The UBC Board of Governors will be holding an extraordinary Board Committee meeting tomorrow, April 21st, to approve the new Commerce student fees and a Board 3 for the Sauder building upgrades (agenda). It’s important to note that the date-stamp on the agenda is April 19th. This means that there was only two days of notice given to the public (and Board members, as I have confirmed). This gives extremely little time for any consultation or feedback to happen. As members of the public are required to apply for tickets at least 24 hrs in advance, it makes it extremely hard for any interested parties to attend.
The agenda lists only the following four open items, and Sean Heisler, student Board rep, has confirmed that there are no closed items on the agenda:
Join Property & Planning and Finance Committee
- 2.1 Sauder School of Business Building Project
In particular, this meeting raises a number of interesting questions:
1. Why is this so pressing that an extraordinary meeting has to be called?
2. Knowing the controversy surrounding this fee and the building project, is this being deliberately done semi-secretly?
3. There is no extraordinary Full Board meeting scheduled. Will these resolutions be brought into effect prior to a resolution of the full Board?
4. Is the Board 3 being rushed to prevent students from being able to change the building program now that they are a major donor?
Further discussion, rampant speculation, and a detailed analysis of each item after the jump.
The Sauder Building & Fee
A number of hacks, involved students, and random people have expressed concern about the CUS fee setting a precedent of students paying for academic space. Additionally, there are worries that this is a method of exploiting a loophole in the 2% tuition cap which could be used adversely in the future. Some of these concerns were assuaged through discussions with CUS members who ensured these editors that they were pushing for changes to the building so that there would be student space, CUS space, and other things that students need (now that they are contributing millions).
With the project going to Board 3 tomorrow, however, there will be absolutely no opportunity for any changes. Board 3 is the last checkpoint for a project before it goes to tender and gets constructed. That means any premise that there would be meaningful student input into the project, opportunity for students to sit on a programming committee, etc. have been shown to be invalid. Specifically, in numerous places (referendum question, Board 3 document for the building, etc.) it is stated that “Students will have formal input into Phase 2 building design through representation on a user committee.” It’s hard to understand how student input will be taken under regard when the final plans will already be approved. This strikes as just another example of lip service from Dean Dan.
Furthermore, it’s hard to understand why this issue is so important that it needs to be approved now. The next regularly scheduled Board Committee meeting is in late May, with Full Board early June. The student fee does not come into effect until the building is completed (earliest 2012), so it is hard to see how it’s pressing.
As part of the undergraduate referendum question, it was stated that the fee would go to support “a mortgage of approximately $20 million”. Looking through the Revised Board 3, the mortgage will actually only be “up to $17.9 million”, and will fund the entirety of Phase II. I would argue that a mortgage value 10% less than expected isn’t exactly in the category of “approximate”. It’s also ironic and sad to think that the Commerce school failed to correctly estimate the mortgage. This mortgage will come from within UBC, which should lead to a fair amount of clarity regarding rates.
Perhaps even more distressing is that the MBA, ECM and MMOR referenda will pay for seismic upgrades that were originally slated as part of Phase I but reputedly have yet to occur. This is alarming in a couple ways. Firstly, the entire publicity swarm regarding the referendum was that students were paying for Phase II. Reading through the referendum question for the Masters students, it is suggested that the fee will go towards the Phase II program, without mention of what it is actually paying for. Personally, I find seismic upgrades even more of a stretch for students to pay for than renovated classrooms.
Another incredibly alarming point about this entire endeavour is that there does not seem to be an associated Full Board meeting. My understanding is that all resolutions brought before Board Committees must be approved by Full Board before they take effect. Thusly, either these resolutions will be acted upon without following proper procedure, or they really aren’t as pressing as they seem to be, since it will require waiting for Full Board in June regardless.
Apparently the first item regarding tuition is nothing new, simply a correction of an error in the previous Board Resolution. Specifically, when the tuition increases were approved earlier this month, they referred to graduate fee increases from last year, not this year. Supposedly this new resolution is just a correction to that switching the fees to what they were intended to be. However, if you read in detail, it appears that the erroneous document, involving fee increases for *domestic graduate students* is being replaced with fee increases for *international graduate students*. It would appear that a mistake is being fixed with… another mistake.