It’s AMS Elections season, and we can once again expect candidates to throw out a lot of numbers, figures and claims at the debates. Understandably, it’s easy to take what candidates say at face value, and that’s why The Ubyssey is fact-checking some of the big claims candidates make.
In this article we’ve covered the first and second nights of debates, which included the races for AMS president, VP academic and university affairs (VP AUA), VP administration, UBC Board of Governors (BoG) student representatives, VP external, VP finance and Senate.
Here we’ve covered everything from platform plagiarism claims to the fine print in student residence contracts.
Claim: “I’ve successfully advocated for the extension of the drop date, over $9 million directly back to students through financial aid, over $1.5 million towards recorded lecture technology and a million dollars in reducing food insecurity.”
Likely true. Bhangu successfully advocated for the drop date extension in January 2022. Around $3.5 million is forecast to be used towards hybrid teaching, though it's unclear how much is being used towards lecture capture and which funds are a result of Bhangu's advocacy. UBC also allocated $9.5 million in incremental tuition revenues towards student financial aid and $840,000 towards food security initiatives.
Claim: “For years, groups have, rightfully so, voiced that they are extractively consulted, whether it's Indigenous groups on campus, whether it’s other equity deserving groups.”
True. Over the course of the 2020 AMS elections, Indigenous students criticized extractive consultation from the AMS after the AMS Elections Committee held an Indigenous meet-and-greet. Indigenous students spoke up about AMS and student groups’ lack of respectful consultation with them, and argued that there seemed to be a lot of performative consultation instead.
Claim: “I looked at the UBC candidate profile 2020 for Cole Evans and I found that it’s the exact same as what Eshana put on her candidate profile for the 2022 elections.”
Difficult to verify. Evans’ 2020 candidate profile is no longer online, although the platform for his 2021 re-election campaign is available. Bhangu’s 2022 platform includes mentions of childcare, social justice and harm reduction services, which are absent or differently framed within Evans’ 2021 platform.
Claim: “I’ve made it my mission to prioritize my advocacy on sexual violence prevention. As the Associate Vice President External, I worked directly on producing key research to highlight the need for more provincial support towards ending gender-based and sexualized violence. That research is being used right now to lobby the provincial government. I lobbied the province for the past two years on establishing minimum standards and post-secondary sexual violence policies.”
True. Former VP External Kalith Nanayakkara, Shoaib, Maia Wallace and Erin Co co-authored a Provincial Lobbying Strategic Plan in 2020 which outlines priorities and recommendations for the provincial government surrounding post-secondary sexual violence policies.
Claim: “I’ve played a strong role in advocating for students, whether it's on the permanent removal of interest rates, or whether it's getting the provincial and federal governments to commit funding towards the SkyTrain to UBC.”
True. According to his midterm review back in November 2021, Shoaib made efforts towards lobbying the federal government to permanently remove interest rates from student loans. He worked with the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-intensive Universities (UCRU) as vice-chair to help realize his goal to make permanent increases to Canada Student Grants and increase the payment assistance threshold to $50,000, meaning students wouldn’t have to repay their loans until they reach that annual income threshold. In July of 2021, the provincial and federal governments also committed to paying 80 per cent of the costs involved in developing the SkyTrain extension to UBC.
Claim: “The only way to [find out about this debate] was by following the AMS Elections [Instagram] page, not even the main AMS page, which is only followed by about 1/60th of the student population.”
Half true. Kaufman is correct in that the follower count of the AMS Elections Instagram page constitutes about a 60th of UBC Vancouver’s student population of 56,936 students, although the actual proportion may be even less, given that not all followers are current students. Information about debates was available on the AMS website as well as on the AMS and Ubyssey Twitters. The AMS Nest Instagram page also shared information about the debates.
Claim: “It’s about not saying we need affordability while simultaneously taking student money and spending it on retreats, free food for executives, and all those things which the current executive body has done.”
True. The AMS’s Financial Quarterly Report Second Quarter for Fiscal Year 2021/2022 cites “food expenses at meetings” and “minimal expenditures” for an “executive committee retreat” among Council expenditures. The AMS Council is forecast to spend $12,000 on food and refreshments for the 2021/22 school year, while the cost of the executive retreat is not disclosed.
Claim: “It’s also not about decrying for climate justice and then ordering hundreds of thousands of disposable masks manufactured with petroleum products, as the current administration did.”
False. The masks in question, provided by the AMS in early February, were KN95 masks, which are usually made of cotton, not petroleum, and which, according to the CDC, are reusable to a certain extent as long as they remain unsoiled. The mask packaging is made of plastic, which is a petroleum product, but clean plastic wrap is recyclable in BC.
Claim: “If you’re only inviting speakers of a certain political background, that’s not truly free speech if you only have one side of the argument.”
Difficult to verify. Choi was referring to UBC Students for Freedom of Expression (SFE), where Kaufman is the sitting vice president. Kaufman has said in the past that deplatforming far-right views does not eliminate them. However, it is difficult to definitively state whether past speakers invited by the SFE have all been from a certain political background. The only speakers from this year, as advertised on the SFE Facebook page, have been anti-mask paralegal Vladislav Sobolev, residential school genocide-denialist Lauren Southern (although the event’s booking space at UBC was cancelled due to controversy) and UBC faculty member Dr. Steven Pelech, who has advocated against mask and vaccine mandates.
VP Academic and University Affairs
Claim: “Going back to the Student Engagement Survey, the top way students knew about things going on in the AMS was by word of mouth… Second was social media.”
Claim: “UBC raised tuition during a pandemic, with over 90 per cent of students opposing it.”
True. Around 93 per cent of students opposed a tuition increase, according to the January 2021 tuition survey presented to the Board of Governors.
Claim: “A huge thing that I’m running on this year is establishing a formal consultation process and guidelines for the AMS, which we currently do not have.”
Misleading. The AMS Policy Manual and bylaws establish several types of consultation policies and processes, including regarding tuition increases. There is currently no unified formal process defined for approaching consultation.
Claim: “There’s a clause in the year-round residents’ contract for students on campus that if you are involved in illegal drug use or if someone around you is involved in illegal drug use, you can be evicted from your residence and the authorities can be called on you.”
True. The 2021-2022 UBC Student Residence contract for year-round residents states that partaking in any illegal drug-related activity or being present during others’ illegal drug activity is prohibited and “may result in eviction and referral to the police.”
Claim: “This idea of tuition increases and continual tuition increases when our university operates on a $3.1 billion budget already is ridiculous.”
True. According to the most recent budget released by the university, the budget for the fiscal year of 2021-2022 is in fact $3.1 billion.
Claim: “AMS has prohibited consultation before today for election platforms.”
Claim: “As the previous [associate] VP, I was able to initiate the harm reduction strategy. We were able to establish SASC as a registered harm reduction site.”
Claim: “In BC, student tenancy rights are not established.”
True. In BC, students living on university property are exempt from tenant protection laws.
Claim: “In recent years, the AMS has lost its voting seat [in UNA].”
True. In an August 2020 memorandum, the AMS’s seat on the University Neighbourhood Association (UNA) board was reduced to non-voting status, while the AMS was granted the right to appoint a student to vote in UNA working groups. UBC’s appointed directors also lost voting status around that time.
Claim: “The [federal government] only committed Post-Secondary Student Support program funding for five years, which ends in 2024.”
True. The program is open to Status First Nations post-secondary students.
Claim: “UTILE’s survey shows that a typical one-bedroom in Vancouver costs about $1,500 [per month].”
Difficult to verify, but likely an understatement. Co is referencing a survey by UTILE, a Quebec-based student housing organization that has developed a student housing cooperative for the Concordia Student Union. No public data from UTILE is available, but according to Zumper, the median price for a one-bedroom apartment in the City of Vancouver is $2,200 as of March 2022, and has remained higher than $1,650 since April 2016. Prices may vary between neighbourhoods.
Angad Singh Gill
Claim: “Each vote [in this year’s AMS election] will translate to $2 for sending out vaccines to those in dire need.”
