perspective, and I know that this may sound like I…I’m not saying I wouldn’t be representing you if I get elected, but it’s that endorsement that says that we have a relationship now and we can build on that relationship.” He then added that he had calculated that he would likely win the election, insinuating that FotF was therefore forced to endorse him."
~Bijan Ahmadian

I'm sad to find out that a candidate would be willing to sacrifice his credibility, integrity, and his candidacy by making such a remark- particularly when he seems to have a shot at winning the seat for which he's running, at which point it makes little sense. The link to the website providing the article and the audio is as follows:

One thing to keep in mind is that the comment was made by an anonymous person, and there is no way of verifying its veracity, nor the authenticity of the audio clip provided on the site. If, however, the audio clip is genuine, one can only speculate reasons for the remarks. Intimidation tactics are rarely used when one has little to gain, so I would speculate that Bijan must indeed be afraid of losing his position on the BoG to resort to such threats. Which makes sense, given that his rivals, Michael "over 1000 UBC friends" Duncan and Blake "knows his stuff/presidential candidate" Frederick. That, or he's gotten too big for his breeches after several years in student politics. Hopefully we'll get a response to the statement, and, hopefully, the link will remain up for some time.

Edit: Here's a transcript of the audio recording, written up by SeriousSteve of the Devil's Advocate (just in case the site is taken down).

"On, sorry, the first thing about whether I would do this anyway. I have thought a lot about what my other priorities would be if I weren't doing this, and the relationship with the RCMP is one that needs to be finished; the housing demand on campus is another thing. I have been kind of clear that, if you endorse me, and if we have that contract between each other, then I will have a very solid commitment. I know that I'm emailing everyone saying that I have made this solid commitment, but if you're not endorsing me, then I won't be emailing people saying "this is my project this year." If I'm getting an endorsement this is a contract for me, and anything otherwise would be a breach of contract from my perspective. I'm not saying that I wouldn't be representing you if I get elected, but it's that endorsement that allows me to say, okay, we build a relationship now, and it's my commitment now to build upon that relationship. I want to also emphasize that, based on my calculations I am very likely to win this election, and I'm basing that calculation based on how many people I've been able to get to volunteer, which is about 100, and the size of the facebook group, which is now reaching about 500, and based on our calculations we can increase the group by about 50 per person by the time polls open. With that going on, and I like this project because it acts in my academic interests, and it also helps me just take some of that pressure off . So yes - I want to be candid about it."


Friday, January 23, 2009

More interviews: David Nogas, Tim Chu & Sonia Purewal

More candidates for various positions have gotten back to me with their interview responses. For your reading pleasure, here they are!

David Nogas

1.) If you had to choose one thing from your platform that you would work on, which would it be and why?

First year education reform. There's a lot of things that can be done, the university realises there are fixable problems, lots of great new ideas floating around(that work great in other uni's) and the AMS can help. You have to make sure first years(especially commuters) are aware of the opportunities here and make information available and meaningful.

Specific academic things that can be done are organising speakers to talk to undergraduates(with a recommendation system and social aspect), giving non academic credit as incentives for UBC supervised leadership and participation, reforming worthless tutorials, introducing the P/F system to eliminate the discouragement of broadening horizons by potentially bad grades, video podcasting lectures, etc. Its critical to show them what they are working for, making them aware all the cool and interesting things being done in upper year classes so they don't get too discouraged by a boring or bland first experience, thinking thats all there is to the field. There's nothing sadder than hearing a friend say "I would of loved to be in cognitive systems if I knew it existed"

You got to get these kids early, the cigarette companies know it, the drug dealers know it, and now you know it too. Once they see the possibilities and are interested in learning and getting involved good things happen, no sense it opening their eyes when they are out the door

2.) How would you describe your leadership style?

Lofty and King-like. The job is all about delegation and communication, you have to tap qualified and motivated people and trust them enough so you don't have to micromanage their responsibilities, they'll do a better job for it. People will impress you if you give them time, as long as they want to impress you.

