Monday, August 6, 2007

UBC VFM Committee Minutes 20070802

Met in SUB 266J; started at 6:42 pm

Committee Members:
Chair – Matthew Naylor, UBC AMS VP External
absent: Stephanie Ryan, Arts Undergraduate Society President
6:47 - proxied by Alex Lougheed
Bruce Krayenhoff, AMS Council Grad Studies Rep
6:51 John Kneeshaw, UBC Engineering student, Member-At-Large

Mark Latham, VFM sponsor & advisor

[Question numbers are from previous meeting's outline - see previous posting in this blog.]

3. Who can enter? [Last year: anyone but electoral candidates, Elections Committee and Student Court.]

BK: fine as is
MN: fine as is; would allow electoral candidates but OK to disallow them
ML: OK; I’d allow electoral candidates too; how about if I enter? I doubt that I would because it looks odd. MN: fine if you enter

AL: Ban Chair of Council? Chair has confidential info.

Moved: Recommend that participation be limited to all people & organizations except elections committee, VFM Administrator, student court members & electoral candidates.
-- Passed unanimously.

2. Should there be separate prize pools for established media and for new media? [Last year there was just one pool.]

BK: in favour. What if big media conglomerate enters? To preserve more independent student media, have separate pools.

JK: not fair to pit student against full-time pros

AL: What distinguishes new from established?

MN: E.g. for Jan 2007 contestants --
Established: 432, Knoll, Underground, Thunderbird
New: the rest

AL: The distinction between 2 groups may blur; media contestants may disband then reconstitute themselves.

BK: Sources of financing would probably be a good criterion to use to determine who is eligible for which pool. At UBC or perhaps in a larger polity if this is implemented there, established media with other sources of funding (i.e. advertising) may end up monopolizing the competition. It would be a good idea to ensure that diversity is preserved by reserving some of the money for independent media.

ML: I recommend having just one pool. Problems if 2 pools:
- grey areas of interpretation & dispute as to which pool each should be in
- government power over media increased & voter power reduced re deciding who’s in which pool, how much $ in each pool etc
- less competition; better for voters to let new media compete with established media directly
- administrative hassle
- no harm in funding established media – they get student funding now – can adjust that if desired; voting gives better legitimation of funding – this applies to Duncan-Kearney-SUS too
- voters can handle it
- if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. With only 3 weeks of contest last time, voters haven’t had enough chance to catch on to VFM; so it’s too early to say it’s broke.

AL: can address this by having many prizes; widen the pool

MN: Let’s defer our decision on this for now.

4. Entry fee: Have one or not? If so how much? If not, what other way to limit number of entries? [Last year: $100.]

MN: $150

AL: Need to know prize slices & vote counting method to answer this.

BK: Increase the fee through time, to encourage media to enter early. E.g. start with $100 in September/October, then $125 in November, then $150 after that.

ML: Another incentive to enter early: list the contestant names on website and ballot in the sequence they entered. (Except that you should randomize the order of all entries received in the opening entry period e.g. up to Sept 30.) May therefore not need the extra complication of a rising entry fee.

JK: There may be a benefit to being last rather than a few before the last.

Should media entrants be required to collect some number of student signatures, the way electoral candidates do?

MN: No – this goes against the principle of a free press – free to say things that may not be popular. It also biases against non-UBC media – harder for them to collect signatures. People sign stuff they don’t believe or understand anyway.

BK: Collecting signatures is good because it encourages political interaction, discussion.

JK: We’re likely to have more entrants this year, so should increase fee so as not to get too many – recommend $150.

AL: $100

ML: $200, and recycle $1000 of the entry fees back into the prize pool to make it $9000; beware success of VFM leading to many entrants; media overload on politicians & voters; advertising; self-indulgence by some non-serious media.

MN: Let’s make it a tentative median-consensus of $150 while we address #1. We’ll return to this fee question in a later meeting.

1. What should the voting structure should be? And linked to that, should the committee slice the prize pie (if so how) or let the voters slice it? [Last year the committee sliced the $8,000 pool into 8 prizes, allocated by approval voting.]

MN: I like median voting system

BK: prefer last year’s voting system

ML: Also likes last year’s system. Open to possibility of median designs – more power to voters, but more complex.

JK: Vote in number terms but not dollars. Scale each voter’s numbers to add to 100. Then take medians.

MN: Should we treat a non-vote the same as a $0 vote?

MN design:






Media 1


Media 2


Media 3


Media 4


Media 5


Then find median for each contestant; rescale to sum to $8000.

AL design:




Media 1


Media 2


Media 3


Media 4


Media 5


Add up score for each contestant. VFM Committee would have sliced up prizes like last year. Then top scorer gets first prize etc.

MN: Let’s do a test poll to try different voting designs; see if voters seem better able to use one than another.

Test Question: If AMS had $8000 to give to charities, which ones should they fund?

Multiple choices to offer:

BC Civil Liberties Association
Canada Out of Haiti
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Downtown Eastside Residents Assocation
Fraser Institute
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Pride Vancouver
Red Cross of Canada
Sea Shepherds
Sierra Club
Suzuki Foundation
United Way
Vancouver Women’s Shelter

MN will draw up ballots.

Adjourned at 8:20 pm

1 comment:

Mike said...

Two comments:

1) I believe the committee should spend considerable time thinking about the entry fee problem this year. If there is nobody on the committee that wants to advocate a no entry fee model, I think the committee is deficient. Gina made a (however belated) strong case against entry fees last year, and she is right that the AMS should not be promoting contests that have the potential to INCREASE the gap between privileged and underprivileged students. At the very least there needs to be an accessible method for students to have the fee waived if their financial circumstances merit that. Relying on The Ubyssey to sponsor entries also shouldn't be considered a solution.

2) I believe the committee this year should look towards developing effective methods of surveillance in the contest. One immediate issue at the end of last year's contest was evaluating whether the experiment was a "success". Since there is no way to run two separate elections in parallel, one without the contest and one with, it becomes an almost intractable problem if evaluation is only considered after the fact. I would advise having separate surveyors during the contest to walk around campus and assess the level of knowledge students have of the elections, and what media sources they are aware of / reading / etc. Also, a requirement for web-based entries could be including tracking code in each page that links to an external tracker (this is easy and widely-done) so that the committee can monitor web traffic as the contest progresses. Finally, I would advise adopting Bruce Krayenhoff's citizens assembly to work in parallel with the contest, to perhaps report weekly on their perceptions of the election and the media sources. The step of having this assembly advise the student body on who to vote for does not need to be taken, but it would be useful to see how the assembly's viewpoints evolved over the course of the campaign, and to see if their final viewpoints correlate with that of the student body.