AMS VP finance resigns due to academic obligations, calls new code change a barrier to involvement

Former AMS VP Finance Rita Jin called part of AMS code a potential barrier to student involvement after she resigned due to academic obligations.

On June 30, AMS President Eshana Bhangu announced Jin would be stepping down from her position as VP finance to ensure compliance with Section 6, Article 9 of AMS code which states that all AMS execs “shall seek the approval of Council for their outside commitments before embarking on them.” This part of code was added on April 27.

In an interview with The Ubyssey, Jin said Council didn't approve the two courses she planned to take over the two summer terms and five courses in the fall.

AMS execs work approximately 40 hours a week and typically only take one to two classes during each semester of the academic year, according to a statement from Bhangu.

Jin said these courses were necessary for her science degree and to meet the requirements of her Schulich Leader scholarship — a four-year award for science, applied science and land and food systems students.

"It's not like I broke a rule in that sense. It just wasn't approved, which is unfortunate," Jin said.

Bhangu said Council can decline any commitments it believes will interfere with an exec’s full-time position.

Jin said Council told her to email science advising and the scholarship office to ask for an exemption for these requirements. While Jin said both offices tried their best to accommodate her situation, they were unable to approve her reduced course load. She then told Council she would make contingency plans, like signing up for online classes so she would be in the office or only using her vacation days during finals to give her time to study.

“I would never run if I knew I couldn’t handle it,” Jin said, adding that she took more than 30 credits during the 2021/22 academic year while working 40 hours a week as associate vice-president finance and in student residence.

For Jin, the code change — which she noted was approved after she and the other execs were already elected — has good intentions, but could create barriers to student involvement in the AMS.

“For me, it’s my scholarship or my program requirements. For someone else, it might literally just be a part-time job that they need to finance the tuition,” she said. She added that this could create a situation where only those who are financially privileged are able to be an AMS exec, when the student society has been working on making itself more accessible to students.

She also said she tried to have a discussion around this code change at a Governance Committee meeting after coming into office, but it was never added to the committee’s agenda.

Bhangu said this discussion item wasn’t added to the agenda because councillors and committee members had “zero interest” in considering a change to code.

The president also said the code change puts a practice that has happened for decades into writing. She disagreed that it could create a barrier to student involvement.

“If someone is unable to commit to serving students in a full-time salaried executive role, the AMS offers multiple non-executive positions … in addition to having 42 non-executive director positions on AMS Council,” she wrote.

Jin said she is scrambling to find a way to sustain her housing now that she is no longer VP finance.

“I'm trying to find employment opportunities smack in the middle of summer.”

She said she is disappointed that could not fulfill her campaign promises of increasing mental health support for students — she said she was talking to TELUS Mental Health before she resigned — and transitioning the AMS’s financial system to a new software.

“I was excited to show [my friends and voters] that, what I promised, I was going to achieve … That’s why I've been working super hard, even with the idea that I might be kicked out anytime.”

In her two months in office, Jin prepared the 2022/23 budget, introduced code changes around the AMS credit card policy and expanded access to student club subsidies.

“It's really unfortunate. Like I do enjoy the work I did at the AMS,” she said. “I was really disappointed to see that I can't really have the chance to defend students through financial advocacy.”