The Henry Angus Tuition Fee

Three Bad Precedents

This fee, once it passes, sets three bad precedents which span beyond the walls of the commerce faculty, and begin to create the case for intervention by other faculties and the AMS. There’s a managerial precedent, a political one and a foundational one.

Management-wise, passing this fee amounts to a bailout of ambitious, irresponsible financial planning. The only reason the financial plan got the go-ahead from the Board of Governors is because they were given the confidence that the Dean’s original plebiscite would get provincial approval. Well the province said no, but walls were already being knocked over, so UBC bailed out the project by providing a loan off the backs of everyone. (A note: the people most pissed about that? The other deans, who would never be able to do that if due process is followed.) After such a failure, any reasonable project manager would scale back plans, until new sources of revenues come up. That didn’t happen. In fact, planning became more ambitious as time went on, and alternative revenues were not secured. The reason? Dan assumed he could ask again, this time with his ducks in line, while assuming the CUS would support him and that it would pass. Well, when Dan went to the CUS and said “you need to do this, because I’ve been expecting you will,” they turned around and said, “but of course,” and started down the road of a bailout—a terrible precedent.

minFrom the Government to UVic, with love. Feb 2010.

Politically, this serves as precedent in favour of privatization. If you’re against privatization, you should oppose this, as government and UBC will use it as evidence that students are willing to contribute more money in realms government once did.

The last precedent is easily the most dangerous. This skirts the provincial authority on tuition fees through a legal back door. Using the back door removes the public oversight of the tuition debate. A country that’s founded on principles of equal access to education, and that also firmly believes in a meritocratic educational system, needs to maintain a grasp on the tuition lever irrespective of the direction it goes. To allow a private back door in which this very important public policy issue can be decided avoids the public discourse that’s needed to maintain good government in this country. A Canada based solely on peace and order is not the Canada we know and love.


This fee will pass. The student leadership in Commerce is doe-eyed, and the dean and other faculty members are actively campaigning for it. The Faculty cares so much they even threw up their own “concerned students’ FAQ“, successfully alienating the students within their faculty who are critical of the administration. It’s at the point that even Associate Professors have publicly expressed disappointment in students.

commerceassociateprofessorRead the thread for full interactions.

There is still hope though. Although the referendum will pass, the fee might not. There’s hope that government could rightfully rule it as tuition. The only reason the government said no at UVic though is because there was a group of students who rose up to let government know their thoughts. Will this be the case at UBC?

Note: the images in this post are from the renovations already completed.

Pages: 1 2 3


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. You need not look farther than the comments of two donors to the renovations about the importance of students not being on the hook here.

    Irfhan Rawji, BComm 2000.

    John Williams, BComm 1958.

    Posted by Alex Lougheed | March 10, 2010, 5:14 pm
  2. Good post. That’s the real issue here – the backdoor tuition hike.

    Three points I’d add.

    1) The principle behind “students pay tuition, government/universities pay buildings” is sound. Students’ time is transient; they pay transient expenses. Buildings that outlast any cohort of students are permanent and paid by the permanent tenants/beneficiaries.

    2) Yet another dangerous element to the precedent (in addition to those mentioned herein) is that this threatens to increase the ever-growing gap between have and have-not faculties. There are demographers and stats geeks who can make this point better than I.

    3) Finally, let’s dispense with the “we need a nice building so the world respects us” crap. I went to law school in a universally recognized dump of a building. That didn’t devalue my degree. To suggest otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of the legal community and, quite frankly, to the faculty as well, in that it suggests that they are incapable of rising above the limitations of the physical plant.

    3a) By the way, law’s getting a new building. Why? Because the law community recognized that it was about damn time, and ponied up millions over millions of dollars. Strangely, the business community has declined to do the same. What does that say about the reputational argument?

    Posted by TLG | March 10, 2010, 5:33 pm
  3. Great article Alex. You hit all the issues. Hell, imo, you should be providing the debate for the no vote.

    Regardless of such, great article. I vote tomorrow, and I’m so torn behind the decision.

    Posted by Jeff | March 10, 2010, 6:45 pm
  4. I’m curious as to what you think about the point raised at the bottom of page 5 here:

    Basically they’re admitting that other business schools did not levy direct student fees due to provincial grants, but they also argue that those schools have higher tuition which makes up for the lack of an explicit fee.

    As far as I know, no school has had to raise tuition as a direct result of a new building. That was not the case in recent examples such as Queen’s, Ivey, and Rotman.

