Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gordo In Da House

Ah, election day. The day I walk into the SUB for my morning coffee and notice over a dozen cameramen and reporters just milling about in the concourse. Were there more bonfires last night? Another murder in the park? Doesn't seem likely.

Who's that grey-haired man with snazzy glasses walking in with an entourage? Why it's Gordon Campbell, coming to the SUB for his voting photo-op!

I wish I had had my own camera on hand, but I suppose you can watch some footage on any newscast this evening. It was interesting to see the news machine at work.

He brought the full entourage, including the seldom-seen wife, kids and grandkids, with one big burly RCMP officer dressed in black, constantly standing on the periphery.

As he entered a voting booth, he had his back to the reporters. Being hopelessly naive, I expected the cameras at that point to turn away, or stop filming at least temporarily, to respect the fact that voting is supposed to be private. Instead, they stepped it up a notch. The CityTV cameraman was particularly shameless, holding his camera aloft above his head in hopes of getting a better shot. For Christ's sake, do you want him to just pass around his marked ballot? It's not like you don't know who he's voting for.

Then came the posing with his ballot half in the box. If the photo-op nature of this event was not yet obvious enough to observers, he asked everyone if they had gotten the shot they wanted before actually putting it in the box. Then the scrum moved outside for a brief Q&A.

At this point I was thinking: where's the AMS? Let me first say that I absolutely don't have any expectations that it is the AMS execs' duty to constantly harass Gordon Campbell or other politicians. That should not be one of the primary duties in their job description.

However, the external office did put out a press release in April bitching about how ministers made themselves unavailable, (followed of course by the obligatory NayloRant™). The AMS has told the world that they are quite eager to meet with politicians, and are unhappy that they were not able to. So you might think that having the premier walk into their own god-damned building on election day followed by a gaggle of reporters and cameramen might represent a good chance to ask him some questions! No such luck today, though Blake and Crystal did leave whatever they were doing to catch the very end of the scrum.

I couldn't actually hear most of the questions and answers since in the interest of informing the public about this absolutely vital story (Premier ♥ voting and democracy!) the media formed an impenetrable wall around him, keeping the actual public away. He pimped out his grandkids, and gave some pretty stock answers to some pretty milquetoast questions. Then it was off to the parking lot by the bookstore to do... whatever else he is doing today.

Edit: Well, there it is. Gordo and his ballot, currently the lead picture on globeandmail.com. You can even make out the out-of-focus AMS logo in the background.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

AMS Council: May 6, 2009

After a month-long break for exams, AMS council met tonight. Highlights:

  • AMS to reimburse AUS $35,062.04 for accumulated Arts County Fair debt.
  • Azim Wazeer, Joel Mertens and Josh Sealy recommended as new student senators
  • Lots of committee appointments
  • Whistler Lodge improvements
  • External Office to stop distributing some provincial election campaign materials deemed partisan, must remove some already-posted campaign materials deemed out of line with lobbying priorities

Since this is the start of a new year, in a way, there were many new faces and lots of introductions to be made. Dave Tompkins is speaker for another year. Sheldon proudly mentions that he and Dave are the only ones in the room who have been with the AMS since since the last century (last millennium actually, as someone else astutely pointed out.)

Executive Remarks:
  • Blake's Broadcast: Lots of meetings with UBC admin; Block Party and Great Farm Trek; Hired a new assistant; Held student-staff appreciation lunch; New SUB negotiations with university are progressing, albeit slower than hoped for.

  • VP Finance: Looking at some renos to get some more office space; Block Party brought in ~$100,000 in revenues, but expenses were a bit higher than that; recently resolved a student fee issue that resulted in AMS getting ~$500k they were due; Blue Chip will be getting renovations to be fully equipped to do chilled drinks over the summer.

  • VP Admin: New SUB survey completed and results will be posted online soon in condensed, more readable form; new water fountains coming this month and will encompass both drinking fountains and bottle-filling stations; AMS will try to phase out bottled water at their outlets and sell AMS re-useable water bottles.

