Archive Page 2

30
May
10

AUS Ramblings

Unfortunately midterms prevailed last week and I never had time to write more about the latest AUS dramz…and honestly by this point I am pretty much over it.

The one thing I will point out that AUS Council should learn from its last meeting is to enforce an actually legitimate proxy consent system (or, you know, actually have a proxy system…instead of allowing randoms to show up and proxy for any missing councillors, sans consent)

We wouldn’t want voters to look like this:

But nonetheless, what’s done is done.

I do not know many of the new councillors, but the general trend I’ve seen over my time around the AUS is rapidly declining commitment to the society.

I’m not advocating a council where these types of interventions are necessary:

(though it is almost Arts Purple!)

However, it seems that each year there is less and less commitment leaving those willing to attempt to pull everyone’s weight and inevitably fail. New people come into the society with plans to bring back the glory days of the AUS but to be frank I do not see this happening. I’d love to be proven wrong, and perhaps I’m just cynical, but I really can’t see the AUS making any big changes in the near future.

I don’t expect people to devote their all to the society, but when council can’t even pull off successful simple events, councillors blow off events, clubs are left stranded and treated as second class citizens, Arts Week drives one to avert their eyes and drink, and simple tasks can’t even be performed I don’t really know what to say.

Here’s to hoping next year will be a turnaround year. If not, I’m graduating and won’t have to see anymore.

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19
May
10

AUS (never-ending) Drama.

If you haven’t heard, today AUS Council voted Ryan Trasolini as its interim president (until a president will be elected in the fall by-elections).

This decision left most councillors, hacks and anyone who heard with the following reaction:

Post to follow with thoughts by myself (and perhaps Michelle’s!) Haackery may also be involved.

Stay tuned!

18
Apr
10

the rising scourge of kritarchy

They’re at it again! The Student ‘Court’ has done the same thing that it did in ‘Crompton v. AMS Elections Committee‘ two years ago. The ruling is a massive power grab, one that undermines the policy setting prerogatives of elected student leaders. They have already managed to force the rightly elected AUS President to resign, but the effects of this decision are much more far reaching than that – they have serious implications for the administration of all AMS subsidiary group elections. The AMS faces a choice – are the democratically elected representatives in charge, or will we descend into a rule-by-judges nightmare, the scourge of Kritarchy.

The Student ‘Court’ has declared the rules that the Election Rules, and thus the election itself, were void. This is insanity. I think that the problem that we run into here is that the name. Student ‘Court’ is not a court, nor should it be imbued with the powers of one. It is a final review body, one that has the ability to adjudicate over the conduct of administrative bodies of the society. The fact that they continue to release their rulings in full judicial style just reinforces that the ‘court’ has, in its own mind, puffed itself up beyond its station.

They have found the AUS rules void. Yet, they did not make any reference to the rules under which the election was conducted. The neither mentioned nor requested either the Candidate Handbook, or the explanation of balloting available online. Without this, how could they possibly make any kind of evaluation of how we conducted our election?

This ruling may not only invalidate the presidential race, but every AUS race, and possibly every race in every faculty that participated in UBCVotes. It effectively holds every sub-unit of the AMS to the same electoral standards as the AMS itself. This is ridiculous, and completely improper. It would place an undue burden on the constituency. If this were the case, in the event that some kind of unforeseen circumstance would arise (like, say, a disputed ballot), the entire election would be invalidated. This opens up a situation where candidates could start invalidating elections after the fact by taking actions for which the committee has no written recourse.

It is entirely possible that what was said in the ballot counting room did not reflect what was on my spreadsheet.  I don’t know about the particulars of the sequence of events, but I think that it’s entirely possible that something was said casually while counting ballots may not have reflected the results in my computer.

I was especially delighted by the page of whining about the fact that the AMS limited the jurisdiction of the ‘court’, in which the ‘judges’ basically said that it didn’t like the rules, but would obey them anyway. Which would be fine, if they actually did obey the rules, but they didn’t.  I’ve decided to pick out a couple of the more interesting quotes from the ruling.

Troubling amongst the statements were these:

It is true that an Elections Appeal Committee under AMS Code, s. IX A(8)(14)(a)–(d) has limits on its ability to overturn the decision of an AMS Elections Administrator or AMSEC, but the Court does not appear to be so bound. Indeed, as a creature of the AMS Bylaws it has a wider mandate than those elections officials constituted by the AMS Code. It may be good practice, and it has been endorsed by this Court in the past, but it is not required.

Why on Earth would the court have unlimited powers? The ‘court’ is also not bound from putting a bounty on people’s heads either, for the simple reason that they shouldn’t have to be told. Likewise, they shouldn’t have to be told that their powers for election appeals would be constrained to the nature of an election appeals process. More troubling still is that the ‘court’ is claiming that it has more powers than it actually has, and that while deference may be “good practice” it is by no means a necessity. Think about that for a second. Good practice is not a necessity.

