Between the Motions: Councillors hear findings of governance review, discuss BoG tuition increase

Last night, AMS Council convened for the last time in 2022 — again — to discuss preliminary findings from the recent governance review and next steps for the AMS and students after the Board of Governors voted to increase tuition earlier this week.

Here’s what you may have missed.

Councillors hear presentation on external review of AMS governance

Board of Governors representative Max Holmes, chair of the ad hoc Governance Review Committee, presented a draft set of recommendations based on 12 issues identified by the committee. 

These issues range from Council meeting conduct and culture to overall AMS transparency and executive accountability.

Holmes said these issues and recommendations were based on a review conducted by the AMS governance review committee, an environmental scan of U15 schools and an internal stakeholder engagement survey. He said they will be used in conversation between AMS Council and executives, as well as to inform consultation with stakeholders.

Many of these recommendations hinge upon the creation of an Executive Oversight Committee, which would provide regulatory supervision of AMS executives and offer feedback from a smaller group outside the executive body.

Holmes said this same measure was recommended in the AMS’s last governance review in 2016, although it was not implemented.

Another recommendation that would address multiple issues was overhauling various sectors of the AMS. This includes providing more comprehensive orientations for councillors and changing the structure of Council to have more consistent meeting lengths and encourage participation. 

Holmes highlighted that “the vast majority of our recommendations are unanimous,” receiving support from every committee members.

During a discussion period after the presentation, councillors voiced questions and concerns over the review’s proposed recommendations.

Arts councillor Mathew Ho brought up the previous oversight committee that existed in the AMS and asked how the proposed Executive Oversight Committee would differ from the old one.

Holmes said there is a “specific process for any discipline of an executive,” but that was not the case in 2016. The AMS now has an ethics and accountability committee with an existing framework to address those issues, he added.

“Reflecting on the last six years, there has been worsening oversight of the executives. And that may be because of getting rid of that committee,” said Holmes.

Science councillor Katherine Feng and engineering councillor Christian Kyle (CK) expressed concern over the recommendation to give councillors a stipend depending on their attendance and performance in Council under its current $1.25 million deficit

Feng noted that it’s unusual for a non-profit society like the AMS to pay its directors. She also voiced concern about the AMS increasing its staff under such large financial strain.

Recommendations will be up for approval in January, but “we expect that these recommendations are probably going to change with feedback,” Holmes said.

Following Board of Governors vote to increase tuition, AMS discusses next steps

Discussion of the recent tuition increase replaced a consideration of the AMS holding a vote of no-confidence of the Board of Governors, as outlined on the agenda. President Eshana Bhangu said this item can still be considered at a future meeting.

VP Academic and University Affairs Dana Turdy said the motion became a discussion item due to “student frustrations on the ground and AMS frustrations with accountability and transparency” surrounding the Board of Governors. 

Arts councillor Kaysan Adriyanto voiced concerns about paying increased tuition as an international student. He acknowledged some governors’s commitment to remedying this issue, but “that translates to [students] not really having any changes in the quality of education, but then having more financial commitments.”

“What [the Board of Governors is] doing is very contradictory to their commitment to students,” he said.

Bhangu said the AMS will send correspondence to the Board, stating the AMS’s opposition to spontaneous in-camera meetings during open sessions and student presentations, like what occurred Monday. The AMS also sent correspondence to the Board leading up to the vote on tuition.

While the AMS has little sway over the Board’s financial decisions, Bhangu said the AMS would prioritize advocating for students through the affordability crisis. AMS supports would include open educational resources, digital assessment tools and financial aid, according to Bhangu.

Lastly, Bhangu encouraged students and organizers to continue mobilizing against the provincial government.

“If the province provides more funding to UBC, UBC probably wouldn't have to raise tuition like this every year,” she said.