Debate #2, fact checked: Breaking down your 2023 AMS Elections candidates claims

Candidates say a lot of things during debates — numbers, figures, claims and more.
Candidates say a lot of things during debates — numbers, figures, claims and more. Mahin E Alam / The Ubyssey

Candidates say a lot of things during debates — numbers, figures, claims and more.

It can be hard to hear or understand everything that was said, but that's why we at The Ubyssey have a team dedicated to fact-checking all the big claims candidates make during debates.

Here we're covering the second debate on March 2 where the candidates for VP finance, Senate and the Board of Governors debated each other. The lone VP external candidate was scheduled to debate as well, but she was absent.

We didn't cover everything, but hopefully this gives you a clearer idea on what was discussed — and how much of it was true.

Candidate Tina Tong was absent but provided responses to debate questions over email. These fact checks are on these answers.

Tong: “A huge win for the AMS and post-secondary students across BC in Budget 2023 was the doubling of the maximum B.C Student Loan payout from $110 to $220 for individuals. However I think it’s critical that the AMS remains a leading figure in student advocacy in BC because this budget demonstrates that this government was sitting on a $5.7 billion surplus and chose to not take action on expanding the BC Access grant.”

True. The 2023 BC Budget doubled the maximum BC student loan payout from $110 to $220 per week for individuals and from $140 to $280 per week for students with dependents. The Province had a $5.7 billion surplus from Budget 2022, and it did not expand the BC Access Grant. The BC Access Grant is not specifically mentioned in Budget 2023.

Tong: “If elected as VP external, I will push the government to mandate minimum standards for university’s sexual violence policies and to expand the B.C Access grant in Budget 2024.”

Noted. BC’s Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act mandates post-secondary institutions to have standalone sexual misconduct policy. UBC’s sexual misconduct policy, SC17, was approved by the Board of Governors in May 2017.

Abhi Mishra and Linda Zheng are running for VP finance.

Zheng: “The number one reason why reimbursements take so long is because they are not filled [out] correctly.”

Hard to verify. According to November 2022 Ubyssey coverage, the AMS has fallen behind on reimbursing clubs due to personnel turnover and the transition to Microsoft Business Central, a new financial system. The AMS hired MNP, an external consulting firm, to help the student society address the reimbursement backlog.

Mishra: “Currently, we are not in a position where we can cover the [AMS/GSS Health and Dental] fees without tapping into the reserves, creating an unsustainable manner of funding this program.”

True. In the last two years, the AMS has seen a significant increase in claims for mental health counselling sessions, leading to the depletion of the Health and Dental Plan Reserve Fund at an exponential rate. The AMS has pulled $2.5 million from the reserve this year to pay for the difference in the amount claimed and the amount students are paying into the plan ($277.50 per year). Current VP Finance Lawrence Liu said given the current claims rate and coverage, the reserve would last only two more years.

Zheng: “We have U-Pass subsidies and fee subsidies that students can apply to.”


Romina Hajizadeh, Kareem Hassib, Mathew Ho, Ayesha Irfan, Kamil Kanji, Davey Li and Sultana Razia are running for five student senator-at-large seats on the UBC Vancouver Senate.

Ho: “IKB used to be 24/7 during exam season [before COVID-19].”


Hassib: “I want term limits for senators.”

Noted. As rules regarding senate terms are listed under section 36 of the University Act (1996), this would likely require an amendment to the University Act itself.

Irfan: “My platform centers on creating an equity-based academic calendar. As of right now, UBC’s academic calendar only recognizes Christmas as a holiday, and our student body is diverse and our academic calendar should reflect that.”

True. UBC’s academic calendar explicitly recognizes Christmas within its winter break, and observes Remembrance Day and Family Day as statutory holidays.

Students with cultural and religious commitments are referred to request accommodation from their course instructor or coordinator, graduate advisor or dean’s office per J-136: Academic Accommodation for all Students’ Religious Observances and for the Cultural Observances of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Students, which replaced UBC Policy 65: Religious Holidays in September 2020. UBC began observing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation campus-wide in September 2021 — it is not yet a statutory holiday but the BC government is considering legislation to make it one..

Li: “One thing [with] last term's snow and exams was that professors didn't have that flexibility because there was a second policy preventing them from transitioning to online exams.”

