Here are notes from the regular AMS Council meeting of March 25, 2020:
Meeting Virtually: Because of the COVID-19 situation, and in accordance with a Code provision passed on March 11, Council conducted the meeting online. At the end of the meeting Council discussed how best to proceed in the future as long as it cannot meet in person. AMS President Chris Hakim said he is looking into purchasing software to make virtual meetings more efficient; he is also looking into greater delegation to committees. He also said a link will be posted next time to allow students at large to access the meeting.
Speakeasy and Vice: Council heard from Ian Stone, the Student Services Manager, about plans to merge two AMS Services: Speakeasy, the long-time peer support service, and Vice, the newer service dealing with substance use. The new service would be called AMS Peer Support.
Keeping going during the COVID situation: President Hakim said staff are working from home, and he is working on responses to the situation in line with the recommendations of health authorities.
Ongoing Business: President Hakim said he has hired a new Indigenous Students coordinator. He has also met with Hatch Art Gallery staff and the art community about the AMS art collection. He’s been interviewing candidates for the Student Services Manager position. Executives are working on their final goals report, the agreement with UBC about the $21 Athletics & Recreation fee is coming soon, and the ad hoc committee on Council governance has recommended that Council members fill out an exit survey.
Effect of COVID-19 on Students: Council was told by the President and the VP Academic & University Affairs, Julia Burnham, that the University is bringing in Credit/D/Fail options for students and the AMS is looking for accommodation for students concerning withdrawal deadlines and transcript notations. The AMS has also been speaking to the University about financial support for students as well as discussing the University budget and ensuring that students who withdraw won’t lose their awards.
The University has also announced that the first summer term will be held online.
The AMS also wants to make sure residents in student housing are being supported.
Effects on grad students: Councillor Alireza Kamyabi said grad student research has been halted, but grad students are still paying fees: would it be possible to waive student fees? VP Burnham said she will follow up on that.
The Government Role: VP External Cristina Ilnitchi reported that the provincial government is pausing student loan payments and is providing support for renters: freezing rents and banning evictions. There is also a $500 rent stipend. The AMS is advocating to ensure students get access to the stipend.
On the federal level a press release has gone out from UCRU (Undergraduates at Canadian Research-intensive Universities) congratulating the federal government for providing student loan interest relief. Now we are looking to see how the emergency fund that the federal government has announced applies to students.
The AMS is creating a resource page to let students know about the supports available to them.
The AMS is also advocating specifically for international students concerning work permits and visas.
COVID and the Nest: VP Administration Cole Evans announced that the Nest is closed until April 14, but it is not certain the building can reopen then and the situation will be re-evaluated.
Clubs and Constituencies: VP Evans said club orientations may go online, office and locker allocations have been postponed, and he said he will follow through on his promise to find an office for the BoG and Senate reps. He and VP Finance Lucia Liang said communications are going out by email.
The VP Finance added that e-transfer is being used for refunds for Block Party and club events.
Block Party: Managing Director Keith Hester said Block Party has been cancelled and refunds are going out. The AMS will be losing $250,000 on the event.
Layoffs: The Managing Director said quite a number of hourly staff have been laid off. HR has been processing the paperwork so those employees can apply for EI. The AMS is looking into further government assistance for them.
Finances: The VP Finance said budgets are being prepared, and discussions are underway with the University about enrollment. Emergency bursaries are also being looked into. Investments are doing well.
Services: Student Services Manager Ian Stone said the services have been disrupted because of the situation. Safewalk is not operating. Tutoring is moving online. Food Bank is continuing to operate, thanks to incredible community support, and there has been an increase in usage.
Operations Committee: The Chair (Cole Evans) said a new Operations Committee Manual has been approved.
Steering Committee: The Chair (Chris Hakim) said the committee will be meeting to finalize a report on a consultant for the Strategic Plan.
Ad Hoc Council Governance Committee: The Chair (Chris Hakim) said the committee discussed what can be done in the short and long term, and was hoping to pass the file on to the regular Governance Committee.
Fermentation Lab Committee: Cole Evans reported that there is talk of looking at alternative locations.
Student Senate Caucus: Student Senator Dante Agosti-Moro said the Caucus is drafting a letter about the University’s response to COVID-19.
CampusGroups: Council approved a contract with CampusGroups for a replacement to the Clubhouse clubs management system.
Student Life Committee: Council approved a Code change to the terms of reference for the Student Life Committee to make it more of a bridge to Services, Events, and Communications.
Expulsion Policy: Council approved a new policy on expulsions from AMS property.
Fund expenditures: Council approved Code changes to streamline the process of approving expenditures from the Capital Projects Fund and the SUB Repairs and Replacement Fund.
Consultation with the University: Council discussed the importance of voicing the concerns of students to the University.
Graduation Ceremonies: Councillor Kaili Sun from Architecture voiced concern about the hit to morale if there is no ceremony. President Chris Hakim said there have been discussions with the University.
Next meeting: The next regular Council meeting will be held virtually on April 9, 2020.