The Alma Mater Society (AMS) is your student union. As a student at UBC, you are automatically part of our community. Welcome. Our priority is to make your life:
We get this question a lot.
For you, the most important aspect of the AMS is you. You’re the one who’s going to benefit directly from our work.
Completely run by elected student leaders, dedicated staff, and volunteers, the AMS exists solely to serve you and every student at UBC Vancouver. From providing student services that support your health and education, to reducing student debt and improving student housing, we fight for student interests to the University and all levels of government (whose actions don’t always align with what we need or want).
To us, students come first, always. We want to help you make your university experience a memorable chapter of your story. Whether we’re creating events, services or policies, satisfying your needs to thrive as a student is our priority.
From the moment your become a student to the day you graduate, the AMS will always be here, fighting for your interests while cheering you on from the sidelines.
UBC opens. The students organize and choose a President: Sherwood Lett. But he doesn’t stay long; he signs up to fight in World War I and is gone by January. (City of Vancouver Archives, Sherwood and Evelyn Lett Family Fonds [AM361-S9-: CVA 78-006])
Welcome to UBC. Hope it’s not too much of a shock. In the early days, hazing was the order of the day, with First Years being subjected to all sorts of things, in this case a little electrocution (don’t worry, no one died).
We’re packed like sardines, UBC students said, grumbling about conditions in the old “Fairview Shacks,” UBC’s first campus at 10th and Oak. So they marched in the Great Trek to get the government to finish the promised campus in West Point Grey. They even had a sardine float. (University of British Columbia Archives, UBC Historical Photograph Collection [UBC 1.1/1314])
That’s more like it. At the end of the Great Trek students spread themselves out on the vast new campus, spelling out the University’s acronym so all could see. The result of the Great Trek was that the BC government agreed to pay the needed money ($1.5 million) to finish the Point Grey campus, which opened in 1925. (University of British Columbia Archives, photo by Dominion Photo Co., UBC Historical Photograph Collection [UBC 1.1/862].)
The Thunderbirds comes to UBC! UBC students vote to name their sports teams after the mythic Indigenous creature – though they almost chose Seagulls instead. In fact, they did choose Seagulls, but were told that was ridiculous and made to vote again. One vote good, two votes better.
Okay, we won’t electrocute First Years anymore: how about if we just make them wear funny hats? Initiation rituals continued for many years at UBC. (University of British Columbia Archives, UBC Historical Photograph Collection [UBC 1.1/12149].)
Uh oh, someone was careless with a cigarette. Brock Hall, the first student union building, burns. The AMS, which had raised most of the money to build Brock Hall in 1940, also raised the money to repair the fire damage, and then to build an extension. Brock Hall served as the student union building until the 1960’s, when the student population began to skyrocket (from 5,000 to 20,000), and it was decided to build something new.
Brock Hall was too small, so the students built another student union building, the SUB. Planning for the SUB took several years, involving questionnaires to the students, an architectural competition and a referendum to raise the AMS fee by $5. When the building opened in September 1968, there was a bowling alley and listening rooms (where students could listen to records on turntables) – but no pub. There were protests and some temporary accommodation made, but a permanent pub would have to wait another 5 years.
You say you want a revolution: American radical Jerry Rubin comes to town and incites the students to occupy the Faculty Club. It was the Sixties, man. And this was the high point of the Sixties at UBC: 2,000 students spent the night in the Faculty Club, drinking the profs’ liquor and skinny dipping in their swimming pool. They even brought in a band. In the aftermath, there was a teach-in about educational reform and eventually more power for students in University governance.
The famous Pit Pub, named by David Suzuki, opened in the SUB. Until the 1960’s UBC was a dry campus (for students) and the AMS was a dry organization. In 1968, however, students pushed for a drinking space; so did David Suzuki, then a UBC professor and later a famous environmentalist and television personality. Soon after the SUB opened in 1968, temporary drinking spaces were created in it, and five years later there was a permanent home for the drinking establishment, named The Pit Pub.
Storming the wall: the first year of the annual UBC tradition. Storm the Wall was introduced to campus by the head of UBC Intramurals, Nestor Korchinksy. Combining running, biking, and swimming with climbing a 12-foot wall, the competition became immensely popular and in 2012 was voted the quintessential UBC experience, beating out sleeping in class, puddles, and construction.
Have you seen my Volkswagen? Maybe it’s up a pole. The Engineers were notorious for their stunts over the years. Besides hoisting Volkswagens on various structures (including San Fran’s Golden Gate Bridge in 2000), they once stole the Nine O’Clock Gun from Stanley Park, the Speaker’s Chair from the Legislature in Victoria, and the Great Trekker trophy from the AMS offices. Not to mention their notorious Lady Godiva Ride.
What’s this, a Trojan Horse? Yes, at the annual Welcome Back Barbecue. AMS Executives perform a public service by distributing free condoms. Dating back to 1984, the Welcome Back Barbecue continues to this day as a way of welcoming students back to campus in September with a concert and partying.
The Goddess of Democracy appears on campus to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. Two Vancouver groups worked with the AMS during 1990 to have a replica created of the statue that students in China put up during their democracy protests in 1989
Would you like a little pepper with that? Anti-APEC protesters get pepper sprayed by RCMP on campus. Students were objecting to the presence of the leaders of China and Indonesia at a high-level Asia-Pacific conference at UBC. Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, got involved by making an offhand comment about pepper that resulted in a national controversy which lasted for months.
Students vote to pay $80 million towards the cost of a new Student Union Building (later to be called the Nest). Now there will be room for the 50,000 UBC students and an end to the conflict about what to build at the centre of campus.
The Nest at last! The 2008 referendum for a new student union building was followed by several years of negotiation with the University, an official groundbreaking ceremony in 2012, many years of construction, and a contest to choose a name, before the building finally opened on June 1, 2015.