Platforms, fact-checked: Breaking down your AMS elections candidates’ claims

File Jasmine Foong

At this point in the campaign, most AMS candidates have released their platforms. They make a lot of claims about what they want to accomplish, and why they’re the best fit for the job.

To make sure those claims are accurate and their goals are within the scope of the position they’re running for, we’re here to fact-check those claims.

For statements that aren’t exactly fact-checkable, we provide some context to clarify what exactly your candidates are promising.

Eshana Bhangu

“Continue to advocate for student housing to be turned into a government business enterprise that could borrow externally.”

Noted. The government business enterprise (GBE) refers to a project proposed in 2018 to create more affordable housing on campus. Since GBE’s are separate legal entities from the university, it would have greater flexibility to seek external funding or subsidies from the government.

“The Sustainable Projects Fund, Resource Group Fund, and many more have massive amounts of student money laying unspent because there are high barriers to students being able to use this money for what it's meant for students.”

True. The AMS Funds and Fees Report 2021/22 describes the Sustainability Projects Fund, the Clubs Benefit Fund and the Childcare Bursary Fund as funds with “high reserves in previous years- and lower spending patterns to match.” In the 2018/19 fiscal year report, the Sustainable Projects Fund listed a surplus of $199,088.44 following four years of underspending. The AMS has introduced new features for the fund, in an attempt to reduce barriers to access for student sustainability projects.

Tate Kaufman

“​​It is important that AMS contributes to efforts oriented around making campus genuinely carbon neutral, as well as encouraging community initiatives in that direction.”

Somewhat true. The AMS officially became carbon neutral in February through Indigenous-partnered carbon offsets in the Great Bear Rainforest. Campus operations continue to produce carbon emissions, but the current VP Admin Lauren Benson said that the purchase of carbon offsets does not mean the AMS won’t continue trying to reduce its own emissions.

“As part of its divestment efforts, the AMS needs to advocate for the domestic sourcing of energy, so that operating costs can remain low, while ensuring that human rights have been adhered to in the production of energy.”

“The AMS leadership also needs to acknowledge Indigenous territorial sovereignty, and seek to support resource projects approved by elected officials, including projects such as light natural gas and Coastal Link BC. Enabling these communities to achieve financial success is the best way to ensure their long term path towards sustainability.”

Potentially misleading.

UBC’s current on-campus energy needs are domestically fulfilled by BCHydro and FortisBC. The university is also developing on-campus energy generation capacity with its Bioenergy Research Demonstration Facility.

The United Nations accused the Coastal GasLink BC natural gas pipeline’s injunction against Wet’suwet’en land defenders of violating human rights, and of impeding freedom of the press by arresting journalists. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have denounced the pipeline and are resisting federal court orders to cede land to Coastal GasLink. However, Kaufman is choosing to reference band members or chiefs who support the LNG pipeline, who are elected under a governmental structure imposed by the Indian Act of 1876 and often conflict with traditional governance structures.

The Pan

“Are you tired of a 7% voter turnout rate?”

Almost true. The voter turnout rate in 2021 was 6.9%.

The Pan’s human representative is Thomas McLeod, The Ubyssey’s Opinion & Blog Editor. He is not involved in this year’s election coverage.

The Rat

“Rata-Tuition Freeze: advocate for a halt on yearly tuition increases, especially after the 2021 tuition increase and UBC posting an $81.7-million consolidated accounting surplus that year.”

True. The university ended the 2020/21 fiscal year with an $82 million consolidated accounting surplus, which the 2020/21 Consolidated Financial Statement marks as “not available for cash distribution.”

Saad Shoaib

Current VP External Saad Shoaib’s platform centres his prior experience lobbying the federal government, including regarding student loan reductions and securing funding for the SkyTrain to UBC.

“Furthering the AMS’ project of creating non-profit student housing that is affordable and accessible to students in need.”

Noted. This non-profit student housing refers to an idea proposed at the August 21, 2021 AMS Executive Committee meeting to establish student-run non-profit housing, following the model of Montreal affordable housing developer Utile. The AMS would be responsible for paying $21 million, or 32 per cent of the total costs — which would be equivalent to $20 per student for 20 years.

However, according to a feasibility assessment performed by the AMS for the 2020/21 academic year, this project is at least two years away due to the necessity of careful planning.

“Pushing the provincial government to renew BC’s International Education Strategy to support the long-term affordability of international students and introducing a 5% cap on tuition increases for international students.”

Difficult to evaluate. The BC International Education Strategy, which began in 2011, is a multifaceted strategy to support “B.C. students and educators studying and working abroad” and “students and teachers from around the world to study and work in B.C.” It includes several funding sources, including $700,000 to the Mitacs Globalink program, to help fund international student tuition and research. However, it also prioritises funding domestic students study-abroad programs. Consequently, it does not necessarily represent a “long-term affordability plan” for international students — especially if it has to be renewed.