True. According to a December 2022 statement from Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, the university barred professors from switching to online exams day-of the cancellations in December because of potential for unequal technology and internet access. The policy for Sudden Examination Disruption Procedures was last updated in 2003, when mass online exams were likely not a feasible option.

Irfan: “The accessibility part with academic concessions is that you have to type up an entire paragraph convincing your advisor why you should have that time off … I feel like there should be more opportunities or more ways available to [allow] students to voice why they [are seeking] academic concessions — for example, having a phone chat.”

True. Department and faculty advising offices currently ask students to write a description of their current situation and how long they were/have been impacted by the situation as part of their academic concessions forms. Information will only be used and disclosed for purposes related to your request for an academic concession. Students facing traumatic situations do not need to disclose details within the form, however advising offices reserve the right to request additional supporting documentation, and may require more detailed documentation in the event of repeated academic concession requests.

While a student with disabilities or ongoing medical conditions may discuss alternative modes of contact with an advisor once fully registered with the Centre for Accessibility, this does not extend to “temporary health issues” per Policy LR7: Disability Accommodation Policy, nor new medical conditions. Situations relating to experiences of sexual violence are referred to the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office’s phone line and e-mail for assistance with academic concessions.

Ho: “Getting stuck in snow and transit is not something that's covered under the three main areas of the Academic Concessions Policy.”

True. Inclement weather is not listed under the Academic Concessions Policy; only conflicting responsibilities with certain non-academic activities, medical circumstances, and compassionate grounds in response to traumatic events are covered.

Razia: “There is this policy around exam hardship and clashes that says if you have three or more exams twenty-four hours during the final exam season, you can apply for a concession.”

True. An examination class, as defined by the UBC Academic Calendar, is when a student has multiple formal examinations on the same day and at the same time, or when allotted times overlap. An examination hardship is when a student has three or more formal exams in a 24-hour period. Students must notify their instructor and/or department/faculty for a concession.

Hajizadeh: “I do believe an email was sent out to the community to consult on [the Academic Freedom Policy].”

True. Gage Averill and Rehan Sadiq, the provosts and VP academics of UBC Vancouver and Okanagan, respectively, sent out a UBC Broadcast email on September 26, 2022 to invite students, faculty and staff to comment on the proposed changes to the Academic Freedom Policy by October 24, 2022.

Hassib: “I believe it's part two or the second part of the Indigenous Strategic Plan [(ISP)] which is taking concrete action towards enacting educational resources within the classroom and making sure that Indigenous perspectives are heard in educational environments.”

False. Action plan goal two is to advocate for the truth by facilitating “open dialogue about truth, reconciliation and the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ human rights.” Goal four in the plan is about Indigenous curriculum.

Kanji: “I believe [Indigenizing education] is priority four within the ISP.”

True. Action plan goal four in the ISP is to Indigenize UBC’s curriculum by including “Indigenous ways of knowing, culture, histories, experiences and worldviews in curriculum delivered across Faculties, programs and campuses.”

Ho: “We should also be looking at how we have been incorporating Indigenous-related [content] into [programs] outside of your classes in general. In terms of micro certificates, there’s been a lot of work. Forestry has done something on climate change, and if you go to UBC Extended Learning, there's a lot of things on equity and inclusion and diversity, but not a lot of stuff specifically on Indigenous-related topics.”

True. The Faculty of Forestry does offer a specialization in community and Indigenous forestry through its Indigenous Initiatives, details for which are only available upon request. UBC Extended Learning offers only one specifically Indigenous-related certificate program on Indigenous Health Administration and Leadership.

Kanji: “The current Student Senate Caucus prevented the passage of an MBA track that only had an optional Indigenous credit with the intention that this will only pass if it isn't mandatory credit.”

True. Student Senator Holly Patraschuk raised concerns about how the MBA Climate Career Track did not include a mandatory Indigenous engagement course, citing that this decision goes against goals outlined in the ISP. The MBA Climate Career Track was sent back to the Curriculum Committee for further deliberation. Kanji and Hajizadeh are part of the current Student Senate Caucus, and voted to send the motion back to committee on February 15.

Hajizadeh: “[Student senators are] at a two-to-one ratio with faculty right now, so we're a small minority.”

