VP admin candidates talk limited budget and Nest space at Great Debate

Discussion at the VP administration debate revolved around what strategies candidates Jai Sodhi, Kevin Heieis and Amy Liao would use to maximize the Nest’s rooms and utilities.

When asked about how she would balance their administrative ambitions with their limited budget amid the AMS’s deficit, Liao said she would look to use club event sponsorship money for low-cost activities — “the types of activities that actually foster community.”

Both Sodhi and Heieis agreed that promoting club performance is a way to encourage this community and increase club engagement. Sodhi’s words, “school spirit.”

Sodhi looks to maximize the Nest’s food outlet operations. He noted that Blue Chip is the only food outlet in the Nest that is not running on a deficit. However, the second quarterly report showed more outlets in the positive.

“It's the responsibility of the admin to make sure there's enough foot traffic in the Nest to actually sustain those [food] outlets.” Sodhi said. “We’re spending the money that we don't have right now."

To this same point, Heieis said his plan to have a fully sponsorship funded Clubs Day “can even be bigger while still achieving a balanced or positive budget,” though he did not provide a clear plan on how to achieve this beyond reference to a “multifaceted approach” to finances.

Heieis also proposed changes to the Nest businesses, notably replacing Porch with a Mexican restaurant and putting a “low-cost food outlet” at Blue Chip’s current location, which is currently

All candidates agreed to refurbishing the Interactive Sustainability Centre and the Commons Lounge, but disagreed on specifics.

Liao said she hopes to use social media and showcase events to garner awareness about it, and that she would explore adding alternative waste bins to the space. Sodhi further wanted to make it a place where students could attend optional sustainability workshops.

After working in the Commons Lounge last year, Liao expressed a plan to refurbish the space by maintaining its charging stations and “implementing day-use lockers for our commuters, having a socialized area and having certain designated quiet hours for studying.”

Sodhi added there is a need for it to be “marketed to the clubs a lot more,” while Heieis proposed that he would host office hours there “to have a time where clubs and leaders know [he is] accessible” for support.

Heieis suggested a solution to convert the Nest’s pocket lounges into multi-use spaces, while acknowledging each student group’s individual needs. Liao elaborated on this point by proposing that lounges be turned into “hybrid-couch-slash-table areas.”

Liao and Sodhi agreed they would work towards expanding existing initiatives to make the Hatch a part-time quiet study space, Liao adding that she plans to continue to promote the gallery as “a space for storytelling.”

Sodhi said a major part of his platform is advocating for increased opening hours for the Nest, especially before finals.

"The Nest has to be a space where students actually want to go when it's dark,” he said. This would include introducing nap pods into the Nest.

When asked how he would ensure the pods are accessed for their intended use, Sodhi said that what he is proposing has already been implemented in other post-secondary institutions and major companies and has shown to have a “positive impact.”

In a weak spot in the debate, all candidates dodged the question of how, as Council members, they would advocate for UBC’s divestment from companies complicit in human rights violations. This audience question is in response to the removal of three student-petitioned referendum questions proposed to be part of this year’s general election ballot that received high scrutiny during Wednesday’s council meeting.

The Nest’s booking backlog and costs were also addressed multiple times. Heieis proposed the implementation of an “availability calendar.”

“The Canvas leadership course has incomplete information about bookings,” Heieis said, promising to ensure that leadership packages are “complete and comprehensive.”

However, Liao noted that such a system is already being developed in collaboration with the Nest's booking coordinator. She some of the backlog occurs because bookings do not go directly through the AMS’s administration office and that she will look to repair the “disconnect” between the office and the Nest’s booking constituencies.

“It's more of an issue on the part of communication than [the] actual unavailability of rooms,” said Sodhi. He later stepped back from this statement, suggesting that booking issues may be due to other issues such as not having “enough rooms.”

When asked about what they would change in the Nest’s operations committee manual during closing audience questions, Heieis noted that the review of the building operations policy for suspensions and expulsions in March 2025 would be an opportunity to “ensure all resources on campus remain available.”

Liao said she wants to add the Disabilities United Collective to the next inclusive spaces review, while Sodhi ensured that he would cater operations according to the clubs’ different needs.

Voting opens March 1 at 8 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m, on March 8.

This article is part of our 2024 AMS Elections coverage. Follow us at @UbysseyNews on X (formerly Twitter) and follow our election coverage starting February 27.