  • VP Academic/UA: Has been liaising with RCMP regarding olympic security and liquor policy issues; Sgt. Dan Wendland is gone with replacement coming this month; UNA and RCMP are working on a noise by-law to bring to the province; has been talking to provost and CUPE about TA training issues; NSSE founder will be making presentation tomorrow; who wants ice cream?

  • VP External: Lots of work on provincial election campaign; Translink AGM is coming up; looked into applicability of residential tenancy act on campus.

  • ECSS: mostly has been doing a whole lot of hiring for the upcoming year.

Code and Policy: Will look into why Code places restrictions on holding more than one AMS position at a time.

Senate Appointments: Student Senate Caucus went through a number of applications, did some interviews and ended up picking Azim Wazeer, Joel Mertens and Josh Sealy. There was some concern about whether the advertisement for this position was done, but given that way more people applied for the appointments than for the elections seems to indicate something was done right. Motion passed unanimously. Joel Mertens returns to council as Senate rep. Awkward moment: Guillaume Houle tried to get Geoff Costeloe to say that the meeting to pick the new senators took place during a hockey game, to no avail.

SUS Referendum Results: SUS recently had passed a referendum to index their student fee to CCPI (Canadian Consumer Price Index) and needs AMS to rubber stamp this. There are multiple versions of the CCPI; some debate over which one to use since it was not specified in the referendum question. Although SUS finances were admittedly fine, they feel is more sustainable and hopefully saves them from going to referendum every few years to raise it. SUS is the first constituency to index their fee to inflation. Motion passed.

Arts County Fair Debt Repayment: As expected, discussion on this item was quite lengthy. I won't summarize it right now and the arguments for and against are already known, I hope. Before I give myself carpal tunnel typing it all out, let's see what the Ubyssey comes up with. End result: 23-7 in favour of repaying $35,062.04 to the AUS for accumulated Arts County Fair debt.

Commitee Appointments: Sorry for the lack of last names, but Dave generally doesn't put them up, so if I don't already know it, it won't be there. Also, I apologize in advance since I'm certain there is a mistake or two in here.
  • CiTR: Duncan McHugh, Aaron Nakama, Tahara Bhate, Bijan Ahmadian
  • Irving K. Barber Library Stewardship Committee: Crystal Hon, Kyle Warwick
  • LEAD: Tahara Bhate, Bijan Ahmadian, Lin Watt
  • Oversight: Jimmy Yan, Joel Mertens, Laura Silvester, Kyle Warwick, Tony Yang
  • Budget Committee: Kyle Warwick, "Ben", "K"
  • Appointments Review: Kat, Aaron Sihota, Tim Chu
  • Business Operations Committee: Guillaume Houle, Laura Silvester, Aaron Sihota, Joel Mertens, Hafiz Dossa
  • Impacts: Hannes Dempewolf, Madeleine Schaefer, Kyle Warwick
  • Sexual Assault Support Services Fund: Elena Kusaka, Pavani
  • Code and Policy: Andrew Carne, Tahara Bhate, Matt Naylor, Blake Frederick, Jeremy Wood, Emily Griffiths
  • Campus events committee: Fraser, Carolee Changfoot, Tony Yang, Lin Watt
  • Fundraising and sponsorship committee: Madeleine Schaefer, Tony Yang, Tagg Jefferson
  • Campus Planning and Development: Jeremy McElroy, Andrew carne, "Pierce"
  • Renovations Planning: Andrew Carne, Jimmy Yan, Carolee Changfoot
  • Sub Renew: Luke(GSS), Jeremy McElroy
  • AMS/GSS Health and Dental Plan Committee: Matt Naylor
  • Equity: Geoff Costeloe, Tim Chu, Kat
  • Executive Renumeration: Aaron Sihota, Jimmy Yan
  • External Policy Committee: Matt Naylor, Kat, Tahara Bhate, Kyle Warwick, Elena Kusaka, Kiran, Iggy Rodriguez

SAC Appointments:
  • SAC Member: Elin Tayyar
  • Bookings Commissioner: David Le
  • Buildings Commissioner: Kyle Lai
  • Special Projects Commissioner: Cindy Zhan
  • Art Gallery Commissioner: Jeremy Jaud
  • Club Commissioner: Elaine Chin
  • Administrative Commissioner: Sima Shoker

AMS Preliminary 2009/10 Budget: 2008/09 highlights include higher than expected business operations revenue ($1.165M) contributing to an extra $440k which is to be allocated to other funds. However, with the food-housing merger, the AMS expects to lose some of its conference catering business to UBC Housing and Food next year. 08/09 ended with a small surplus.
09/10 forecasts $13.8M of revenue, with another small surplus at the end of the year. Point of interest: Rogers will no longer be providing free Blackberrys to AMS executives.

