Quiet down children

December 2, 2009

Ok, I’ve been trying to not write this for days and it keeps getting both harder to avoid and harder to write.  The topic is UBC AMS politics.  This is why its hard to write, because campus politics has a way of making sometimes hokey municipal politics look like a grand ideal of civil debate.  UBC campus politics seems to have an endless layer upon layer of intrigue going back year after year.  It’s hard to avoid because this blog is ostensibly about democracy and UBC students.  What could be a more apt topic than a political scandal involving the AMS President sending a letter to the UN asking for an investigation into “human rights violations” on UBC campus?

Seems relevant.  So why is it I can’t seem to pick a side?

Point, the first.

Last fall I asked Blake Frederick not to step down in the wake of his first scandal.  That scandal, SlateGate?,  happened before he was even confirmed president in a complaint that he was running as part of a banned slate.  Well now Mr. Frederick and Tim Chu, the VP External,  are both being asked to step down again.  This time however, it is by the AMS council in a unanimous censure of his letter to the UN.  As you have no doubt heard already (check here, here, here and here is you want the full scope of disgust, misunderstanding, facts and support), those “human rights violations” regard the increasingly high tuition fees at UBC which, they argue, are in contravention of the international convenent of human rights of which Canada is a signatory.

I didn’t want Frederick to step down because he was the best winnable choice for president who might vigorously help to get the AMS behind the campaign to pass the referendum on proportional representation.  Despite the best efforts of FairVoteUBC the AMS council did not endorse BC-STV and as we all know it failed to pass provincewide, achieving only 40% support.  Remember, correlation does not imply causation, just saying...

So, Frederick’s argument that the AMS council is not exactly interested in making any kind of statements, even when it is in favour of perfectly rational proposals such as BC-STV which was widely supported by young people and would benefit students disproportionately to many other groups (pun intended).


That brings me to my second point.  This proposal, to ask the UN to investigate BC for “human rights violations” due to rising tuition fees is not an obviously rational and effective proposal.  It’s not clear it makes any sense, it demeans the notion of human rights and it’s not clear that it will be effective.  Oh, scratch that, it is clear because SFU did the same thing 5 years ago and never heard a peep from the UN. Its just a bit silly really.

Third point, Frederick and Chu sent this request to the UN, without getting approval of the AMS council.  They have since apologized, but not really. Their argument is that the council isn’t activist enough and that their attempt to impeach him is an attempt by a small group of students to overthrough the democratic will of UBC students.

Arguing that you needed to go around the rules government because the government wasn’t doing things the way you want isn’t what elected presidents say, its what dictators say.  So I was surprised Frederick made that argument.  Arguing that the president’s 6% of the campus population vote tally is more legitimate than the small band of AMS councillors, who are also elected, is not very compelling.

So what’s my conclusion? Should Frederick resign? It looks like 2 strikes against Frederick and 1 strike against the AMS council.  But I’m enough of a Bayesian to think there’s a whole lot I still don’t know about all this, and frankly, I’m not sure I want to.

So my advice to Frederick, Chu, the other execs and the AMS council: grow up and start talking to each other, put your personality battles aside or step aside if you can’t handle it.  Also, step back and get some perspective here, we all want to change the world for the better, how can you best improve the lives of the students you claim to represent?

Mark Crowley


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