Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Shout Out

To the AMS, and Fincom in particular for helping fund my trip to Ottawa to attend the CIS AGM.

You can read the articles I wrote about it here and here.

If you are hoping to go to a conference, event, or have a special project in mind, I strongly encourage you to apply for one of their Student Initiatives Fund grants (which is what I got).

If you are an AMS club looking to do something special, they also have an option for you: the Clubs Benefit Fund.

Finally, another good funding option they have is the Innovative Projects Fund, which exists to provide seed money for new projects of direct benefit to students.

I am a huge AMS fan and it's not only because they just gave me money. It is easy to criticize them when they make mistakes, but in the end it is full of great people who do good things, and UBC students are definitely better off for it.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

AMS Council: August 19, 2009

It's so nice out today. Can't we all just go sit on the Knoll and have council there?


  • A visit from Pierre Ouillet and Brian Sullivan
  • Tom Dvorak's EPIC Sunglasses tan

Bonjour Pierre Ouillet

Pierre Ouillet (UBC's VP Finance, Resources and Operations) is here with Brian Sullivan to talk about structural deficits in the UBC budget. These must be the hot new thing in institutional finance this year, since we also got a presentation from Tom Dvorak about it last month.

This presentation plus question period went for almost two hours. I'm going to not summarize anything and say that the discussion was frank and interesting and you had to be there. For further coverage see the live blog on the Arts Caucus blog. Or just look at the hash tag #amscouncil. There may also a summary from KatDov, her council summaries can be found here.

Some memorable moments:

(*)B.Sul (to Matt Naylor): "You were involved in Senate at the time?"
Naylor: "I ran for Senate."

(*)Tom Dvorak walks in late. Immediately in the AMS council chat room:
[19:58] alox: SUNGLASSES TAN
[19:58] alox: EPICEPIC
[19:58] alox: EPICCCCCC
I can't tell you what happened next as I was doubled over in laughter for a good minute, since Tom's sunglasses tan is EPIC!

Blake's Broadcast
Please encourage all reps to show up to council; looking at ways to improve communications in society for consistent branding; spent a lot of time doing media interviews; hoping to attend as many firstweek events as possible; hoping to create lots of connections with as many groups on campus as possible; need to provide more support to grad and undergrad societies

Johannes's Jargon
First Year Seminar Program: Anna Kindler said this will now be included in strategic plan, hopefully get program by next year; working with greeks about potential lawsuit/arbitration deal with university regarding code of conduct in lease agreement; Proposal came to PPPAC about building expanded tennis centre; Faculty of Medicine has proposed a new palliative care training facility on campus which would be beside Vanier; met with VP academic caucus

Crystal's Chat
All SUB all the time: Jensen will consolidate all the possible ways to integrate SUB into classes; SUB booth at imagine day; fencing around U-Blvd will have a poster to promote SUB project; working on mission statement and project goals; continue negotiations with university; SAC is organizing clubs days, looking about involving constituencies; working on deans' debates; working with Tim on application to be exempt from SUB fee and U-Pass fee; looking to install baby change table in gender neutral washroom; some more renovations coming soon

Tom's Tirade
Interviewing HR director candidates; finished up review of catering; meeting with UBC on the books with their catering practices; looking at how to handle demand for Whistler lodge lottery

Tim's talk
Tim is on vacation riding the train.

Pavani's prose
Pavani is not present.

Education Cuts Motion
You have probably heard by now about the BC Government cutting $16M of education funding, which came unexpectedly and with no announcement. A motion came to formally oppose the cuts and do some lobbying.

Tom asked about the terminology about the clause that "AMS Council authorize an awareness campaign in regards to the cuts" without any budget about the proposed campaign. Eventually it was amended to make it clear that supporting an awareness progrm was not equivalent to allocating funds to it.

Next meeting Sep 2. Now time for pitchers of Hatchet at Mahony's.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Downside of Automatic Enrolment

The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FoGS) recently implemented "automated continuous thesis registration", which works as follows:

"Starting in Summer 2009, when students register in a thesis or dissertation course once, their registration in that course will automatically roll each term until the end of the student's program (excepting if they are on leave).'

On the surface this seems pragmatic. In the original email which went out last May they hoped that it would make life easier for students, faculty and staff. They also allege that students not registering was a common occurrence, causing UBC to lose out on some tuition fees and provincial funding.

