AMS Council removes three student-petitioned referendum questions from general elections ballot

Last night, AMS Council cleared the agenda to discuss three petitioned referendum questions that generated high levels of scrutiny in both student and BC politics circles.

As midnight approached, AMS's Speaker Kai Rogers, said referendum question 2, referendum question 3 and referendum question 4 would be removed from the 2024 AMS General Elections ballot due to all 3 contradicting AMS bylaw 4.2.b — requiring the question to be clear — and question 2 also not satisfying 4.2.a.

AMS bylaw 4.2.a states that the referendum questions must be capable of being answered with a 'yes' or 'no,' with a negative response corresponding to the status quo. Bylaw 4.2.b states the referendum question, including any preamble, must be clear and unambiguous.

Here’s a recap of the night.

Council hears diverse student perspectives

Before the start of the meeting, a long queue formed — extending from the entrance of the Michael Kingsmill Forum to the end of the Nest's fourth floor.

In the first order of business, the meeting's agenda was amended to remove almost all items except those related to the three referendum petitions

Afterward, student-at-large speakers took turns advocating against and in favour of the referendums.

UBC student Ben Morrison called the fourth referendum question, which proposed adding 99 unelected seats for “systemically marginalized groups and affinity groups” on Council, an attempt to strip “all democracy away.”

“We should value and elect representatives based on their character and judgment, not on the color of their skin or who they love. But it is certain that this referendum does not achieve these goals. It gives full voting and expulsion control to a small number of minority groups while shutting the door on everyone else.”

— Ben Morrison, UBC student

Mo, another student speaker, said keeping the second referendum question was an opportunity for the AMS to show its commitment to “upholding the values of justice, equality and human rights.”

A third speaker, Mariam, added it was important for students to have the ability to vote on the second referendum question, highlighting that it received over 1000 student signatures to be considered for the ballot, per AMS Elections rules.

“Let students have their say, let students vote. If people disagree with this referendum, as many in this room do, they can voice that through their vote in March.”

— Mariam, UBC student

Council then moved into a private session in-camera to discuss the referendum items for over four hours, during which members consulted the AMS’s bylaws, code and duties and reviewed legal counsel, requested on authorization of the AMS president it had previously contacted.

Decision made after four hours

Council re-opened its doors around 11:30 p.m., and a small group of remaining students re-entered the Michael Kingsmill Forum to hear the news.

Before delivering a decision, Rogers explained the rules of AMS referendum questions.

Rogers said a referendum for the AMS is called by the president when a petition achieves signature by 5 per cent of active members or 1000 active members, whichever is less.

However, he said the AMS had to comply with their bylaws and after “thorough reviews and evaluations by legal counsel on the referendums,” Council rejected all three referendum questions for not satisfying AMS bylaw requirements 4.2.a and 4.2.b.

Council moved to vote on the rejection of each one individually by paper ballot distributed across AMS councillors.

Rogers first announced the rejection of referendum question 3 due to AMS bylaw 4.2.b, but said Council would move a motion to refer the question to the AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan Committee for “further development of the question so it satisfies the requirement set forth by AMS bylaw 4.2.b.” This motion passed.

Council also rejected referendum question 4 citing AMS bylaw 4.2.b., and question 2 on bylaw 4.2.a and 4.2.b. The first motion passed with 23 in favour and 1 opposed, and the second passed with 22 in favour and 2 opposed, respectively.

And, as midnight struck, the open session of the meeting ended.