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Issue of the Day: Governance, Pt. 2 – Internal Issues

Posted By Brendon Goodmurphy On January 16, 2008 @ 10:54 pm In Features | Comments Disabled

At the end of the day, UBC is an academic institution. The Board of Governors should be responsive to students’ concerns, needs and priorities. Creating a University Town has changed the campus community (read about the ramifications in Tim’s article about on campus events, alcohol licensing, ACF), and has created many new pressures and responsibilities to balance that are not purely institutional. The question really is, how appropriate is it for the Board of Governors to be playing the role of a municipality? Don’t forget that over half of the BoG reps are appointed by the Province, and are very indirectly accountable to students’ needs or UNA residents’ needs for that matter (though for BoG, there’s a lot more at stake if they don’t get the relationship right with the UNA residents). The reality is, a lot more time, energy, resources and money have gone into the developments of U-Town, and getting this right is a pretty high priority for them. Meanwhile, students are asking a lot of questions…

The Endowment:

Let’s NOT underestimate the importance and benefits that we as students receive from the Endowment – to do otherwise would be premature. The University tries to call us on this all the time. And I always have to quietly explain that the issue isn’t that we don’t understand how the Endowment works, and the benefits we receive. I always say that its really about accountability – students should have a say in how the Endowment is spent on our education, and even how it is invested (from an ethical standpoint), the Endowment should be made much more public and transparent, and we should have a say in how much we’re willing to have our campus change for the sake of the Endowment.


Well, I wasn’t around back in the early nineties when someone came up with the brilliant idea of developing fancy houses on every inch of unused land. But, if the consultation process that I have seen over the past five years are any indication, one can only imagine what the consultation process was like when UBC was developing the Official Community Plan, and designing all the Neighbourhood Plans (Darren was around for a lot of these, and he has some interesting stories to tell).

The point is: how much say did students really have when they were making all these decisions about how the University community was going to change. And hey, maybe now that its been a couple years, and we have seen some of the ramifications of these developments, we want to see a few things change from the original agreements.

Consultation with students has improved over the year, in my opinion. After many years of sustained pressure on the University to conduct meaningful consultations, not just handing a design to students and asking them to approve it, but asking us from the beginning what we want. I also think its important that we as students don’t wear out the meaning of this word consultation. The AMS has a definition of what meaningful consultation is all about, and we need to communicate those expectations clearly and consistently to the University and we need to judge consultations on that criteria. It’s not about always getting what we want, its about the intentions of the consultation from the get-go.

Meaningful Representation

Students have seats on a lot of committees and other decision-making bodies at the University. A lot of these committees, however, are advisory in nature. Even at the Board of Governors, the student reps have to work very hard at the beginning to prove themselves, or they will be dismissed and not taken seriously for the rest of the year. A good example of this is the University Town Committee. This was the community advisory committee for all things University Boulevard related before the petition in May. All through last year the committee was giving feedback that the plans were terrible, the designs weren’t working, and the community was not really approving. Of course, the feedback was taken, and the plans went full steam ahead. What more do we need to do? Get 3500 signatures on a petition? Well, I guess so…

We as students need to be careful about the role committees play – are they taking the place of real community consultation? Are they a decision-making body (meaning, the committee has to come to some sort of consensus), or are they advisory? The worst things we can do as students is assume that a committee is just one part of the consultation process, and then realize that that was it! And the AMS is doing a lot of lobbying to get more representation (a GSS seat on BoG, for example), and more institutionalized processes for consultation and decision-making. We need student reps on all levels (Senate, Executive, BoG, AMS Council) to continue this work, and sending out this message to the University.

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