Again, as to the discretion employed in this case, the evidence presented to the Court regarding the role of Mr. Bortolon was unclear.

Also worrying is that the ‘court’ apparently didn’t listen to the testimony of either me or Ricardo as to what was happening during the initial count. Why was Ricardo in the room? He was counting SUS ballots. If there were trial transcripts, you could read it in black and white. If this rather important and potentially influential fact was omitted or forgotten, what other things have been left by the wayside?

The AUS Elections Committee is given the ability to count ballots. I don’t think that this would be disputed by any sane person. It is afforded the discretion to determine who a ballot is cast for. When ballots were being counted, I assigned a vote to whomever I felt the ballot was cast for, as I was charged with doing by the AUS.  I did this, and at no point did I feel that any ballot was ambiguous. The beauty of the UBC Votes system is that we are able to lean on one another, in other faculties, for support. This is what I did with Ricardo on counting day, but the final decision was the AUS Election Committee’s alone. The ballots, when recounted, were challenged by candidates present during the recount, but were deemed not to be ambiguous.

I take it that the AMS Code prohibits the Court from straying into the realm of what might otherwise be termed “policy”, the proper business of elected representatives. I do not think we are here presented with that problem.

Well, no, not really.  The electoral policies of the Society are the business of elected representatives. So long as they fit within the guidelines of the AMS, they should be given the latitude to determine how they are best going to run their elections. If they want to strictly enumerate the guidelines of the election year to year, that is a policy decision. If they want to take the (in the snippy words of Student ‘Court’) “laconic”  approach of the AUS and leave things up to the Elections Committee, that is a policy decision as well.

But, it is to my mind wrong to suggest that the Court cannot attempt to make sense of its own quasi-legislative framework in a matter analogous, if not identical, to those of a ‘real’ court.

Here we run into my biggest problem with the ‘court’. It thinks it’s a Court. I wholeheartedly dispute the statement that it is wrong to severely limit the scope and power of Student ‘Court’. It is fundamentally and essentially right. The ‘court’ has learned basically nothing from the Crompton case. They have not learned that the massive overhaul to the student court system because of that case might necessitate a change the way that the ‘court’ sees itself.

There is of course the reference to “natural justice” in AMS Bylaws, s. 21(2)(f), a term of art regarding the conduct of hearings with which the Court here complied. But that should not be taken as importing the whole field of administrative law along with it.

This was funny. Touché.

All that can be said is that the AUS Elections Committee acted in their discretion, as was their discretion.

That is correct. We did. We created rules, and applied them. It’s Student Court who didn’t bother to read them.

…only the absence of rules on tabulation, appeals and by extension the operation of the Election Committee are invoked…

OK, there isn’t much I can do to respond other than referring you to the “Complaints and Protests” section of the Election Guidelines, and the section on voting info on UBCvotes.

The court is able to declare that an action is void and of no effect, but this action refers specifically to a decision of the AMS Elections Committee or Election Appeals Committee. Was that specific action right or wrong? A Presidential election can’t be ‘wrong’, especially when you don’t take all the facts into account.  They can’t declare a whole election of no effect. In particular, they can’t just declare one election invalid – the things they claim were wrong were not limited to the Presidential race. This would invalidate all the AUS (and quite possibly the SUS, HKUS and EUS) elections as well, as they do not have the appropriate amount of rules. Our elections rules were based on SUS’s rules – something that the Science Undergraduate Society should find troubling given the current set of circumstances.

A cursory glance at the UBCvotes.ca website would have yielded the regulations and tabulation procedures. Five minutes is all that it would have taken – it’s shocking to see that all the work that they were willing to put into the case was not preceded by a thorough examination of all the documents. They reference common law compilations in their ruling, which they are barred from doing, but never once do they mention our Election Guidelines. I guess they were too busy reading the works of the legal scholar Driedger.

The ‘court’ failed to do its due diligence in asking for or seeking out our Election Guidelines. They did not tell us that they were considering the rules of the election, and did not mention that they were going to adjudicate on the validity of the election. They did not abide by the rules set out for them in the governance documents of the AMS. In my humble opinion, it was irresponsible and slapdash. It’s time for Council to fail to accept this ruling.

17
Apr
10

inter-period thoughts on the ruling

It’s in between periods, and I don’t really want to edit my full response to the Student ‘Court’ ruling. I’ll put it up tomorrow morning, but suffice it to say that I find grave and serious flaws in their jurisprudence. Basically, I feel that the ‘court’ has stampeded headlong into the realm of policy after a seriously flawed process.

The Court responded to my earlier email, and the salient thing for me in their response is the confirmation that they didn’t look at the AUS Election Guidelines. They have asked me not to publish the results on the AMS or Ubyssey website (because, you know, I have control over the Ubyssey), so I won’t release the response on here in deference.

