AMS candidates answer our questions: VP External

Another year rolls around, another set of AMS Elections. We at the Talon aim to ask hard-hitting critical questions, and in that spirit, we invited all candidates in the election to answer a set of questions that we hope will help our readers in casting their ballot. Over the next few days we will be publishing the responses for all positions. Today we’ll start with candidates for VP External.

Vote here from February 29th to March 4th.

No response was received for the other candidate, Alex Kilpatrick.

Kathleen Simpson


  1.   Why are you running for your position?

Having had the opportunity to work in the AMS VP External Office for over a year, I have had the privilege to get to know some of the advocacy projects first hand.  During this time, not only have I become very attached to these projects, but I also hope to improve the functionality and visibility of the office.  My hope is to renew the focus on advocacy to restore it to one of the primary objectives of the AMS.  To do this, I plan to reconnect the office with student advocacy groups, to combine their excellent and passionate work and engagement of students with the resources of the AMS.  Ultimately, strong student action and involvement is the most powerful advocacy tool we have.

  1.     What are the main goals you wish to accomplish during your term?

During my term as Vice President External, I hope to build a strong framework through which all student advocacy engagement can take place.  This will involve the creation and formalization of strong partnerships with on-campus advocacy groups, who play a critical role in engaging the student body on important issues.  This structure and these partnerships will not only be instrumental in bringing about meaningful change and progress on my three advocacy goals for my term, they will also continue to drive progress and meaningful discussion in future year.  The three advocacy goals that I hope to address as VP External are as follows:

  • Advocate for increased post-secondary education affordability:

Education affordability needs to be advocated for not only in the form of greater funding for post secondary institutions, but also in the form of greater accessibility to financial aid.

  • Improve rights of students in residence:

Since tenants in student housing are not protected by BC Tenancy Law, I hope to join other student associations in advocating for provincial regulation of student housing.

  • Provincially legislated sexual assault policies for universities:

Advocate for provincial legislation that mandates that all universities have stand-alone sexual assault policies that are regularly updated.

  1.     How will you strive to consult with and represent the diversity of voices that make up the student body?

If elected as VP-External, I plan to implement a restructure of the AMS External Advocacy Commission, to include student representatives from a multitude of groups across campus. Hearing first-hand from students about issues that are important to them is the most effective way to ensure that everyone can be represented equally. It also gives the opportunity to hear from interest groups on campus who are less widely represented in the UBC community. By ensuring that as many student groups as possible can have a seat at the table, communication will flourish between students and the AMS.

  1.     How will you strive in your position to improve the lives of UBC’s most marginalized students?

As I stated in my response to the previous question, I believe that an open dialogue with student groups is the first and most important step in representing all students.  With the case of marginalized students however, I think that it is especially important that they be actively involved in all phases of advocacy, from the consultation phase, to the implementation phase.  Ultimately, only they are able to understand and explain their own experiences, and it is critical that they be the ones speaking on their own behalf.  It is also important to consider and acknowledge the impact that intersectionality has on marginalized students as we advocate for change and develop policy.

  1.     How does your platform engage with anti-oppressive frameworks?

As a candidate for the VP- External, and as student at UBC in general, I cannot stress how important employing anti-oppressive frameworks is in our community. Consultation and collaboration are the two pillars of my platform. The reason for this is straightforward; I cannot possibly represent the interests of UBC students without including voices from marginalized communities. In other words, I cannot solely represent privileged voices on campus. As a result, I will include as many voices as possible by engaging with student clubs and other groups on campus before any major decisions.  Acknowledging the existence and consequences of oppressive aspects of our society is the first step to engaging in anti-oppressive work, and this should be reflected in the research, policy, and outreach of every advocacy effort made by the VP External Office.

  1.     What is your position on the referendum question on referendums?

I personally support a ‘yes’ vote to all of the proposed referendum questions, with the exception of the changes to the bylaws surrounding Referendum Revisions.  My concern with these changes is that it leaves the AMS with too much leeway in re-writing referendum questions submitted to them by students.  Referendums are the AMS’s purest version of democracy, and even the smallest amount if change in wording has the potential to drastically alter the meaning of a question.  Although the changes are meant to help prevent the AMS from having to run referendum questions that direct them to take any illegal actions, I still maintain that there are concerns in giving any group the power to change the wording of a referendum question put forward by students and signed by a thousand of them.

  1.     How will you work with the on- and/or off- campus indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

Given that we are learning and living on the unceded land of the Musqueam people, it is imperative that our indigenous communities be stakeholders in campus affairs. I plan to restructure the AMS External Advocacy Commission to allow an appointed member from an Indigenous student group (for example, the Indigenous Student Association) to be involved in every advocacy project that the VP External Office works on, from the preliminary consultation phase, to the campaign and advocacy implementation.  Ultimately, it should be Indigenous students themselves who should speak on all matters that have a direct impact on themselves.

  1.    How do you define accessible education? How will you strive to achieve this?

Although educational accessibility is often associated with merely the financial affordability of education, true accessibility is a much broader and ultimately, challenging goal.  Accessibility is the truly equal availability of education to all, regardless of social, financial, or ability factors.

It is important that this definition include and acknowledge the effects of intersectionality, where in which multiple factors may compound to create even greater obstacles to accessing education.  In order to begin to dismantle the many barriers to education, it is critical first to maintain open conversation with the student body, paying particular attention to marginalized groups, to understand the different barriers that confront different students.  Secondly, in order to effectively advocate for accessibility of education and to bring about change, it is important to work collectively not only with UBC students, but also with students from other student associations – barriers to accessibility are present on all university campuses and a united response is the best and most powerful response.

  1.  What will be your approach to advocating to the government and other relevant external groups?

It is my personal belief that the influence that the VP External (or really any AMS executive), does not come from their position or title, but rather, from the collective support of the students they represent.  Furthermore, UBC students are entitled to always be aware of the actions and projects of the VP External, and should collectively have the ability to set the agenda and actions of the office.  For this reason, as VP External, I would like to incorporate three pillars into every advocacy project: research, student engagement, and partnership.  To elaborate, any advocacy project that I work on as VP External will be supported by strong research, will engage students during both the consultation phase of the project and the action and advocacy phase of the project, and will work collaboratively with other student associations and partner groups to deliver the strongest possible message.

  1.     What will be your approach to working with other student unions?

Very rarely do projects in the VP External portfolio affect only a single student association.  For this reason, student associations often partner together in larger organisations to collectively advocate for change on issues that have an impact on them all.  When student associations work together, they are able to share resources, coordinate strategy and messaging, and amplify their voice.  For these reasons, I strongly support working collaboratively with other student associations at both a provincial and federal level.  Although the AMS currently has informal relationships with student associations across the country, none of these relationships are formalized.  As VP External, I hope to conduct a thorough review and consultation on whether or not the AMS should consider formalizing any of these relationships through membership into coalitions of student associations, at any level of government.  Ultimately, these coalitions have the potential to provide a lot of excellent advocacy resources to their member schools, but can often come at a significant financial membership costs, which is why thorough consultation is required before committing to them.