It is also not within the scope of the AMS president role to introduce a five per cent cap on international student tuition, as tuition is the responsibility of the Board of Governors. To lobby the BC government to include a five per cent international tuition cap within BC’s tuition limit policy is also not typically the AMS president’s role. Lobbying the provincial government is the responsibility of the VP external, which is Shoaib’s current position.

Sydney Harakal

“If tuition were raised to match inflation and nothing else since 1990, tuition would be around $1850 cheaper PER YEAR.”

Generally true for domestic students. Putting aside enrolment fees and using the faculty of arts as a baseline, undergraduate domestic tuition today is $187.23 per credit and $5,617 per 30-credit school year. In 1990, students within this faculty were expected to complete between 15 and 18 units, at a cost of $112 per unit and $1,680 per 15-unit school year, or $2,016 for an 18-credit school year. Canada’s consumer price index puts cumulative inflation at 89.44 per cent between January 1990 and January 2022, bringing the inflation-adjusted total to between $3,183 and $3,819 per year.

Therefore, the difference is between $1,798 and $2,434. Values differ between faculties and programs.

Wesley Choi

At the time of publication, Choi does not have an online platform.

Anisha Sandhu

“I successfully advocated for academic accommodations throughout the pandemic including course withdrawal deadlines (W2020T1 and W2021T2).”

True. Sandhu voted in favour of changing the course withdrawal deadlines and spoke in favour of it in 2021T2. Both occurred, although UBC Vancouver notably changed the course withdrawal deadline after UBC Okanagan had done so.

Anushreya Arora

At the time of publication, Arora does not have an online platform.

Dana Turdy

“Advocate for an accessibility taskforce to address accessibility issues – This can be through the BoG and Senate. This includes investments into making all buildings accessible, improving the Wayfinding Interface, mandating regular accessibility audits.”

Noted. In November, the AMS’s budget priorities recommended allocating funding for accessibility audits to address the high proportion of buildings on campus that are not accessible to disabled students.

Kamil Kanji

“I will advocate heavily for the expansion of the UBC Meal Share program that was piloted this past year which gave any student that needed it $100 to use in restaurants or stores on the UBC campus. This program was extremely effective … ”

True. The UBC Meal Share pilot program, funded by the UBC Food Security Initiative, gives students who self-identify as experiencing food insecurity or financial challenges $100 via UBCcards for use at eligible locations. The program is open to apply at the beginning of each month until funds available to allocate run out.

Ben Du

Claim: “After two years since its launch, our social engagement platform CampusBase has been met with confusion for most students.”

True. According to a survey administered by the VP administration office late last year, one-third of club respondents said they had “a good level of familiarity with the purpose of CampusBase.” In addition, 45 per cent said they were “somewhat unsure about CampusBase’s place in the UBC student community.”

Claim: “There has been increasing demand for a stable prayer space in the Nest.”

Likely true. Predating the pandemic, temporary prayer spaces were used as a stopgap to provide areas for religious and worship groups to gather, although some designated spaces were occasionally unavailable over the past year. Prayer spaces were also included in current VP Admin Lauren Benson’s goals upon taking office.

Erin Co

Claim: “The Canada Student Grant is currently doubled from $3000 to $6000 until 2023.”


Claim: “I plan to lobby the Mayor’s Council and continue to work with UBC Rapid Transit to secure the remaining 20% of the budget needed for the Skytrain to UBC's business case.”

Noted. After lobbying the provincial and federal government, the VPX office in 2020/21 helped secure 40 per cent of the costs to develop the business case of the proposed Skytrain extension to UBC. While this accounts for 80 per cent of the planning and business case cost, no funding has been committed to the actual construction costs of the extension.

James Cabangon

Pushing increasing the BC Access Grant maximums by 50% to account for financial losses due to COVID-19.”

Noted. The BC Access Grant is a needs-based grant introduced in the BC Budget 2020 to help improve access to education and reduce student loan debt across the province.

Claim: “On average international students are paying 600% more than domestic students at UBC - with the average cost for domestic students being $6,355/year and the costs for international tuition being $44,790/year.”

True, and hard to verify. Cabangon took the mean cost of enrolling in each undergraduate program at full course load, using values stated on the Student Services website. This calculation does not take into account how many students are within each faculty, so the true average cost may differ.

Angad Singh Gill

Claim: “I will also advocate the increase of Vision ($100 to $150) & Dental coverage to match other institutions in BC.”

