Monday, February 20, 2017
Last updated: 1 year ago

Last Words: In which we nitpick the AMS elections

Comic Indiana Joel/The Ubyssey

Comic Indiana Joel/The Ubyssey

Students deserve a choice in VP External race

Why is there no competition for AMS VP External?

Executive positions, though work-intensive, are prestigious. The VP External position — basically, the AMS’s lobbying arm — is arguably the most interesting of all the VP slots. But this year, like the year before, only one person has run for the position.

There could be a few explanations. The AMS’s external presence has been somewhat non-controversial this year, which doesn’t exactly set the heart on fire in terms of new recruits. Most of the work has been centred on Get On Board, a campaign to increase transit service in the Lower Mainlaind — and Get On Board involved mainly paid staff, like Associate Vice-President External Tanner Bokor, the only candidate running in the VP External race.

(Plus, there have probably been some back-room chats between hopefuls before the elections about what positions people should run for. Given that reality, isn’t there something dastardly/appropriate about the candidate for AMS’s lobbying position consistently running unopposed?)

Regardless, it’s very important for there to be competition for this position, because there’s a huge potential to make change for students at the provincial level. There’s an election coming up, and this VP will get a chance to feel out the new government. A lot of money is being spent on Get On Board. If the plans of the VP External are what students want, that’s fine; but they need to be given a choice.

Why we beg people to vote — and why most of them don’t

Every election season, almost every single newspaper runs some sort of high-minded editorial reminding people to vote. You’ll forgive us for doing the same.

Don’t get us wrong. There are lots of reasons to vote in the AMS elections. For one, the impact a level of government has on your life is inversely related to how much you care about it. So more people vote in federal or national elections than municipal elections, even though who’s on city council affects their day-to-day life more than who controls the House of Commons.

As tempting as it is to think of AMS politicians as kids playing in a sandbox, these positions are “real” jobs that can have an impact on your experience on this campus (see: new SUB, tuition increases, Credit/D/Fail, the U-Pass, UN tuition complaints, etc.). So when voting opens next week, don’t disengage. You might not like the results.

The campus left has left the building

The Student Legal Fund Society is far from the sexiest race in this year’s AMS elections season, but what’s happening with their board of directors tellingly mirrors the campus’s larger political culture.

The board for the society, which maintains a fund dedicated to helping students in legal battles, has long been dominated by a slate that has conservatively guarded their coffers. Last year, an upstart band of left-leaning activists formed a new slate in opposition, pledging to spend more of the nearly $50,000 taken in each year on court cases, grade challenges and other initiatives.

The activist slate lost dramatically. Just one of their six candidates, the semi-prominent (as campus activists go) Greg Williams, won their only seat, squeezing in with fewer votes than all but one of the old-guard candidates.

And before the year was out, Williams had to leave the board, resigning to attend grad school at Yale. According to the board’s internal procedures, the remaining members were able to choose who filled the vacant slot, and the long-dominant slate rode the year out without any dissenting voices.

This year, the activists seem to have thrown in the towel. Almost. The conservative slate is the only one running, with no challengers. But they’ve recruited one student to join their banner: Roshak Momtahen, whose unequivocal support of the Quebec student protests and opposition of oil pipelines has put him squarely to the left of the slate’s usual sympathies.

When asked why he chose to run with the more conservative slate, Momtahen was candid. He said some campus progressives had tried to get another left-leaning slate together, but the attempt failed. “I thought, if I can’t beat ‘em, why not join them?” he said. Well, at least he’s being pragmatic.

Hey, why no joke candidates?

So last year, a glitter-covered “Party Rock” ran for VP Administration. Before that, keg ran for president to protest UBC’s archaic liquor bylaws. A host of other inanimate objects have been nominated (but never won): pylons, fire hydrants, sock puppets … The list goes on.

At their worst, joke candidates may be silly, inconsequential inside jokes. But at their best, they’re fantastic works of satire that make people look twice and draw attention to hypocrisy and inflated egos. Too bad we don’t have any running this year.

  • Ricardo Bortolon

    What if VP Ex was a hired position?

    • Guest

      That’s what CASA is.

    • Alex Lougheed

      Isn’t that what CASA is?

      • Ricardo Bortolon

        BINGOOOO. Or at least, a CASA you could direct.

  • Asher Isbrucker

    In the survey following the elections page, the AMS asked “How could the AMS make future elections better?” I responded with a little bit of a rant and thought I would share it here. Perhaps I’m preaching to the choir a little, but regardless:

    Educate and engage students. Many students don’t vote because they don’t see how it’s relevant – every year these elections are held and every year nothing noticeable seems to happen or change. Why should we vote? Make that clear to us. Also, let us know what we are voting for. What does a “VP Admin” do, and how will it affect me as an Arts student? What does the Board of Governors do? What will change in my university experience if I vote for candidate A over candidate B, and what sort of power in decision-making does the position they’re running for hold over my university experience? Some students will vote and the majority won’t care, that’s a reality – but more will be inclined to vote if the results and consequences of who is elected are clear to them. I voted because I’ve been told it’s important, and I’m investing that time because I trust that it is – most students aren’t convinced of that, and I’m not 100% convinced either. The message about the importance and role of the AMS and its various positions and branches need to be more effectively communicated, and whoever runs the elections needs not to assume that every student is completely familiar with electoral and political terminology and how the system and positions as a whole work. It sounds naive and lazy on behalf of the students, and perhaps it is – but that’s what you have to do if you want a larger turnout and more students to care about the AMS.

    - A

  • Aaron Chan

    Why no joke candidates?

    The AMS is the biggest joke, and everyone who ran were the joke candidates.