Deans whip off the gloves in AMS-sponsored Dean’s debate

Yesterday the Deans of Sauder, Arts, and Pharmacy faced off in an informal debate during the noon hour at the Norm theatre. All three deans launched with gusto into the topic of debate: “whose degree is better?”. Dean of Arts Nancy Gallini seamed to triumph decisively in the tongue-in-cheek verbal sparring, while Dean of Sauder, Dan Muzyka struggled to keep the competition close. Dean of Pharmacy Robert Sindelar took the highroad strategy, sweetly abstaining from too much saucy stereotype-slinging and focusing on his faculty’s strengths.

The AMS-sponsored event was moderated by David Farrar, UBC’s still-new-smelling VP academic and provost. This position on the UBC executive is responsible for academic matters including teaching, and the 11 faculty deans report to this position. Farrar comes from U of T, where he was the VP students and vice-provost. He’s generally thought to be student-minded and committed to teaching, though with only a month in, time will tell. Anyway, Farrar expressed his thanks to the AMS and complimented our beautiful SUB and specifically, the Norm theatre, (since it was his first time in it).

The discussion got serious in the question period, however. The deans of Sauder and Pharmacy fielded some questions about ethics in their respective professional fields. AMS president Jeff Friedrich asked all the deans about UBC’s recent poor ranking in surveys comparing UBC’s student experience to those of university “peers” (google “NSSE UBC”). While the Deans seemed sweetly personable, idealistic, and earnest up until this point, they fell down hard on this question. Dean Gallini and Dean Dan instantaneously cried poor. They have experienced cuts every year since they arrived at UBC. They are still living the legacy of the starved 90′s (ie. the tuition freeze 90′s). UBC is a commuter campus, and students don’t have time to be engaged meaningfully in their academics. They challenge us, the AMS, to reach out. All these platitudes are familiar, and even legitimate. Yes, we cannot expect gold-standard student services and academic attention if there’s no money to enrich and diversify programs. Yes, many student commute to UBC and work long hours. But in face of recent events, I found it insane to listen to Dean Dan cry poor for core academic funding, and have Nancy Gallini wholeheartedly agree with him. To catch everyone up, this is the same Dean Dan that just asked the UBC Board of Governors for 30 million of those core General Purpose Operating Fund (GPOF) dollars so that he can have a fancy new building instead of Angus.

He actually had the audacity to flippantly comment that our taps aren’t platinum-plated, but that we muddle through. Well Mr. Muzyka, it seems like you would borrow against UBC’s GPOF to the hilt, or squeeze for student fees in order to platinum-plate your very toilet paper if you could get away with it. The moral of this story is that priorities seem to be all wrong: the deans justifiably lament their program cuts and slim resources, but have no compunctions asking taxpayers (or students for that matter, whatever!) for slick and unnecessary buildings.

This debate was informative: not only do Dean Dan’s priorities suck, so does his comedic timing.


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