AMS Whistler Lodge/ AMS Office Renovations:
  • $21,900 for the Whistler Lodge, including: $1,800 for bunk bed improvements to combat bed lice; $6,600 for painting and patching walls; $9,000 for carpeting; $3,000 to build a boot storage area near the lodge entrance.
  • $16,000 to move, divide and create some new offices in the SUB for some of their employees.

Code Changes 2009: VP Admin Assistant: Crystal gets to hire an assistant to maintain her sanity.

Appointments Review Committee: Concern expressed that $8/h is too low; how wages are set and hours calculated; differentiation between wage and salary positions; whether some positions are necessary. Mostly however, I was going through a post-11pm zone out for the majority of the discussion. Wages set for the following positions:

  1. Equity and Diversity Coordinator – $9.62/hr
  2. Assistant to VP Admin - $8/hr
  3. Executive Projects Assistant –$8/hr
  4. Internship Coordinator (AMS Connect Assistant Coordinator) – $10.23/hr
  5. Campus Development Commissioner –$8/hr
  6. First Year Seminar Commissioner - $8/hr
  7. International Students Commissioner - $8/hr
  8. Childcare Commissioner - $8/hr
  9. Olympics Commissioner - $8/hr
  10. AVP External - $10,380 per annum”

Blake ceasing and desisting: You should probably just read the motion for yourself:

BIRT AMS Council direct the President to cease and desist any imposition of deadlines regarding the submission of motions above and beyond what is specifically enumerated in the AMS Code of Procedures, Bylaws and Constitution

This motion came from Matt Naylor. Background: AMS council meetings are always Wednesday evenings. Sometimes, motions would come up and councilors would claim that they were previously unaware of the motion or had not received supporting documentation. At Blake Frederick's first meeting as president, he asked that agenda items be in by the previous Friday.

This was misinterpreted as being a hard deadline imposed unilaterally, when Code actually says agenda items must be in 72h prior to the meeting, which would be Sunday 6 pm. Blake stated that he was merely trying to give councilors the courtesy of extra time to look things over; he has never rejected motions that come in after Friday but meet the 72h timeline; he will gladly follow council's wishes on this topic; felt a bit slighted that the motion came the way it was, he thought it would have been more appropriate as an informal discussion period.

Matt simply felt that sometimes committees need a bit more time to work on items and Friday was too early; he also didn't intend the motion to sound as confrontational as it does; also felt that if the deadline needed to be changed it should come from Code and Policy, not the president.

A lot of councilors appreciated having the weekend to go over agenda items and the extra time available to consult with constituents, if necessary. Andrew Carne advocated for the pragmatic solution: send out preliminary agendas on Friday with as much as possible included (especially the more involved motions) with the final agenda sent out Monday. Sounds like a good plan. Motion failed 15-3.

External Lobbying: So maybe that $30,000 was not spent so well. This entry is too long already, so for background I will direct you to this Ubyssey editorial as well as a related radical beer tribune post. There was quite an in depth discussion, but I will kept it shallow cause I'm tired.

The AMS external office recently released a report card on the parties' platforms in this election which was up on the AMS website. It has now been removed, but I've uploaded it here. Rating the parties? That makes the AMS look partisan when they are not supposed to be; extremely partisan since the BC liberals got a big fat F. Council decided to pull the report card off their website, and not distribute it anymore.

Also, have you seen ads like this around campus?


Well, AMS council never said that lowering tuition fees was one of the principles they were lobbying on in this provincial election, so these posters are misrepresenting the AMS's priorities. Not to mention only the Greens are promising tuition reduction so it could also be considered partisan. All of these posters are to be taken down.