Some red flags started going up when this email arrived in July from FoGS (excerpt):

"Evidently there is a problem with the online graduation application system. There seems to be a problem with the new SSC they launched and the application only works for about half of those applying. The graduation department at Enrolment Services is responsible for this and the Faculty of Graduate Studies has no control over it. They are aware of the problem, but will not be fixing it anytime soon..."

It seems quite risky to put students in the situation where they are enrolled for courses automatically while at the same time the graduation application system is not working properly. What happens if the student's graduation application is somehow mishandled or lost and the student ends up automatically enrolled for the next term?

Unfortunately, something similar to this has already happened and the answer is that UBC takes the student to court in an attempt to collect the fees. See this 2008 decision: UBC Enrolment Services Office vs. Gregory Magolan.

It's a pretty easy read for a court document, but the executive summary is as follows: a student in engineering deferred his registration in the co-op program and was told he would not be charged tuition fees as long as his registration was deferred. Notwithstanding, the faculty automatically enrolled him in co-op courses and fees were levied. He didn't even find out he owed fees until after the term in question was over. When he didn't pay, UBC Enrolment Services took him to court.

The bright side in this is that UBC ended up losing the case. However, the fact that UBC Enrolment Services would even pursue legal action in the first place against a student in these circumstances is worrisome. I won't deny it's convenient never having to sign into the SSC to register for courses. But when I think about it realistically, it only saves me about 30 seconds on the SSC twice a year. I think that amount of effort is worth having peace of mind that I won't be taken to court by UBC.

Of course, maybe I'm a bit more cautious than others because I have also experienced the fact that even though rules exist, it doesn't mean they will be followed. I have been trying every year, unsuccessfully, to get UBC to follow Senate rules surrounding university awards, and no one was willing to acknowledge that their procedures were inconsistent with the rules. (Finally the rules were changed at February's senate meeting so I'm glad to report the system works albeit slowly. Thankfully not as slowly as Credit/D/Fail.)

I'm very interested to hear more from UBC Enrolment Services and the Faculty of Graduate Studies about what safeguards are in place within the automatic enrolment system to prevent graduate students from being wrongly enrolled in thesis courses and then pursued for payment, especially given difficulties with the graduation application system.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Campus Shows: Fall 2009

This year, the Ubyssey will have more resources invested in their culture section (one editor last year; this year there are two), with fewer resources going into news (two editors last year; this year only one). They now have a culture blog and, I believe, a paid culture staffer over the summer. Correction: Apparently the grant the Ubyssey obtained went news and coordinating editors. Over the summer the rest of the staff is volunteer.

A quick look at their recent culture content reveals entries about other websites, and coverage of things happening around Vancouver which are already covered quite competently by Vancouver's other media outlets. Events happening or upcoming on campus or put on by the AMS? Not a peep.

I do realize I am crazy for thinking that my school newspaper might focus largely on things happening, you know, on campus, or put on by campus groups. For anyone interested in those things, AMS Events has been getting busy putting together shows for the fall. Their announcement about the line up for this year's Welcome Back BBQ got a lot of attention, but they are also putting on some other pretty sweet shows coming up.

By far the one I am most excited about is Savage Love Live! For those who don't know who Dan Savage is, he writes the sex column "Savage Love" in the back of the Georgia Straight every week. If you are wondering why it should be a good time...

Date: Sat, Nov 21, 2009
Time: 8:00 PM
Tickets: $15 for students, $25 for others, on sale now
Tip: Buy tickets from the Chan Centre Box Office to avoid Ticketmaster charges (but you can still buy from TM if you want to pay extra.)


Get those W's out!

The GZA is coming to the Pit in September. Founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, The Straight was extremely impressed with the show he put on last year. Compared to other venues the GZA plays in Vancouver, The Pit is by far the most intimate one you'll find.

Date: Thurs, Sept 24, 2009
Time: 9:30 PM
Tickets: $20, available to students only, on sale now at the Outpost


Finally, fresh off an appearance at the Vancouver Folk Festival, Basia Bulat will be dropping into Vancouver again. How many other concerts will you go to this year that will feature a large complement of autoharp?

Date: Wed, Sept 23, 2009
Time: 7:30 PM
Tickets: $14, available at Ticketweb, Zulu, Red Cat