Midterm review: VP AUA Kamil Kanji

Halfway through his term, VP Academic and University Affairs (AUA) Kamil Kanji has made progress on many of his goals on affordability, open educational resources and mental health and harm reduction, but still has some left unchecked.

Kanji is currently acting AMS president as the society begins a search for an interim president after AMS President Esmé Decker went on a leave of absence effective November 13 with no set return date.

As VP AUA, Kanji said the AMS has secured $500,000 of funding from UBC to increase the AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan mental health coverage. It previously covered 100 per cent of psychologist visits, but was reduced to 80 per cent due the plan's financial instability. UBC’s contribution will allow the plan to continue covering 100 per cent of mental health coverage, according to Kanji.

The AUA portfolio also led a successful Textbook Broke campaign this past month. Kanji said the AMS collaborated with UBC’s Provost’s Office to create educational videos about open educational resources and independently led in-person and online promotional campaigns for Textbook Broke. Kanji said the campaign had over 150,000 student interactions.

Kanji is also advocating for increased funding for the AMS Food Bank and has secured $350,000 in funding for the Food Bank from UBC. His goals also included establishing a memorandum of understanding with UBC’s President’s Office to establish long-term and sustainable funding for the AMS Food Bank. Kanji said this is a second semester priority and that this hasn’t happened yet because UBC's new president Benoit-Antoine Bacon only entered the office November 1.

The AUA portfolio’s goals also included providing spectrometer testing for substances, access to naloxone training, physical and sexual harm-reduction kits and workshops.

Currently, Kanji is working to bring mass spectrometer testing to campus. He said UBC Okanagan has a spectrometer testing pilot program he is looking to emulate on the Vancouver campus with the help of UBC Student Health and Wellbeing. He also said the AUA portfolio is working to hold naloxone training events alongside Student Health and Wellbeing.

The AMS, in collaboration with the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), AMS Events and the AMS Administration portfolio, is providing students with physical and sexual harm reduction kits, according to Kanji. These kits include naloxone kits, safe sex and period products, said Kanji.

“We've been giving out some of those kits for quite some time, but we're trying to amp up the number that we're able to give out,” said Kanji. “We want to try and make sure that those harm reduction kits are available as much as they can be.”

Kanji’s executive goals do not explicitly mention sexual violence prevention, despite previous VP AUAs including it in their goals.

Kanji said sexual violence prevention is something his portfolio will advocate for and that “it's something that just so implicitly needs to happen at the AMS.” He also said he is on the UBC Senate policy development committee overseeing the policy review of SC17, UBC’s sexual misconduct policy.

Kanji said he has consulted with the SASC about what the priorities for the policy review should be. Kanji said his consultation will allow him to advocate for a policy that is “robust, that reflects student concerns, the students’s needs and is reflective of the advice provided to [him] by the content experts.”

“I think [Policy SC17] is the primary space where the AMS can be engaged in real tangible work related to sexual violence prevention because the SC17 policy is applicable to everyone,” Kanji said.

Moving forward, Kanji said he will continue to push UBC’s Board of Governors to increase the available financial aid for international students and will continue to work with UBC Student Housing and Community Services and Enrolment Services to make improvements to and increase access of the emergency housing bursaries.