Essentially, this boondoggle was all due to the fact that the external office didn't follow proper procedures when putting together the campaign. It made a campaign based on the VPX's priorities and judgement, not council's or the External Policy Committee's. So, the $30,000 spent on the provincial election campaign? A waste of resources on a partially botched campaign and the AMS admits it.

Class dismissed. Next Meeting May 27.


Monday, May 4, 2009

UBC in the news

I definitely don't want to turn into a news aggregator blog, but there have been a number of UBC news items lately that I thought were interesting and wanted to share. And trust me, I think it's totally lame when I read something that is just a recap of other stories I've already read or heard about. So hopefully there is something in here you didn't know about yet...

  1. The NDP wants to give $200,000 per year to the UBC Farm.

    But only if they form a government. That's a rather large 'if'. Hooray for pandering!

  2. Hwi Lee, the student who sent email threats resulting in a lockdown of the BioSciences building, was given a conditional sentence of one year, as well as a six month curfew. In addition, he has to stay away from UBC, will have two years of probation and has to write a letter to the Ubyssey explaining the incident.

    I guess the judge doesn't read UBC Insiders - too bad.

  3. The family of Karol Jaholkowski, a man who fell off a fraternity house roof at Arts County Fair 2007, is suing UBC and a fellow fraternity brother for the injury.

    I guess they don't read UBC Insiders either. Otherwise they'd know lawsuits like that don't work.

    Incidents like this no doubt contributed to the RCMP crackdown on alcohol. However, I am 99.9999999% sure this did not occur at a licenced event, so if incidents like this are used to justify the stricter rules, it's a red herring.

    A Vancouver Sun story with more details from right after the accident can be found here.

  4. Metro Vancouver won't be getting compensated for land in Pacific Spirit Park that was expropriated by the province. The two parcels of land in PSP, and the University Golf Course were to be given to the Musqueam First Nation in a land deal reached in 2007.

    There is still hope that one day Hampton Place can be expropriated and turned into student residences.

  5. It costs >$200K to rent the arena for a weekend. That's according to a lawsuit UBC launched, claiming they were not paid for an Anthony Robbins appearance on campus last fall.

    I'm not sure The Power Within will be welcome at UBC again. This was one of the first non-hockey events to be held at Thunderbird Arena and a test of how disruptive these types of events would be to UNA residents. Everything was going fine until, unbeknownst to UBC, they decided to set up drumming and fire-walking outside the building...

  6. On my walk towards the bus recently, I noticed someone had kindly disposed of their UBC parking ticket on the ground. If anyone is curious, they have now started writing *WARNING ONLY* tickets, with threats of towing. I'm guessing they are doing it in order to log the plate numbers so they'll know if you are making a habit of not paying. That's strike one for you, Mr. Silver 4-Door Nissan.

    The best part of the ticket is the last line on the back: "This Traffic Notice is issued by authority of the Board of Governors of The University of British Columbia." Whoops.

  7. In NCAA-related news, Western Washington University (in Bellingham) folded their Div II football team last year due to financial constraints. Some of those ex-WWU players are coming to UBC to join the Thunderbirds.

    From the article: "If you can get school paid for just for playing football, that is awesome. But the whole point of college for me, is to get my degree," says Kelly Kurisu. There was nothing stopping him from getting his degree at WWU since the university did not go under, to the best of my knowledge. I wonder what incentives Athletics offered him to come here.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pierre Shakes It Up

Pierre Ouillet, UBC's recently hired VP Finance, Resources, Operations is getting down to business. In a memo dated April 2, significant changes to the structure of many units in his portfolio were outlined. At first, it may seem strange that one of the stated aims was "an imperative to streamline and simplify our organizational structure to improve impact and efficiency" when in fact it could be argued that even more layers of bureaucracy were added. Nevertheless, let's press on and find out more about these changes.

There used to be a log-linear graph in the Physics department of the number of Presidents, VPs, AVPs, students and faculty over time, extrapolated to the point where there'd be more AVPs than students. Adding more admin positions? Is it Thursday already?
- Darren Peets

The revised organizational chart can be found here. Although there are a number of blank spaces on the chart, no positions are actually vacant. Other than, that, it's a pretty standard, boring org. chart.