True. There are 18 student senators and 36 faculty senators, out of 70 non-student senate members. 12 are deans, 12 are convocation members and 4 are representatives of affiliate colleges.

Hajizadeh: “We did update the [Student Senate Caucus] website.”

True, but it hasn't been updated recently. Hajizadeh was correct — the list of current senators has been updated for the 2022/23 academic year, but it appears to not have been updated since the January when AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Dana Turdy stepped down from her seat on the Senate. The last blog post on the Student Senate Caucus website was from February 2022 and the welcome message was written by 2020–22 Student Senate Caucus co-chairs Dante Agosti-Moro and Eshana Bhangu.

Hassib: “At IKB, there is only one wheelchair accessible entrance.”


Eshana Bhangu, Kareem Hassib, Onyekachukwu Odenigbo, Sultana Razia and Leonard Wang are running for two student seats on the Board of Governors. Wang did not attend this debate.

Bhangu: “I've been able to successfully secure over $9 million in financial aid, $1.8 million towards food security, $1.5 million towards lecture capture technology.”

Likely true. Bhangu advocated for around $3.5 million in her 2021/22 term as VP academic and university affairs to be used towards hybrid teaching. It's unclear how much is being used towards lecture capture and which funds are a result of Bhangu's advocacy. UBC allocated $9.5 million in incremental tuition revenues in the same term toward student financial aid. UBC also allocated just over $1.3 million toward food security initiatives in 2021 and 2022, with the funds announced in October 2022 regarding where UBC’s tuition revenue will be allocated and before the October 2022 food security walkout.

Hassib: “The low-cost grocery store at [CIRS] — I’m pretty sure they get a $100 voucher per term for students who self-identify as facing food insecurity.”

Mostly true. UBC Meal Share, not the UBC Food Hub Market — which operates the low-cost grocery store at CIRS — directly, administers support for students who self-identify as facing food insecurity. This term, students could opt for a voucher for the UBC Food Hub Market or cafeteria passes. Applications opened on February 14 and are now closed.

Hassib: “One in two women and one in six men get sexually assaulted in their youth.”

Hard to verify, but likely true. More than 11 million Canadians have been physically or sexually assaulted since the age of 15, according to a 2019 Statistics Canada report. This represents 39 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men 15 years of age and older in Canada. Sexual assaults often go unreported, however, so this number is likely higher.

Razia: “The [UBC Sexual Misconduct Policy] right now doesn't clear out the exact grounds on what could be deemed as sexual misconduct. I think if we need to add another point, [it should be] anything that is said verbally, that's … sexually offensive or sexualizes the person they're talking to … We should have a penalty cited for it as well.”

False. The policy, SC17, outlines sexual misconduct as “any sexual act or act targeting an individual’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened, or attempted against an individual without that individual’s Consent.” SC17 also says that in the case of a student respondent, the UBC president will make a disciplinary decision in accordance with the University’s Act and for other cases, decisions are made by Student Housing and Community Services, the faculty/school of a non-student respondent and/or UBC Athletics and Recreation.

Hassib: “Notetakers get paid per credit per term and not per hour.”

True. Notetakers get paid per credit, per term.

Bhangu: “Unfortunately, we did find out that the Disability Affinity Group was not consulted on the terms of reference [for the disability task force].”

Mostly true. The Disability Affinity Group (DAG) sent a letter to various UBC administrators, the Disabled Graduate Student Association and The Ubyssey on February 24 that allege the group’s initial requests to be consulted on the draft Terms of Reference for UBC’s newly-reinstated Accessibility Committee. The DAG said they were eventually able to send written feedback, but this feedback was ignored. The Accessibility Committee is different from a disability task force, which the DAG and others have been calling for since the start of the pandemic. The Ubyssey reached out to UBC for comment for a separate piece, but has not heard back yet.

Bhangu: “[Campus Vision 2050 will include] more than 3,300 student beds.”

True. Campus Vision 2050 proposed adding 3,300 new student beds.

Hassib: “RBC is the fifth largest fossil fuel funder in the world”

True. RBC financed over $200 billion USD toward the fossil fuel industry between 2016 and 2021, ranking fifth among global non-governmental banks, according to the Rainforest Action Network.

Follow us at @UbysseyNews on Twitter and follow our election coverage starting February 27. This article is part of our 2023 AMS Elections coverage.