I believe in workarounds, the visible result is all that matters, not how you get there. The best ideas can come at the oddest hours, sometimes more progress can be made when sharing beers and stories than when sharing documents and soundbytes at meetings.

When talking to people who have different int rests than myself, its important to keep that in mind. In a negotiation you always need to look at the big picture. You can't make concessions that are detrimental to students unless they are absolutely necessary to gain value, and its ok to pause _everything_ while you figure it out.

Everyone deserves to be treated like fellow human beings,
Nobody likes fancy titles thrown in their face.

Finally, the presumption of knowledge is dangerous. If you assume you know everything you will be less receptive to reality and will make more mistakes

Oh, and I don't mind a bit of disorganization, the wiggle room makes things run more smoothly

3.) If you had to select another candidate, other than yourself, for your position, who would you select and why?

Tough question. I can't give you a reason that will make you'd want to pick them over me, backhanded compliments are lame, and I can't just slander them and ignore your question

Honestly theres no one to get excited about in this race
Jeremy - Passionate but uninformed
Sonia - Informed but ineffective
Johannas - Motivated but seems to care about himself more than others

I think Johannas or Sonia would do fine, but candidates next year will be talking about the exact same things. Johannas would prop ably do the best job with academics, but I wouldn't trust him to make the right descions on campus development.

Sonia as a caretaker, Johannas has more upside but more risk

4.) What experience have you had leading a team?

Nothing too impressive. When I was in high school I led kids in a stewardship program for the Vancouver Aquarium(making sure they didn't wander off), when I got my blackbelt I mentored the lower levels. With friends, I'm usually the person who gets the group organised to go to a movie or skiing

People were pretty lucky to have me in their lab group for most classes. I've been working in labs as a research assistant since my second year so I have alot of experience, many of the experiments that were completely new to most people I've done a hundred times. My groups were usually consistently the first to finish.

5.) How are you different from the other candidates running for your position?

I think the difference is personality and skill. I like talking with people, coming up with schemes, and have a good sense when people want something from me. You have to see opportunities and I think I have better vision. I see how things could work

One difference between me and and Sonia is that she works harder than I do. Johannas is living in the future, planning how he'll get there.

6.) What would you say is the single most important issue concerning UBC students right now?

It will be the Olympics soon, but that's a short term thing that will pass(hopefully smoothly)

The SUB renewal project is the issue I can act on that will have the greatest effect on students. If its done competently, it could be the best part of the university for generations. Badly designed it could be an albatross hanging on our necks for the next 30 years. (I'm on the SUB renewal committee)

Thinking more holistically, the single most important issue is the changing role of university in society. The ground is moving underneath our feet. A degree doesn't mean the same thing as it did 20 years ago. Jobs that require a high school diploma now require a university degree, jobs that required a university now require a Masters. Its a discussion we need to have with the people in charge and with the people who will be affected. People are uncertain about what they are going to do when they graduate, what they got out of their years here

7.) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Too many to pick from, I love the whole world - all its sights and sounds

Recreating Project Excelsior would be something else, a 4 minute freefall over a gorgeous part of the world

If you don't mind a bit(lot) of cheating, if I could go anywhere in the world it would be the 1995 London office of Alastair Fothergill along with the rest of the "Blue planet" crew to celebrate the beginning of shooting.

I always wanted to go backpacking in untamed Africa.

Tim Chu

If you had to choose one thing from your platform that you would work on, which would it be and why?