Anyway, we’re up 2-0, but there’s a long time to go yet. Go Canucks Go!

17
Apr
10

AUS Elections Committee Response to Student Court

I have a lot of opinions about the Student ‘Court’ case, but I am first going to ask the ‘court’ whether they feel they have reviewed all the evidence. The focus on the “absence of rules” makes me think that the rules were not read. The following is my email to student ‘court’ in its entirety.

Dear Constance Chan, Clerk of Student Court;

I would like the court to take a moment to reconsider their decision. They reference the absence of rules and regulations in their ruling, but no reference is made to the AUS General Election Guidelines, or the voting info. Specifically, the statement that there were no appeals procedures aroused my interest, because the appeals procedures are clearly enumerated.

I would also ask the court to clarify whether it is invalidating all of the AUS elections, or merely the Presidential race.

They are as follows:

UBCvotes.ca, the online repository of all such information.
http://sites.google.com/site/ubcvotes/

The AUS 2010 General Election Regulations
https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B_KeA3HmN1_cMWZjYmRhM2YtM2M0MS00YjJiLTljNTQtZTdkMzFmNDBkN2Nl&hl=en

The Voting Information (including descriptions of how votes are to be counted)
http://sites.google.com/site/ubcvotes/home/voting-info

Regards;


Matthew Naylor

15
Apr
10

badda bing, badda HBBH+BH

Don’t forget to vote for your SUB architect today. I went to a couple of the presentations and then watched all the videos, and these are my thoughts. All in all, I think that there were two standout firms, Bing Thom and HBBH+BH. They get what it means to be a student here, and they seem to understand the ways that we need to be engaged to make this a student project. I didn’t really care that much for the others, but if I had to pick, my final ballot would be:

  1. Bing Thom – far and away the most amazing. for an icon, its gotta be bing.
  2. HBBH+BH – i almost hope they don’t win, because their name is a pain to type
  3. Busby Perkins+Will – buchanan is nice…

Bunting Coady

During their entire presentation they seem like they are terrified to be presenting to us. They had an interesting presentation, but a lot of what they’ve done seems to be that kind of glass box thing that is already ubiquitous at UBC. I don’t really want another Ladha Centre, as awesome as that building is.

Busby Perkins+Will

I like the Buchanan renovation – it’s interesting, and a lot of what they do looks wierd (read: good). I want an iconic building, one that will define UBC. They have some really cool designs. Something that kind of nags at me is the fact that they have done a lot of student union buildings before, so I worry slightly that they are going to come into it with a lot of preconceptions. Mind you, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – are we really that different from everyone else?

Bing Thom

This blew me away. The process that they go through, in terms of collaboration and holistics, is something that I think will really make the AMS an integral part of the process. I LOVE the fact that they went into the archives to check out what the AMS experience was when the current SUB opened. BTA has the most wonderful designs of any of the architects, far and away – if we want an iconic building BTA is your best bet. They seemed to be the only folks to get the idea of sustainability right – they have a holistic view, and one that seems like will produce, generally, a better final product.

HBBH+BH

These are interestingly enthusiastic people. The design cube is a pretty cool, and belies that kind of understanding of the AMS and the student experience that is integral (in my mind) for a good architect. Their website for the project is a great idea. They are really focused on sustainability, which is cool, though, too be honest, I tend to prioritize programming over sustainability. They did build Marine Drive, so that’s a strike against. Oh, but one of the guys goes to Burning Man. So, there we go.

Cannon Design

I remember the Davids of Cannon being around when I was an exec. I didn’t really have any interaction with them byond the perfunctory. Oooh, Jeff Friedrich is in their video! Darren Peets too! It’s a veritable parliament of hacks. (That’s what hacks come in – parliaments. We’re like owls.) They… are ok. Nothing really bugs me, but nothing seems to stand out either. Again with the focus on sustainability – I feel that if the sustainability of the building is the most important thing, you might as well not build the building. Programming has to come first, and the sustainability has to be integrated.

Henriquez Partners Architects / IBI Group

They have some cool looking buildings, but, and I think that this is just my sense of style. If you like the stuff that they do, you should consider them. They seem to have the third best method of integrating themselves into the community. They have a broad idea of what the consultation structure would look like, but they didn’t really seem to demonstrate that they get students as students.