Misleading but noted. If we look at specifics, the current AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan offers $50 every two years for eye exams and $100 every two years for eyeglasses and contact lenses. SFU offers $60 every two years towards eye exams and $150 towards eyeglasses and contact lenses. UVic offers $80 towards eye exams every two years and $125 towards eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Increasing coverage is tricky because the AMS must balance between ensuring sufficient coverage for students while also maintaining affordability of the plan. This past year, the VP Finance office successfully increased mental health coverage under the AMS/GSS Health and Dental Plan from $1,000 to $1,500 by using the Health and Dental Reserve Fund so that students did not have to pay additional fees. The increase will be reviewed by the AMS in April to ensure it remains financially feasible.

Claim: “I will liaise with Financial Committee and re-allocate interest and additional funds from investments to make Student Aid Bursaries low-barrier and more accessible.”

Noted. The AMS’s Student Aid Bursary Fund is currently funded primarily by the $12.00 AMS Financial Assistance Fund Fee. The AMS’s Special Bursary Fund already allocates interest towards providing bursaries, and the terms of reference for other funds may need to be changed in order to redirect funding towards bursaries.

Noah Jassmann

At the time of publication, Jassmann does not have an online platform.

Rita Jin

Claim: “Work with the Vice President, Finance in the management of the $25,000,000+ AMS budget.”

Misleading. Yes, the AMS had a revenue of $27,691,118.for the 2021-22 fiscal year, but $23,726,827 of that is in the form of non-discretionary allocations. The AMS actually only budgeted to spend $4,725,768.48 this year.

Claim: “I hope to adapt the Constituency Aid Fund code to allow for more usage of the fund surplus, providing more financial support to constituency events!”

Noted. There are six funds under the purview of the Clubs and Constituency Funds as a whole, one of which is the Constituency Aid Fund which is used to “fund election referenda expenses, communication expenses, or furnishing expenses.” As per the last funds and fees report, the fund’s current balance is $31,719.26.

Eshana Bhangu

“Launched a brand-new “Take Back Your Tuition” campaign that engaged over 3,000 students in Student Evaluations of Teaching and put money back in student pockets through prizes”

Difficult to verify. The AMS did conduct the Take Back Your Tuition campaign, which encouraged students to send proof of completing Student Experience of Instruction (formerly Student Evaluations of Teaching) to be entered in a raffle to receive up to $1,000 in tuition reimbursements. Senate meetings have discussed the low response rate to the survey in the past.

Romina Hajizadeh

“...I will build upon previous initiatives by student senators through posting regular Senate updates on platforms such as Reddit and the new Student Senate Caucus website.”

Noted, and true. Previous senators have taken to Reddit to explain various motions or changes. For example, six months ago, incumbent and candidate for Senate Georgia Yee briefed students on a vaccine mandate motion the Senate was to consider ahead of the meeting. A year ago, Dante Agosti-Moro, another incumbent and candidate for Senate, posted when the Senate restricted the use of Proctorio and offered to answer any questions.

The Student Senate Caucus recently released a new website, where it intends to post statements, information on the Senate and information on how to get involved.

Kamil Kanji

“We see that it has been great that the university has committed to hiring 10-15 more black faculty and staff but in a community as large as UBC more needs to be done.”

True, and noted. At a February 2021 Senate meeting, the UBC Vancouver Senate voted to refer a motion on hiring 10–15 more Black academics was referred to the Board of Governors.

“One positive we have seen from the COVID-19 situation on campus is the flexibility with our course withdrawal deadlines. We have seen these dates consistently extended several times since the start of the pandemic and this is something that students have recognized as a permanent want.”

True. The withdrawal deadlines have been extended multiple times throughout the pandemic. In a last-minute vote in December 2020, the Senate extended the withdrawal deadline to December 4. In term two last year, the withdrawal deadline was stretched to April 14, or the last day of the course, whichever date was earlier. Just earlier this term, the Senate approved an extension of the drop deadline to February 6.

Tate Kaufman

“Create financial awards for research collaboration projects between graduate and undergraduate students.”

Noted. The SEEDS Sustainability Program serves as one example of interdisciplinary, collaborative projects between staff, graduate and undergraduate students on campus.

“Oppose any future efforts to deregister and discriminate against students for private medical choices.”

Noted. Vancouver Senate first passed a motion that made deregistration a potential consequence for not complying with the university’s vaccine declaration policy in November 2021. In December, it amended the policy to first put non-compliant students on academic hold and then potentially deregister them. However, the policy was not discriminatory as it applied to all students in the same way. UBC discontinued its vaccine declaration process on February 28, 2022. It remains unclear how the discontinuation of the program will impact the enforcement policy.

Dana Turdy

“Continue to advocate for increased transparency between the Senate and UBC community – including making more committee meetings open to the public.”

True. Senate committee meetings are currently closed to the public. Meeting minutes are released, but normally significantly after the meeting occurred.