First of all, I intend acting on every single issue that is on my platform, not just one. Having said that, I think one priority I feel very passionate about is the issue of AMS representation. Women and ethnic minorities are grossly underrepresented. It is not acceptable that at a university where more women graduate annually than men, less than 25% of council is female. Yet paid student services positions are overwhelmingly composed of females. The fact that AMS Council is not truly representative of the student body is very frustrating and pressing because those groups who are underrepresented, their interests are often overlooked in AMS Council. I want to not only examine the reasons why this is the case but work with campus clubs, resource groups, and Council to ensure that VP Externals don’t have to worry about this issue. By making AMS Council truly representative, we would shift the direction of the AMS towards the way that students actually want. And I intend on doing so.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Very inclusive. I believe in including all the stakeholders before making a decision. For far too long, the AMS have always neglected certain groups on campus. I also believe in listening and addressing the concerns of the various groups on campus. However, I am also very realistic. I understand that not everyone’s concerns and needs can be met but certainly the AMS can.

In my work with the AMS and the AUS many leadership opportunities have come up, and my colleagues all agree that I am a capable leader who knows how to combine inclusivity with effectiveness.

If you had to select another candidate, other than yourself, for your position, who would you select and why?

Fire! In order to survive in the AMS, you need to have a fiery passion for the job. The AMS can be very tedious and frustrating. I certainly have the fiery passion, I think Fire as well.

What experience have you had leading a team?
The experiences I had in leading a team include when I was an AUS councillor. When organizing FrAUSh, I was responsible for coordinating and leading the volunteers. Furthermore, I was the Assistant to the Academic Coordinator of the AUS. However, during the period between the resignation of the Academic Coordinator and the appointment of a new Academic Coordinator, I had to step up to the plate and lead the Academic Committee to do various tasks, including the planning of the Performing Arts Showcase.

How are you different from the other candidates running for your position?

There are two major distinctions between me and other candidates running for my position.

The first is that I am very serious about this position. I understand that students turn to the AMS when they need help and I understand that this position entails a fair amount of pressure to perform. I am very serious about this position.

The second is experience. Of all the candidates running for VP-External, I have the most experience to do the job. I have been involved with the AMS and I understand how it works. And I work well with the staff and other councillors. I sat on a total of five committees of the AMS, two of which were the External Lobbying Committee and the Equity Committee chaired by the VP-External. Furthermore, I worked for the AMS in the External Lobbying Committee and led the AMS through two elections, a municipal and a federal election. I know what techniques work and what methods don’t. A provincial election is coming up and my experience is essential. That is what makes me distinct from other candidates. Furthermore, to truly work to change the status quo you must know and understand what the status quo is, and why it is flawed. I know and understand the problems facing the AMS because I have been actively involved in the AMS. I am the right person for the job because I understand how to go about making the necessary changes.

What would you say is the single most important issue concerning UBC students right now?
The upfront cost of education is the single most important issue concerning UBC students right now. Students are struggling with the cost-of-loving, are burdened with the increasing tuition fees and are faced with rising student debt. This is the single most important issue concerning UBC students and I want to work with students and the government to address this concern.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to the centre of the earth. ‘Cause if I start digging a tunnel to China, well, I’d already be halfway there right?

Sonia Purewal

1.) If you had to choose one thing from your platform that you would work on, which would it be and why?

I would work to consolidate the academic services offered by the AMS, AMS constituencies and UBC so that students know exactly what is offered and how to access them. I want assess the quality of these resources, rank them in terms of usefulness by faculty, year and major and create a webpage that would allow students to do a custom search so that they only get services that would be most useful/applicable to them. I feel that many services are accessed by a small subset of students and many do not even know that they exist. So I would heavily publicize these services and ensure students can easily access them to improve their academics at UBC. I would choose to focus on this because this is an area of the portfolio I have complete control over. Achieving this goal doesn’t depend on lobbying the University but rather on whether I decide to dedicate myself and thus any failure to implement changes would be on me. I want to take action and see tangible changes that are going to effect current students. Too much time is spent creating policy and writing reports, its time to implement those policies.

2.) How would you describe your leadership style?