Stantec

I didn’t like this presentation. The bizarre robot voice (oh, wait, it seems like it was a bad microphone) seemed like it was just spewing buzzword salad. They didn’t really talk about what they saw the process looking like, or how they would ensure that this was going to be a student centered project. Their presentation seemed more like a demonstration of their ability to create cool looking pods-structures. That’s grand, and the stuff is nifty looking (although they seem to vacillate between the amazing sweeping structures and BOXBOXBOX.  carbon-negative-gives-back environmental-ecology-is-perpetual there-is-no-waste we-are-the-borg resistance-is-futile (This one’s a no…)

07
Apr
10

Why I voted to cut the Equity Program

Editor’s Note: I was going to put some clever and snappy title up there, but there really didn’t seem to be anything that really captured the spirit of the piece. The saga of the Equity Program is probably close to being closed. This originally started off as a response to a couple of questions from the Ubyssey, but it grew longer and longer, and I wanted to make sure that my whole reasoning was put out into the zeitgeist.

On another note, I officially no longer have a vote on AMS Council, as of around 1:40 PM yesterday. It’s been a crazy four years.

The Equity Program was ill conceived from its inception. The genesis of the program was initiated near the end of the term of the 2007-08 Executive, in a motion that passed to evaluate the AMS for instances of systemic discrimination within its operating structure. Specifically, the AMS wanted to look at whether the procedures for accessing the AMS were inherently and structurally biased towards one group. A motion was passed to conduct a climate survey of the organization, with the intent being that the society would revaluate its structures after the return of the survey, and take such steps necessary as to ensure that there were not overt or systemic barriers to the full involvement of every student in the organization.

To me, the process seemed sound: identify the problem, devise a solution, and implement the solution.

This didn’t get done. Instead of putting out an RFP for the climate survey (something that was eventually done), a group of people within the AMS decided that they, without the benefit of any kind of evaluation, had the cure to all that ailed the AMS. They decided that they, for this problem which the AMS had only begun to excavate from the earthy mounds of mystery, knew best. The solution that they promulgated was the Equity Program, a solution for a problem we weren’t even sure existed. They skipped the very important first step in the process, that of identifying the problem, and jumped straight to implementing the solution that they had wanted to impose in the first place.

I can see how a narrow minded ideologue would see these steps as appropriate and reasonable, because for them the solution to any problem is the same. When one views the world through a specific set of lenses, they will see the same problems that they have been taught to look for, whether these problems are either there in the first place, or having a real and substantial impact on the lives of people that they were trying to help. In doing this, they created the Equity Office, and passed a policy which imposed (theoretically) mandatory training and procedures on the clubs far and away more than what is required for the administration of a club bank account. As someone who has prided himself on defending the autonomy of the constituencies and the clubs, this was a deeply and dangerously intrusive policy, one apt to provoke resentment of the AMS and damage our relationship with our subunits.

It was this same program that came to the AMS, when asking for an assistant only halfway into its first year of operation, and said basically that, beyond listing the number of people that they had trained, there was no way of evaluating the success or failure of the program based on any kind of empirical data, because if they were doing their job right there would be no way to tell. To my already sceptical ears, this sounded like a request for more money without any accountability or oversight. There was no effort made to create evaluative metrics against which the program could be judged. It was this same program, one that was ostensibly created to help make campus a safer space, that during the Council debate on the disabilities seat motion, single-handedly created one of the most charged and hostile Council environments that I’ve seen in my time at the AMS.

I have been supportive of every step along the way that moved towards a data based approach to equality evaluation, and I do believe that it is possible, if not likely, that the structures of the AMS inherently favour the inclusion of some groups to the exclusion of others. However, I do not feel that this is going to be addressed by the erstwhile Equity Program, a program with ideological roots that feed off of self censorship and which promotes a brand of suffocating political correctness to the detriment of honest political debate. It was a watered down version (especially because of the mandatory training and implementation of the program that the AMS mandated, but did not enforce) of the ideological re-education programs imposed on students at the University of Delaware, and of other programs on diversity consciousness that promote a self-righteous self-loathing that may as well be called ‘the white-man’s burden for the modern age’.

The AMS climate review is continuing apace as we speak, and I’ve signed myself up for one of the sessions. I do have some very significant concerns in terms of selection bias in the survey, but I hope that it is able to identify where the structures of the AMS are preventing the full engagement of our members. The money we spent on the Equity Program this past year was wasted on implementing a solution before identifying the program, and those who championed it prevented the AMS from taking any real action for another year. The money spent on the Equity Program could have been used to promote the climate survey and solicit broad feedback, which would have alleviated some of the concerns that I think, due to the (rather small) amount of marketing done to promote the survey, are going to manifest themselves with respect to selection bias.

The money, which at best impacted no more than one in six of the clubs on campus, could have been used to greater effect in any number of ways, generating more utility for the AMS membership. We deserve better from the AMS, and we should be able to expect that the people spending our money are going to try to use every cent of it to improve the lives of students in a way that can be justified by logic and research, and quantified with results. We should also be able to expect that people in power do not use the name, weight, money and power of the AMS as an ideological chew toy, something that has gone tragically unfulfilled these past two years. Students deserve better.




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