Georgia Yee

“The Principles for Digital Learning Materials Used for Assessment were a stepping stone that student advocates have led the charge on. Now it needs to be turned into concrete, enforceable policy that seeks to promote the usage of OER and curtail additional costs. This past year, fellow Senators and I were able to bring this to the table.”

Likely true. The Principles for Digital Learning Materials Used for Assessment were endorsed by the UBC-V Senate in May 2019 to promote affordability for digital learning and assessment tools, such as textbooks and quiz software. It endorses including online learning materials in tuition fees to limit extra costs. The motion was presented in 2018 by student Senator Max Holmes.

This past year, Yee and fellow student senator Eshana Bhangu discussed the use of digital learning materials within Senate’s Teaching and Learning Committee, which likely included discussion of open education resources. The AMS has recognised faculty members who use free and accessible open resources in their teaching, and Open UBC has released a new searchable online collection that compiles open education resources and projects across disciplines.

Max Holmes

Claim: “If we can have the Province lift the moratorium on borrowing externally, I will advocate for a student housing rent freeze.”

Noted. The University Act binds the university to use funds provided within the province’s annual budget and fiscal plans and ask the Minister of Education and Minister of Finance directly should any additional funds need to be borrowed. As the province has preferred public universities to fund projects internally, UBC has historically borrowed against its endowment to finance student housing projects. The Student Housing Financing Endowment Fund is required to provide a stable financial return to the main endowment, leading it to be marked at an interest rate that may be higher than typical property loans (such as the AMS’s loan for the Nest), raising questions as to whether this mode of funding is best suited for its purpose.

Claim: “UBC has committed to reducing our campus emissions by over 85% in our Climate Action Plan 2030. However, this plan does not incorporate the neighbourhoods that UBC oversees, which significantly contribute to emissions.”

True. The Climate Action Plan only refers to an 85 per cent reduction in campus emissions — that does not include any of the surrounding neighbourhoods, such as Wesbrook Place.

Tate Kaufman

Claim: “Ensure the Academic Freedom policy is adhered to when regarding room bookings.”

Noted. UBC’s Senate, not the Board of Governors, has an academic freedom policy. There’s a Board of Governors space rental policy that balances its commitment to the former and safety of UBC community and spaces. The academic freedom policy allows the UBC community “to teach and to learn unhindered by external or non-academic constraints, [and] to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion,” which applies to invited guests on campus as well. Additionally, UBC defines academic responsibility as outlined in Board Policy SC6, the Scholarly Integrity Policy, and considers it part of academic freedom. In July 2020, President Santa Ono announced UBC had reviewed its “event risk assessment and mitigation process” and that all event bookings would be reviewed “through the lens of the BC Human Rights Code by an external legal expert specialising in human rights and civil liberties law.”

Georgia Yee

Claim: “In December 2019, UBC declared a climate emergency and voted to divest $381 million of its endowment. UBC made a commitment to act on the climate emergency. I had the opportunity to be part of the Climate Emergency Task Force that wrote the report, and secured $1.5 million in funding in collaboration with the Climate Hub towards the implementation of these recommendations.”

True. UBC declared a climate emergency on December 5, 2019 and the Board of Governors passed a motion to transfer the $381 million Trek Endowment pool — made up of the university's own, unrestricted monies— into the Sustainable Futures Pool (SFP) composed of low-carbon, fossil fuel-free funds. But Yee was part of the Climate Emergency Task Force’s Teaching and Learning Working Group as AMS VP academic and university affairs, not as a Board member. Yee was co-chair of the Advisory Committee that recommended seven student projects for the $1.5 million Climate Emergency Fund (CEF).

Claim: This past year, the student affordability task force was established and has presented 10 key recommendations to the Board. The aim is to approach affordability with a strategic focus, looking at all aspects of affordability, such as housing, textbooks, learning materials, cost of living, childcare, tuition, and many other aspects. I am dedicated to the successful implementation of this plan and ensuring that this plan is well resourced, supported, and integrated throughout the university.

  • A review of Policy LR10. Policy LR10 is UBC’s policy on financial aid. Policy LR10 is the policy governing student financial aid.
  • Utilizing a multi year tuition framework (akin to a tuition cohort model) would provide greater information for students and their families to plan financially, providing fiscal stability for the institution without the stress of annual tuition increases putting financial pressure on students.
  • Addressing food security and the cost of living by resourcing initiatives such as the Food Hub, the UBC Mealshare program, supporting the AMS Food Bank.

Noted. Policy LR10 does not apply to international students. Additionally, a multi-year tuition framework would set tuition for all the expected years of a student’s degree when they get admitted to UBC.

Follow us at @UbysseyNews on Twitter and follow our election coverage starting February 28. This article is part of our 2022 AMS elections coverage.