Debate: Uncontested VP Academic candidate eager to tackle unfinished business

With sole candidate Max Holmes at the helm, the Tuesday debate for the VP Academic and University Affairs race was more of a relaxed Q&A than a heated competition.

Holmes, a second-year arts student, is running for re-election to the position that he won in a September by-election. Holmes is also a current student senator-at-large and former AMS elections administrator.

The first question asked what changes Holmes had made since coming into office, to which he rattled off a list of tangibles like meeting monthly with the VP Academic caucus, creating an Indigenous advisory group and running the Academic Experience Survey earlier in the year.

Citing his ability to show that he can get things done, Holmes explained his desire to run for re-election. He emphasized his feats of creating the first-ever price cap within the UBC Housing Action Plan and pushing for a review of Policy 73 “after years of people putting it on their platforms.” Overall, he expressed a desire to continue the work that is being done in the portfolio.

Holmes was challenged on what he would do about the “chronic shortage of counselling services and massive wait times” in a question from the moderator.

“I have to advocate on UBC, there’s not much in my actual portfolio [as AMS VP Academic],” said Holmes. “We need to be looking at the causes of mental health issues — and the causes are things we are already advocating for like housing insecurity, food insecurity and the lack of a fall break.”

The advocacy that he intends to do includes improving self-support services and making sure services are multicultural and available to everyone. He stressed the need for students to feel comfortable approaching services.

When addressing the issue of increasing accessibility and engagement, Holmes said the fact that the VP Academic race had been uncontested in three of the past four years is a “huge issue.” He wants to push for a reprioritization of communications at the AMS to highlight advocacy efforts.

“Business is first, then events, then everything else, then advocacy,” said Holmes. “I’m disappointed in the way we communicate about advocacy.”

When asked by the audience about the consultation on the new strategic plan, Holmes felt frustrated by the gaps on sexual violence.

“It’s a massive blunder. They haven’t included sexual violence at all. Whether they listen to all of the consultation is an issue that UBC has had forever,” said Holmes.

“There’s a student experience section, they talk about nice things [in the strategic plan]. But they don’t talk about one of the most systematic abuses allowed against our students. I have realized that if not for the province forcing UBC to make a policy, I don’t know if they would have made a policy.”

In closing, an audience member asked Holmes whether he had accomplished everything in his platform from September — and if not, why.

“I had a very ambitious platform. At the time, I admitted I probably wouldn’t be able to accomplish everything in it,” said Holmes.

“If they haven’t been finished, they have been included in my platform [again]. With two more months, I’m going to try and get everything accomplished in that platform as soon as possible.”