    Posted by Jason | March 10, 2010, 7:34 pm
  5. Interestingly, there are Tax Implications to the new proposal. Under the Dean’s original proposal, the “Building Fee” was going to be structured to be tax efficient, which likly would have made it as a tax credit for education.

    Under the new referendum the fee will be strictly a “Student Association Fee” which H&R Block says is not eligible to claim as a credit.

    Under the ITA Donations must be voluntary, and so one cannot consider this to be a “donation” and so again no credit.

    This works out to about $410 ($300 + $110)which would have been available in credits.

    We can all play accounting games…

    Posted by Annon | March 10, 2010, 10:24 pm
  6. @Jason – That last paragraph is pretty much a lie. It’s not as though it’s one giant pot that all money, including tuition, goes in to, and all expenses, including capital costs, come out.

    Capital costs are, and have always been, treated differently from tuition. Though I’m over-simplifying the extent to which they are in siloes, the paragraph you referenced is at best ignorant and at worst an outright lie.

    Maybe I’m just bitter. Let’s face facts – there’s nothing about a commerce degree that justifies a more fancy learning environment than, say, an arts degree. Nothing. Underlying this whole affair appears to be an underlying notion that a commerce degree is in some way special such that it requires a cutting-edge classroom. That’s a crock. Commerce students deserve leading-edge facilities just as much as every other student deserves leading-edge facilities; students in other faculties just haven’t been brainwashed into thinking there’s a high-paying glamorous job for them on the other side.

    Posted by TLG | March 10, 2010, 11:12 pm
  7. Now the Faculty has offered their own FAQ.

    If this was an actual student fee, the Faculty would have minimal interest in its outcome. Posting their own, independent FAQ, addressed to ‘concerned students’? Please.

    @Jason, TLG summarized well why that point contains “clearly faulty logic”. The opposition is coming from that the University is pushing to increase the overall cost of a degree to students, by manipulating some students and using a hole in the law.

    Also, there’s still a gaggle of issues surrounding referendum procedure.

    It would be foolish to acknowledge these precedents. I would highly advise anyone in Commerce to vote no on the fee, and let your renovations come off the back of all UBC students (myself included). I would much rather mismanagement be addressed as mismanagement and legal loopholes that undermine a well-functioning democracy not be acknowledged as legitimate.

    Posted by Alex Lougheed | March 11, 2010, 1:27 am
  8. Props, yo.

    Posted by ~*~Sexy Brunette~*~ | March 11, 2010, 1:28 am
  9. Alex, you of all people should know that this is not setting a precedent. In January of 2009, you personally moved a motion at AMS Council to approve a $300 increase in Architecture student fees. This fee increase was going to be transferred to the school to cover a deficit in the faculty’s IT budget, as well as to “create a buffer for the future” (See item #10:

    Even before that, the original $266 CUS fee was put in place to fund career services, as well as pay for computer labs in Henry Angus. Since then, the school has seen more resources become available and has been able to take on much of that responsibility as it rightfully should. The CUS still contributes to the Business Career Centre, however now it is based on performance for getting students jobs (this year it’s ~$58 per student; a far cry from the full funding that the CUS used to contribute).

    I would hope to see the same happen in the future with the fee currently being considered. As University resources become available in the future, the school will step up to contribute heavily to this initiative like it has in the past.

    Posted by Tom Dvorak | March 11, 2010, 1:49 am
  10. @Tom You of all people should know that such a motion was moved by me because the VP Academic has the responsibility to ensure the AMS’s very rudimentary electoral checks go through. In retrospect, I regret not keeping a higher standard of political scrutiny on whether or not they should have been voting on their fee. I do recall some of my sharper colleagues at the time voted against that motion.

    I think these votes /have/ set a precedent. You’ll note that you’re quoting precedent I established as a reason that I should be ok with it. Precedents are tricky like that.

    You’ll also notice the University is becoming more and more interested in pursuing this option. Round 2 for Sauder, round 1 for architecture, and in those same minutes, you’ll note Clare Benton mentioning the possibility of a $1000 student fee for the new law building. Same thing at UVic, but the Ministry seems to be catching on… All of this within the past two years, and before then, hardly any examples? It seems like there’s a rush to get through the hole before government patches it up.

    What concerned students /can/ do is help government patch it up.

    Posted by Alex Lougheed | March 11, 2010, 2:04 am
Please vote for us in the Continuous VoterMedia Contest