AMS VP External candidate Timothy Chu plans to focus on improving diversity in campus government if elected.
Chu, a Chinese-Canadian, said there is a problem when 37 per cent of UBC students are Chinese, yet there are only two Chinese councilors out of 40 on the AMS. He also identified gender as an issue that needs to be addressed with.
Chu plans to organize a task force consisting of AMS members-at-large to study and identify potential barriers holding back the minorities from participating in the AMS activities. Previous councils have attempted to request consultant companies to conduct reviews on the AMS Council to ensure fair representation, but none of them accepted the request due to the lack of experience in such topic.
Chu expressed concern over the barriers but was not able to list them all at the debate. He, however, believed that socioeconomic status was one of them.
Chu has not had any income since September. During the summer, he worked seven days a week in order to save up enough money for him to rely on while taking up the AMS Councilor position without getting paid.
“The AMS has $7 millions in fund. Every year we roll up a surplus up to $500,000,” Chu said. “There’s certainly enough money to cover a councilor’s salary.”
Another barrier that Chu pointed out was the cultural conventions among older Asian generations.
“My parents have always pressured me not to run for the AMS Councilor,” Chu said. “But thank goodness I did.”
According to Chu, another Asian-Canadian running for the position of VP Administraion, Crystal Hon, has encountered the same situation, where the parents are against the idea of their children getting involved with student government.
“Maybe find some support groups for people who do want to run but are pressured by the parents not to,” Chu said.
The current AMS VP External, Stephaine Ratjen, talked about intimidation as a barrier for women.
“In my term last year, I was one of the few woman candidates running,” Ratjen said. It is a very different climate for a woman to be running.”
Ratjen felt that female student leaders are often perceived in a sexualized, objectified way. She had the impression that the way students gazed upon campaign posters of a female candidate is quite different compared to a male candidate.
“A lot of people don’t feel comfortable with it. I wasn’t comfortable with it, either.”
Since Chu announced his goal of delivering the review in order to achieve a more democratic participation on campus, particularly within the AMS, few current AMS members are supportive.
“I feel that the people who are sort of a little against doing this review are the people who are benefiting right now from that,” Chu said. “Because of that change not happening, they’re benefiting.”
Chu said he is shocked about the backlash and suggested there could be a personal conflict of interests involved. “Maybe if more ethnic minorities ran, they might have lost their seats to an ethnic minority or a woman.”
The candidate’s other platforms include lobbying the governments to reduce tuition fees, invest in the transit system, and so on.
Chu emphasized that personal financial constraints and lack of support would not stop him from running.
“If I do get elected as VP External, my insurance’s probably gonna get cut off because I won’t be a full-time student anymore. My dad’s insurance coverage won’t apply to me. My RESP is gonna be cut off,” Chu said. “But I’m sticking in there because I want to see changes in the AMS.”