Does UBC need a VP Students?

Disclaimer: I have some privileged information on subjects related to this one. But any information contained herein comes from some other source; nothing in here is confidential in any way.

Brian Sullivan has served as UBC’s Vice-President, Students (VPS) since 1999. His portfolio includes the registrar’s office, alumni, recruitment, student development, housing, athletics, student services, and managing the relationship between the University and its students.
But consider the following:

  1. The VP Students office has been completely re-organized. Specifically, the newly created position of Associate VP, Student Development has taken responsibility for many of the services and student development programs. There’s no new direct report to the VPS.
  2. UBC is the only Canadian university to have this position. Most Universities have a Vice-Provost, students, who reports to the VP Academic.
  3. The newly-hired Provost is the former Vice-Provost at the UofT, with responsibility to students there.
  4. Prof. Toope is creating a new VP position, to encompass development and alumni. This removes yet another portfolio item from the VPS portfolio.

Within a year, most of the existing VPS portfolio will be out of the office. It’s reasonable to assume that Professor Toope doesn’t see a VP Students as a necessary, important, or beneficial part of a University.

Is it? I’m of two minds. On one hand, it’s good to have a central place for students to go. And when there’s one person whose sole job is to ask “how will this affect students?” without having to worry about, say, the faculty association or any other stakeholder, then it can help create a student-centred environment. Finally, there’s increased communication and teamwork when all these disparate services are united under the common umbrella of “students.”

But at the same time, it’s symptomatic of a University in which “students” (by which I primarily mean undergraduates) are marginalized, to say the least. There’s something about the VPS portfolio that speaks to a ghettoization of the student interest. And it would be great if this University didn’t need one.

My guess? It’s safe to assume that, at this time next year, UBC won’t have a Vice-President, Students. Is that a good thing? I have no idea.

(Photo Credit Martha Piper. Seriously. And stolen from Peets.)


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