The 2016 AMS referendum questions explained

A number of referendum questions are coming your way on this year’s ballot. The topics range from a fee increase that would double the number of incoming refugee students, to supporting a new Gallery. So how will you vote?


The World University Service of Canada club at UBC facilitates the arrival of refugee students to UBC. At present, the $2.61 student fee funds four new refugee students annually. The referendum question asks for students to vote on doubling the current fee to $5.22, in which case the number of refugee students able to attend would also double. In addition, the increase would mean we could offer more supports for students — such as career support and on-campus housing. Students whose attendance is facilitated by the student fees are permanent residents. The impetus for raising the fee came from the continuing Syrian refugee crisis due to the ongoing civil and political strife.

2. Bylaw and constitution revisions

Revisions are up to be voted on so that their bylaw and constitution will conform with the new Societies Act — the act that governs all the non-profit organizations within BC. Since there are penalties for not complying that go so far as dissolution of the society, the question needs to pass to make small changes to conform.

3. Referendum revisions

The referendum revision in bylaws would prevent the holding of referendums that are illegal or leading, and allow council — the governing body of the AMS, made up of students — to alter said questions. Right now, Student Court is what makes the call as to whether or not referenda are acceptable, but this group has not been filled properly in many years and has also made several rulings that the council then rejected, prompting the AMS to question whether the body was needed.

4. U-Pass

The current contract of our U-Pass Agreement expires this April. Right now, students pay $38 per month for the program. If the referendum question is approved, students would see increases on that sum of $1.50 per year for the next three years. If not approved, UBC students can kiss the U-Pass program goodbye. Approval will mean U-Pass prices would be set at $39.50 per month from May 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017 and then at $41 per month from May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018. According to the AMS, the price change has taken into account student needs and affordability, as well as sustainability of the program.

5. “420” fee increases

The AMS has proposed an increase of the general membership fee to $4.20, meaning the annual fee will go up from $38.44 to $42.64. The change would come into effect next fall. According to the AMS, these fees are raised every few years to keep up with the costs. Expenses at the AMS haven’t slowed down this year or the last. For example, services like Safewalk and the Foodbank saw significant increases in use. To continue growing and meet the increasing needs, the AMS is hoping students will agree to the increase in fees.

6. Health and dental 

The AMS calculates the fee structure based on the Health and Personal Spending component of the British Columbia Consumer Price Index, but this has its problems as both spending and health needs between students and the general population differ widely. The margin is supposed to hover around what we take in from fees and pay out in claims — that’s around 0.7 per cent right now, or $1.74 per student. According to the AMS, this limits the ability to keep the plan flexible and respond to feedback. Basically, they want to change it to better reflect student needs, so they are asking for the plan to increase by the higher of zero per cent — no change — or the consumer price index of the previous year.

7. Bring Back The Gallery

The Bring Back The Gallery movement gained momentum over this term — so much so that they got enough signatures on a petition to bring the question of whether to bring back The Gallery to a referendum. Presidential hopeful Ava Nasiri has even endorsed a yes vote. The movement was put on the radar at the beginning of the academic year — a Facebook page and webpage gained attention from students over the course of the term as it was learned that students shared a desire to have The Gallery back. If you're of such students, you have the chance to vote to bring it back!

8. Campus Culutre

Our final question on the referendum ballot asks whether students would support implementation of a $1.50 to go towards student performances and cultural groups on campus. If this goes through, it would be in place next September but could be refundable upon request.