I love working with others to solve problems. I like facilitating discussion and allowing individuals to take initiative and pursuing issues they are passionate about when possible with oversight. I am ultimately responsible so I ensure key tasks are completed on time with a set date for deliverables to ensure that work is done and we are on track to completing whatever it is that we are working on. I find individuals do there best work when they have ownership and know that they have a responsibility and obligation to ensure that what needs to be done, is done. I am not controlling in nature and recognize that I am not an expert in all areas. So I find it extremely important to recognize the skill and knowledge of those who work with me and thus encourage collaboration. But most of all, I am reasonable and realistic and respect those around me which creates an excellent working environment which is the first step in accomplishing anything.

3.) If you had to select another candidate, other than yourself, for your position, who would you select and why?

I would choose Jeremy Wood. With respect to the other candidates, he is most genuine and that is an important quality if AMS executives are going to connect to the student body. There is no question that he cares about issues with respect to sustainability and the Farm and if that passion extends to the rest of the portfolio, tangible change can happen.

4.) What experience have you had leading a team?

This is what I do. I began my involvement as Philanthropy Chair of Phrateres UBC. I was responsible for the coordination and organization of the Terry Fox Run for the UBC Community along with a multitude of charity events. That required effective communication and organizational skills. I was a SUS councilor and executive. As Director of Sports, I coordinated and managed 13 intramural Rec teams involving over 150 students, created a series of activity workshops to get students active and engaged in a healthy lifestyle and organized events such as Science Olympics. I am also a Computer Science Student Society Executive. I work to engage Computer Science students and create a network that provides them with the support to get through a strenuous program. I have been involved in Imagine and Gala…

5.) How are you different from the other candidates running for your position?

I am the only candidate with any AMS experience as a counselor. In order to be an effective VP Academic and University Affairs, you need to know the structure of the AMS and how it works. You need to know what’s broken and what the AMS is doing well in order to accomplish anything tangible. There is a process in implementing change within the institution of the AMS and the university and that has not been addressed. I have noticed how easily experience has been dismissed in the VP Academic race as the other three candidates have none. Citing experience within an AMS constituency or advocacy group is not good enough. I have been involved at the constituency level and the process in getting anything done and the politics are vastly different. If the other candidates were elected, they would spend more time learning how to do the job than actually doing it whereas I could hit the ground running. This is really important when you only have a short amount of time in office to accomplish anything.

Furthermore, the other candidates have great ideas, but many are unrealistic or infeasible as they require massive amounts of funding which is not available. They expect the provincial government to contribute but this is unrealistic as the provincial government has just cut funding and any funding received will need to go towards areas that lost that funding in the first place. They offer no short term solutions to address current needs of students.

Finally, I genuinely care about this position and have no other reason for pursuing this opportunity but to improve the student experience because I feel cheated that I did not have the experience I expected. No one would put more of themselves into this job to make things happen. When I reflect on my time in student government, I want to be able to say that I made a real difference and took action rather than draft policy and write reports. I understand the role and responsibility of the VP Academic and University Affairs and will not make empty promises and say I will do something that I know I can not accomplish. I refuse to use buzzwords and issue sound bytes. I am not good at spewing rhetoric. I try to honestly address answers and I hope the electorate can see that. I may not always be eloquent but it’s the truth. It would be easy to speak in generalities and simply say I will support and lobby the university to put student interests first but these are empty statements. It’s more important to address how this will be done and the approach that will be taken. I hope the electorate will recognize that

6.) What would you say is the single most important issue concerning UBC students right now?

I would say that it is the disconnect between the students and the university campus and the AMS. Many students are being cheated out of an amazing university experience us because there is very limited communication. The onus is currently on students to find out what’s happening. Although, it’s important for students to take initiative in this regards we need to make an effort to inform them. Students need to recognize who they are being represented by and what issues are being addressed. Once this happens, students will see the positive work the AMS is pursuing will want to be involved or at least informed of the continuing efforts and utilize the services and resources the AMS provides.

7.) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why

I would want to go to France. It’s a beautiful country with a rich history and unique culture that I would love to experience.

Stay tuned for more!