Speaker Kai Rogers wants to bring good governance to AMS Council

Kai Rogers knows a lot about student government.

While studying management as an undergrad at UBC Okanagan, Rogers served as a director and VP finance and operations for the Students' Union Okanagan (SUO) from 2020–2022 and also often chaired board meetings.

But after coming to UBC for his law degree, he was left with a student government-shaped hole in his heart.

“I missed it. This is going to sound crazy — I missed student government,” he said.

So he decided to apply to be the AMS’s next speaker — the person who chairs the society’s bi-weekly Council meetings — and on January 25, he was appointed by AMS Council for a term ending May 1.

“I could get involved again in a meaningful way, while still being able to dedicate time to my studies,” said Rogers. “But of course, we're here for a degree. We're not here just to be in the student union. We're students first.”

Going into his term as speaker, Rogers aims to help the AMS practice “good governance” which, to him, means practicing transparency and accountability and emphasizing community participation.

This also includes having efficient meetings to ensure councillors are engaged and that discussions don’t run for too long. Recalling his time as chair of an SUO meeting, Rogers remembers that after five hours, student politicians get tired, eyes glazed over.

“I think one of the vice-presidents was half asleep,” said Rogers. “No, I know he was half asleep.”

Rogers said meetings like that aren’t helpful since Council is “not working well for students [and] not making the best decisions.”

And in regards to good governance, Rogers said a lack of transparency is often the death of student unions, citing a 2018 scandal with the University of Ottawa’s Students Union who was no longer recognized by their university after allegations of misappropriating student funds.

Coming into a role at a time of student discontent with Council, Rogers is looking to establish Council as a safe space for both students and councillors.

In November 2023, AMS Council approved a code change that allows the speaker to bar individuals from attending one or more Council meetings “for reasons of safety or if it is feared that such individuals will disrupt proceedings.”

Council was divided — some said this change would empower the speaker to ensure councillors feel safe in their positions, while others said this code change could suppress students’ ability to voice their minds.

But Rogers said that allowing discourse in Council is imperative for the organization’s functioning.

“We don't want to make [Council] this ivory tower-type deal,” said Rogers. “It needs to be an open, welcoming space for everyone because that's what the AMS should be as a whole.”

Rogers said he will work to make Council a space where people can speak openly about their concerns and a place where students and councillors will not be faced with “name-calling, attacks on someone's character [and] vulgarity.”

“We need disagreement. Disagreement is the vehicle by which we come to, or at least attempt to come to, the best solution,” said Rogers. “But to have disagreement means people have to feel safe in disagreeing. That can be very difficult.”

Unable to vote and present at every meeting, Rogers serves an important purpose as Council's only true neutral party.

“If students don't voice their concerns, how can the AMS make the best decisions possible? It's not my job to [make those decisions], it's simply my job to make sure that everyone can speak and that everyone else listens and listens with intent and listens with open mindedness,” said Rogers.

While he emphasized the importance of open discourse, Rogers isn't afraid to joke around.

In March 2023, Rogers, as a student-at-large, gave a speech to Council about how humanity is "born to fish, forced to work."

Rogers urged Council "to consider [born to fish, forced to work] in all future motions."

"I would just once again urge this Council not to treat this as a joke," said Rogers. "Born to fish, forced to work is a very serious issue that plagues our society and must be rectified."

In 2024, Rogers said his speech was something his sister came up with during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"She calls it her 'TED Talk,'" said Rogers.

Rogers also said he was reminded of comedians Chad and JT who went viral for going to Los Angeles city council meetings to make "absurd statements."

"Inspired by those two, and armed with a pretty good speech I stole from my sister, I just thought it would be something fun to do [to] bring a little levity to Council," said Rogers.

The throughline in Rogers’ interview with The Ubyssey was student participation at Council, and why and how he’ll make Council a safe space for public discourse.

“The best way that students can hold executives to account is by coming to Council and sitting there and saying, ‘I am watching you. I'm watching decisions you make. I'm here because I care,’” said Rogers.

Rogers encouraged students to get involved and make their voices heard by the AMS.

“[Students-at-large should] let me know that they'd like to speak,” said Rogers. “And my response will be the same thing every time: Thank you for coming. Glad you're here. Here's what Council looks like. We want you here. We need you here.”

While he emphasized the importance of open discourse, Rogers isn't afraid to joke around.
While he emphasized the importance of open discourse, Rogers isn't afraid to joke around. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey