Great Debate, 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. Isabella Falsetti / 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 Great Debate from March 3 where candidates in every race — VP academic and university affairs (VPAUA), VP administration, president, VP external, VP finance, Senate and the Board of Governors — debated each other across six hours.

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

VP academic and university affairs

Kamil Kanji is running uncontested for VPAUA.

Kanji: “I don’t believe I did abstain [from approving the 2022 Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) referenda]. We can check the voting records, but I believe I voted in favour of that.”

False. During the February 16, 2022 AMS Council meeting, Kanji abstained from a motion to approve a SASC referendum for a $6.42 fee increase, for AMS services to support the campaign and for AMS Council to “adopt a Yes position in support of the Sexual Assault Support Services Fund referendum question.”

VP administration

Anuoluwapo Awotunde, Ian Caguiat, Anvi Kumar, Chayan Lu and Jake Sawatzky are running for VP administration. Awotunde did not attend the Great Debate.

Sawatzky: “[If it is] what the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee has decided, then that's what we're going with. It's good to have a variety of viewpoints of speakers at a university, but at the end of the day, if it conflicts with our diversity, equity and inclusion policies, then that will have to be punished, essentially.”

False. The AMS does not currently have a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Sawatzky is likely speaking about the AMS Equity Plan, which was released in January 2022.

Responses to previous events involving controversial guest speakers for AMS clubs and other student groups mainly centred around matters under the university’s jurisdiction, such as room bookings. The equity plan maintains that Council’s Advocacy Committee should “[act] on conflict and controversial issues related to [Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion] quickly and [handle] the issues firmly and with sensitivity.”

Caguiat: “In early February, AMS Sustainability held a zero waste fair, which was a collaboration with UBC Sustainability and the Sustainability Hub.”

Mostly true. AMS Sustainability worked with UBC Sustainability (which leads academic and organizational efforts) and UBC Climate Hub (which focuses on advocacy work) to organize a broader Climate Emergency Fair featuring clubs and local organizations on February 8. The day before, AMS Sustainability worked with Common Energy, an AMS club, to conduct a waste audit of the Nest.

Caguiat: “The Commons Lounge this year has been developing into a community hub, and that's what the current VP admin is working on.”

True. The lounge is open on the bottom floor of the Nest from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays for the remainder of the second semester.

Sawatzky: “One thing that we could consider is if there's an application for a club that's very similar to an existing club, maybe talk to that existing club and see if there could be a potential merger.”

Noted. The Operations Committee Policy Manual recommends that new clubs demonstrate sufficient membership, the ability to maintain membership, the ability to maintain financial stability, a mandate that does not overlap with a current AMS subsidiary and independence from external (non-AMS) organizations prior to being constituted. The Clubs and Societies Working Group may provide recommendations to the Operations Committee to deconstitute an AMS Club.

Caguiat: “We can always collaborate with our VPAUA to make sure that UBC itself is accessible, and we do have the Inclusive Spaces Review, and we can always mandate that in the next year to make sure that the Nest itself is successful for all students.”

True, and noted. A Safety and Inclusive Spaces Review was listed as part of current VP Admin Ben Du’s goals in June 2022, A December 2022 update to AMS Council stated that a review would begin early that month, though no updates have been released since then.

Caguiat: “My work in the VPAUA Office involves creating the very first [set of] Engagement Principles, and that includes how to ethically consult with Indigenous [community members].”


Sawatzky: “None of my fellow [candidates] sitting with me today came to the Indigenous Forum to actually consult with the Indigenous community on what their needs are.”

False. Lu also attended the Indigenous Forum on Wednesday, March 1.


ChatGPT, Ben Du and Remy the Rat/Esmé Decker are running for president. ChatGPT did not attend the Great Debate.

Remy/Decker: “[Last year], students voted The Rat ahead of four serious candidates and one former VP.”

True. According to the official AMS Elections results, Remy the Rat, one of two joke candidates, won five of its six head-to-head matchups against other candidates including former VP External Saad Shoaib and lost to current AMS President Eshana Bhangu by 1,597 votes.

Du: “I’ve held the largest clubs fair this university has ever seen.”

Hard to verify. According to Du, the 2022 fair saw 232 individual clubs register, 3 days of live music from 19 student artists, 9 Superdog shows, 6 specialty food trucks and booths from 14 campus partners and 16 external partners. The club’s day held by his predecessor Lauren Benson was a hybrid event.

Remy/Decker: “Next week, you can vote on important referend[a] about bringing us out of the deficit by paying $52 about each for our health care.”

Misspoke, but true. There are two AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan questions on the ballot — one for a general $52.50 fee increase to maintain the current level of coverage and a separate $8 fee increase to add gender-affirming care coverage to the plan that is conditional on the first increase passing. Decker misspoke, saying that the total cost of the plan would be $52 per student, rather the referendums are for a $52 and $8 increase.

Remy/Decker: “The AMS is not the same as other institutions that have to follow [disclosure] rules with [Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act].”

True. The AMS is a private entity so does not need to release emails and correspondences when requested under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), unlike UBC and the provincial government.

Du: “As VP admin, I was heavily involved in conversations about management restructuring. We need somebody who has the context of being behind those closed doors ... who knows the inner workings of the AMS and the management structures behind it to know how to bridge connections between ultimately student government and permanent staff.”

True. As VP admin, Du is on the Ad-Hoc Governance Review Committee and Managements Review Sub-committee which oversees governance and management at the AMS

Remy/Decker: “Maybe next year we can try out a hybrid version [of the Annual General Meeting], because the last couple of years have been online, and maybe people still aren't really seeing that as much of a presence.”

True. The 2021 and 2022 AMS Annual General Meetings (AGM) were held over Zoom. The 2021 AGM fell short of quorum, but the 2022 meeting met quorum for just the third time in 40 years. For the latter, the AMS also offered $5,000 in prizes— a $500 tuition credit for 10 students — to students who attended the meeting. In 2021, $4,000 in prizes were available at the AGM.

Du: “We have currently a $70 million loan with the building with RBC. By refinancing that loan and cutting ties with RBC, that would mean a collective pool of a few million dollars increase in student fees that students would have to cover.”

Mostly true, and hard to verify. By refinancing the AMS’s roughly $70 million loan for the Nest through RBC, the student society saved around $60 million in loan interest for students, according to 2017 Ubyssey coverage. The assumption of an increase in student fees if the AMS were to transfer the loan out of RBC can’t be confirmed. The loan balance stands at just over $52 million at the end of the 2022 fiscal year, and the terms of the loan will be re-evaluated in 2024.

Du: In VP Admin, we have a sustainability Work-Learn under my portfolio.

True. Du verified this claim in a statement sent to The Ubyssey following the debate.

VP external

Tina Tong is running uncontested for VP external.

Tong: “For me, I would look into this Quebec non-profit organization called UTILE so we could [re-]develop old residences on campus so that we can provide students with housing that they need. The project with UTILE has already been conducted and commissioned by the AMS, so all that’s left to do is just to review it and develop it into whatever goals we are trying to accomplish next school year.”

Noted. This statement was in response to a question regarding lobbying for renter’s supports following the elimination of the City of Vancouver’s Renters Office, but for the sake of context, we’ll follow along.

UTILE, a Quebec-based developer, presented at a January 27, 2021 AMS Council meeting and the AMS launched a UTILE Housing Survey to “identify student priorities and create affordable housing for everyone.” However, no projects have officially been commissioned by the AMS, nor does the AMS own land upon which to develop a project. Additionally, the AMS Housing Service, which explored the option of student union-led housing, was eliminated and shifted to AMS Advocacy this past January.

VP finance

Abhi Mishra and Linda Zheng are running for VP finance. Zheng did not attend the Great Debate.

Mishra: “What I plan to do is collaborate with local food banks and other startups who focus on [food security] because together we’d be able to do more. I'd also leverage the platform of AMS Events to come up with a sponsorship package that will be used for our corporate partners who will be able to donate; I’d work closely with the academic affairs office when we're advocating to UBC.”

Noted. The VP external, per AMS code, would typically be tasked with lobbying governmental partners and other organizations regarding the AMS Food Bank and Student Services portfolio as a whole, with insights from the president, services manager and managing director (currently filled by an interim). The VP finance manages the financial affairs of the society, including preparing the annual budget, producing reports regarding fee revenues and fund expenditures, liaising with clubs and constituency treasurers to ensure fiduciary compliance with AMS bylaws.


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 did not attend the Great Debate.

Li: “UBC rejected international connections with [a Singapore university]”

False. In February, the Senate discussed international agreements when a motion to approve an affiliation between the Peter A. Allard School of Law and the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. The motion did not fail. Senator Charles Menzies proposed ​​deferring this motion until after the Provost's Office presents a report on international agreements with institutions in countries with human rights violations. The motion to defer passed.

Razia: “There are certain times where you need to cut [off] the arguments, for example, recently UBC cut off ties with the Russian universities, regarding the invasion in Ukraine, but maybe [we should] not cut it off, maybe look for the programs, if certain programs that they are partnered up with are for the war or against the war, maybe look into those plans, or maybe look into the kinds of research that are going on —maybe the kinds of research could actually benefit Ukraine or other countries that are facing invasions.”

True and noted. In April 2022, senators approved two motions from the Academic Policy and Research & Scholarship committees regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The two committees drafted these motions following a lengthy discussion at the March 2022 Senate meeting around the invasion and UBC’s response.

The first motion — which condemned Russian human rights violations and encouraged increased support for Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians — called for UBC Vancouver to suspend current and future academic relations with Russian governmental entities indefinitely. The motion passed without any questions or discussion, with 58 senators in favour and 1 opposed.

The second motion recommended the expansion of the current Scholars at Risk UBC Advisory Committee to a broader ‘At Risk Scholars and Students Advisory Committee’ in order to increase its scope.

Kanji: “The Senate imposed a six-year term limit on Senate committee chairs.”

True. The Senate Rules and Procedures stipulate that no senator can remain chair of a standing committee for more than six consecutive years.

Kanji: “A senator has been on the Senate for over 20 years.”

True. Dr. J. H. V. Gilbert has served since September 1993.

Irfan: “There are policies that haven’t been touched in 10 years.”


Li: “As [Irfan] said, some policies haven’t been reviewed for so, so long. [Look] at policy J-101, J-102 (exam policies), V-103 (teaching and learning).”

True. J-101 and V-103 were both approved in 2012. J-102 was dissolved after UBC Okanagan implemented its own policy for Exam Hardships and Clashes, but senators merely re-approved the content of J-102 under code V-102 in April 2021.

Li: “[We should be looking at] updating the wayfinding programs at UBC — it’s just atrocious. The outdated accessibility information means terrible centralization.”

True. As of July 2020, 49 buildings out of the 189 on campus were inaccessible according to UBC’s Wayfinding program. Of the 140 remaining, 50 had no information on accessibility. Centre for Accessibility Director Janet Mee told The Ubyssey that there were no overarching systems to house accessibility information on residence, faculties and other buildings. Instead, she said information was scattered in different databases which utilize differing terms.

Kanji: “Something we've seen in the recommendations ... was the extension of the course add/drop date. So later in the year, the last day of classes, I think that’s very realistic. There's precedent that has been set and I think it will involve student mobilization, but because of the trajectory in the new triennium, I think we’re in primetime.”

True, and noted. In January 2022, current AMS President and student senator Eshana Bhangu introduced a motion to extend the deadline for students to withdraw from a course without receiving a W on their transcript to February 6 at 11:59 p.m. from the original add/drop date of January 21. Bhangu said it would mitigate uncertainty for students since classes were online with no clear return to in-person learning. The motion passed with 37 in favour and 24 opposed.

Razia: We're at today's world view of you know, gender and sexuality and you know, because these are things that are coming up, these are the things that we are talking nearly and we didn't talk about it like maybe 10 years ago, maybe design courses that are coming up into these topics and we need to educate our students about them.

Noted. UBC has a gender, race, sexuality and social justice (GRSJ) program and a critical studies for sexuality minor program.

Hassib: “Students are outnumbered by faculty by, what, four-to-one, five-to-one?”

False. There are 18 student senators and 70 non-student senators. However, only 36 are faculty members; of the rest, 12 are deans, 12 are convocation members, 4 are representatives of affiliate colleges and 3 are ex-officio members, among others.

Board of Governors

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 the Great Debate.

Razia: “All the student advocates, all the student representatives have voted against tuition increases. And yet, there will be tuition increases.”

True. In December 2022, UBC Vancouver BoG student representatives Max Holmes and Georgia Yee and UBCO representative Tashia Kootenayoo voted against tuition increases.

Bhangu: “I would push for more increased minimum funding for PhD students, which until a couple of years ago was actually just at the poverty line, if not below … [Graduate students] are also the greatest users of the [AMS] Food Bank.”

True. UBC raised its minimum stipend for PhD students to $22,000 per year in September 2021, which is below the 2020 urban low-income cut off line of $26,620. Between September and December 2022, around 63 per cent of student Food Bank visits were made by graduate students, despite making up only 22 per cent of the student population, according to a January Student Services report. Graduate students at UBC are not guaranteed funding, but may be eligible for merit-based awards to cover the cost of tuition (not including fees), along with merit-based federal and provincial scholarships and need-based provincial grants.

Bhangu: “I think I've proven a track record with over $14.5 million collectively being successfully advocated for by me to go towards student priorities over the past couple of years.

Difficult to verify. Major allocations made to student-identified priorities at UBC Vancouver include $15.2 million in incremental tuition revenues approved by the Board of Governors from the 2021/22 tuition increase (made during Bhangu’s tenure as VPAUA and a one-time allocation from then-President Santa Ono’s office of $500,000 towards food security initiatives in October 2022 (during Bhangu’s tenure as AMS President).

Bhangu currently sits on the Student Affordability Task Force Implementation Team, which provides recommendations but does not approve funding regarding issues including food security, housing security and child care.

Bhangu: “I am once again on track to complete 100 per cent of my executive goals.”

Noted. Bhangu told The Ubyssey that while she has not disregarded any of her campaign priorities, she said holding two executive positions following the July resignation of former VP Finance Rita Jin made certain aspects of the work slower, such as finalizing the AMS Strategic Plan.

Bhangu: “... representation on a body where student voices are only 3 out of 21.”

True. The Board of Governors has three elected student representatives, two from UBC Vancouver and one from UBC Okanagan.

Lauren Benson is a member of the Ubyssey Publications Society Board of Directors. The Board has no control on the editorial operations of The Ubyssey.

The Ubyssey published an editorial in opposition to the proposed amendments to the AMS’s Records Policy which relates to the society and FIPPA in October 2022.

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

This article was updated at 8:50 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8. A previous version said Ben Du's claim was involved in the review of the AMS's management structure was potentially misleading. The Ubyssey regrets this error.