Wait a minute... Al, is that you? Al Poettcker?! OH MY GOODNESS, what are you doing there? UBC will be going to court to claim that your organization is not under their control. But somebody snuck you and Philip Falls onto that org. chart anyways, perched right beside Pierre in the top middle. This must be some sort of conspiracy.

The Bare Necessities: Food and Housing

The merger between Food and Housing is already running full speed ahead with Andrew Parr, formerly Director of UBC Food Services, on top of the combined unit. UBC Food is now moved into the VP Students portfolio and the UBC-O food and housing units are also included. This merger coincides with the departure of Fred Fotis, former director of UBC Housing, for greener pastures. Most student politicians I have talked to were not fans of Mr. Fotis and Andrew Parr will bring a more student-focused approach with him.

The merger makes sense in that there is obviously a lot of interplay between the departments already. Cafeterias in residence are already integrated, while conferences and catering certainly do plenty of business together as well. However, Andrew Parr has no experience dealing with housing and childcare issues. While he considers housing a functioning department already (meaning that there is no need for any major overhaul; just continued management), long-standing challenges remain. The childcare situation is still at the top of many people's minds, while the length of the waiting list for residence still poses problems.

Two different strategic planning processes are now underway: one for childcare and one for housing. We'll see how much of a priority the AMS and GSS truly put on these issues, since there is a much bigger opportunity to drive change at this point in the process rather than simply bitching about the results later. The strategic planning will also be influenced by the results of the ongoing campus plan process. As we all saw during the last round of consultations, C&CP was hedging their bets on being able to use the "future housing reserves" (aka the UBC Farm) in every one of their plans. Now that that appears not to be an option, don't hold your breath waiting for C&CP to come up with some wonderful plan for all this stuff. I'm going to tentatively say that Andrew Parr's lack of experience in housing and childcare issues may actually be a good thing if he's able to cut through the bullshit and end up with a plan that could actually work.

Pierre puts UBC on a diet: Let's lose those LBS!

Some ancillaries have operated in an environment where funding had to come from charging services to other units. While it sounded like a good idea at the time, it had [created] some adverse behaviors - overcharging for services, creating internal bureaucracy.
-Pierre Ouillet

The Land and Building Services portfolio, which was responsible for infrastructure at UBC, has been dispersed among a few portfolios. UBC Trek and the Sustainability Office now find themselves under Campus and Community Planning. Building Operations takes over Plant Ops and Utilities. Infrastructure Development comes into its own with former Plant Ops head John Metras on top. I'll let Alex explain this one:

Putting the former director of Plant Ops responsible for liaising with Properties will hopefully fix one of the problems with Properties: they don't give a shit about life cycle--just capital costs.
-Alex Lougheed

Not only does this help advance UBC's sustainability ethos, it just seems like common sense at this point. One of the themes of this shakeup is having UBC's departments working together as a team towards a common goal. The point that Properties Trust needs to adjust their way of thinking about how they do business has been brought up before. This appears to be the follow through. I again feel compelled to point out the complete lack of control UBC has over Properties.

I guess any reform of Plant Ops at this point is a lost cause. They get shuffled, but with no real changes.

Despite the disappearance of Land and Building Services, the former AVP in charge isn't leaving, he's leading. Geoff Atkins is now UBC's "Leader of University Sustainability". I hope to expand on Geoff and his new role in a future post, but in short: Geoff is free to use UBC as his playground to test and implement new ideas about sustainability. What strikes me most about Geoff is that he takes problems and thinks about them completely differently that most people would. This is an amazing quality and makes him seem well-suited to a blue sky position like this; it also leads to his ideas sounding alternately brilliant and crazy (and sometimes both). He is truly passionate about sustainability issues which makes me hope he will be able to make the most of this opportunity.

HR moved under Toope

The VP Ops/Fin portfolio lost some more weight by having HR now report to President Toope. I honestly haven't a clue why this change was made. Pierre Ouillet's charming assertion that it "reflects the importance we are putting on our people," definitely does not fly with me. This is where you are supposed to help me out in the comments section.

There were other changes as well; this post touched on the ones I found most interesting. The original memo is linked at the top, so read it for the full list.