True, but one quick note: the AMS pledged to donate $2 for every student ballot cast, as opposed to votes for each race. Donations will be made to UNICEF Canada’s COVID-19 Fund, which aims to supply low-income nations with COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX. The student society will donate up to $30,000 this year, which translates to 15,000 votes cast — or 25 per cent vote turnout — and 12,500 full two-dose programs of COVID-19 vaccines. The money will be donated from the AMS’s International Projects Fund.
Claim: “There was a tuition increase recently that has been providing $1.2 million [to] the SVPRO.”
Incorrect, and needs clarification. Jassmann misspoke and later told The Ubyssey that he intended to refer to a proposal to increase “SASC tuition” from $9.58 to $20, claiming that the revenues from such an increased charge — $20 multiplied by the society’s nearly 60,000 students — would equal around $1.2 million.
The proposed increase is to $16, not $20. In addition, SASC funds are derived from a fee levied by the AMS, as opposed to tuition charges which can only be levied by the university via the Board of Governors. The last round of tuition increases did not affect funding for UBC’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO).
During the debate, Jassmann also addressed a platform point that stated that the AMS should provide funds to SVPRO, despite it being a UBC-run initiative, not an AMS one.
Claim: “One of the most important things from the UBC Indigenous Finance Guide is the fact that we should respect different cultures and different beliefs. Some cultural procedures require payment during or right after the ceremony … things like how gift exchanges look like and the timing of everything are really important as well.”
True. Appropriate payment procedures differ by community, recipient and circumstance, but guidelines for payment and gift-giving are provided in the Indigenous Research Support Initiative’s Indigenous Finance Guidelines.
Claim: “An external review [of Senate] hasn’t happened in decades.”
Almost true. The upcoming external review of UBC Vancouver’s Senate will be its first since 2005.
Claim: “I’m the student senator who drafted a policy to put a cap on the cost of digital learning materials, which was just approved in principle by [Senate’s] Academic Policy Committee.”
Difficult to verify, as minutes from the February 2022 meeting of the Vancouver Senate are not yet posted. In May 2019, Senate endorsed a set of “guiding principles” on the costs of third-party digital learning materials. While the principles recommended that each student would have to pay a maximum of $65 per course on materials used for assessment, a policy would make such a cap binding.
Board of Governors
Claim: “Policy LR10 only applies to domestic students.”
Claim: “If you look at our minimum [graduate] stipend level, it’s just at — or below — the poverty line, depending how it’s being adjusted.”
Claim: “Students for Freedom of Expression tried to bring a genocide denialist on this campus, and this is something that we need to be saying the university has a history of, and that this is something that is, that was used in the past as dialogue to be violent toward a specific community.”
True. Students for Freedom of Expression hosted Lauren Southern, a far-right pundit who has denied the existence of genocide at residential schools. Although SFE attempted to frame the event as a conversation between Southern, former minister Kevin Arnett and residential school survivor George Brown, a post from the SFE Facebook group from November 12, 2021 states that the SFE “never heard from George Brown directly.” Both Brown and Arnett ultimately pulled out from the event following Arnett’s criticisms that SFE’s event was “failing to protect a survivor of genocide.” UBC ultimately cancelled the on-campus event, and SFE held it online instead.
During the establishment of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre in 2018, President Santa Ono said the university “now better recognize[s] the harm that was done to Indigenous people” and “ha[s] come to regret how little our institution and others like it did to understand what was happening, speak against it or to teach in response to it.”
Claim: “I’ve been creating some pre-meeting summaries and uploading those to Reddit.”
Claim: “The Academic Freedom Policy is a Senate-facing policy.”
Claim: “If you know the history of the Academic Freedom Policy, you’ll know it’s framed by Dr. Suedfeld, whose family was killed in the Holocaust ... and continues to be an advocate for free expression on campus to this day.”
True. Professor Emeritus in the pyschology department Dr. Peter Suedfeld promoted the Academic Freedom Policy in 1976, and cites his family’s experience in Nazi Germany in his approval for academic freedom and freedom of expression.
This fact check is included here as Kaufman brought it up during the open debate period, but the Policy mentioned does not pertain to the Board of Governors directly.