Senate: Debunking the Myths

This is a guest post/letter to the editor from Joël Mertens, 2010/2011 Student Senate Caucus Chair.

There seems to be confusion over what the UBC Senate does, perpetuated in large part by AJ Hajir Haijian’s website. Because AJ is a current student senator, in my role as Chair of the Student Senate Caucus I feel that it is important that the record be set straight to avoid unrealistic expectations for the incoming student senators.

Senate is not responsible for new Student Housing

While Senate is kept up to date on new Student Housing initiatives through the Academic Building Needs Committee and an annual presentation by UBC Housing to Senate at large, it in no way determines what housing should be built and where. Suggesting that involvement with Senate helped achieved the Totem Infill Project is misleading to students. Students interested in influencing Student Housing priorities should be contacting their Board of Governors representatives and not student senators.

Senate does not determine enrolment numbers

There is a whole unit of the University that deals with enrolment. Senate does get presentations on enrolment numbers, but does not generally dictate what those numbers are. The over-enrolment in 2009 was a statistical anomaly that largely fixed itself with Enrolment Services’ active involvement.

Student Senators have not been pushing for higher positioning in the Times Higher Education rankings

President Toope has expressed on multiple occasions that he does not hold the rankings in high esteem, as the way they are calculated does not necessarily reflect University priorities. UBC focuses on real improvements as opposed to worrying about our ranking. Student senators have likewise pushed for real internal improvements rather than perceived improvements like the university rankings.

Student senators have worked on many initiatives over the past year and it boggles my mind that AJ would preferentially choose to discuss improvements that have little to do with student senators (and nothing to do with him) over the projects that we have been actively working on. I am glad to see that he does include a list of projects that student senators have been working on, but it seems an afterthought and doesn’t highlight the projects that he specifically worked on. Student senators have worked very hard on the following projects:

  • Increased awards for international students
  • Re-examining the summer term structure
  • Establishing a common first year experience beyond Imagine Day
  • Establishing a sustainability (SUST) course code designation
  • Highlighting UBC Governance issues
  • Re-examining IB credits for admissions
  • Improving the UBC Library budget
  • Pushing for Open Access
  • Advocating for the adoption of co-curricular transcripts
  • Establishing policy for technology use in the classroom environment
  • Re-examining grade transfers for courses taken abroad
  • Pushing for more flexible credit limits in faculties
  • Advocating for better support for dual degrees

As I hope you will agree, we have been very busy this year and student senators have a lot to be proud of. I will also mention that this list is specific student initiatives and does not include the advocacy that student senators have done on issues that are already on the table. I will also point out that only the first initiative on this list, increased awards for international students, is one that AJ identified and has been working on.

Joël Mertens
Chair, UBC Vancouver Student Senate Caucus


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Sounds like you dont like AJ.

    Posted by Joe | January 17, 2011, 12:39 pm
  2. Sounds like you dont like AJ.!

    Posted by Joe | January 17, 2011, 12:39 pm
Please vote for us in the Continuous VoterMedia Contest