Between the Motions: Updates on divestment motion, mental health coverage increase

In a brief first AMS Council meeting of the 2022/23 school year, President Eshana Bhangu gave an update on a March divestment motion and an increase in mental health coverage. 

SPHR demands transparency and action

At Council last night, Mariam, a representative of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) spoke on the progress of a motion passed in March. She did not provide her last name.

Council passed a motion brought forward by a Divestment Coalition, comprised of 20 student groups, for the AMS to release a statement condemning Israel’s “system of apartheid,” and write a letter to the Board of Governors urging that UBC  divest from nine companies.  Most of the nine companies appear in the UN database for businesses involved in activities that were deemed to be “human rights violations concerns” in a report following an independent international fact-finding mission.

“We’d like to remind you that there’s widespread student support for divestment on campus and it is your obligation as elected student representatives to listen to the student body,” said Mariam. She explained that there is an expectation of “professional conduct and timely completion of these tasks.” 

According to the coalition, the first draft of the BoG letter was to be finished by May 29. As of Thursday, they had yet to receive any drafts or updates. 

In addition, the motion called for consultation between the Advocacy Committee and students to develop future strategies on human rights and ESG principles by August 30, but the coalition had not received any updates. Maryam called for “more transparency regarding this matter and a frank discussion of the next steps going forward.”  

AMS President Eshana Bhangu spoke on behalf of Council, stating they take it “very seriously to execute and implement the motion.” 

“We did consult with the coalition and … a lot of other students representing another point of view also want a consultation,” she said. The statement condemning Israel was released in June. 

Regarding the BoG letter, Bhangu said a report was sent to the Board Wednesday  by the VP academic and university affairs. The AMS correspondence to the Board is now available online.  Bhangu also explained that the Advocacy Committee’s work was extended to the end of October. 

Money for your mind 

In her remarks, Bhangu discussed the increase in mental health coverage under the AMS/GSS Health and Dental Plan. 

“It is just not sustainable to do $1500 for another year, that costs us around $1.3 million,” she explained. Though this year’s $1250 is less than last year’s coverage, Bhangu said it is still an increase nonetheless. Last year’s coverage rate was primarily an “emergency pandemic response.”  

“I've heard what students are saying, I’m hearing their concerns,” Bhangu said. 

Bhangu added she hopes that the $1250 coverage rate will be a permanent change.