- “Arvind Gupta: By the powers vested in me, Arvind Gupta, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia, it has been thus decreed that 2015-16 will be UBC’s Centennial Year!
(pause for raucous applause)
(ensure arms remain folded for maximum standoffishness in body language)
(pause for more applause)
Friends, I look forward to celebrating this completely unique, once-in-a-lifetime event with you all.
Audience member: Isn’t this just an arbitrary milestone that UBC Alumni Affairs is latching onto as a cynical marketing gimmick to goose donations and create unearned goodwill?
Arvind: Let me try to paraphrase – no, I wont bother to try and paraphrase that. Um… Uh… So here’s an interesting question: what would you expect to happen, as an economics professor, if we had a centennial but didn’t use is as an opportunity to fundraise?
Audience member: I’d expect that a small number of very wealthy donors would make up the bulk of the donations, basically the same as it is now, which sometimes makes universities beholden to weird special interests.
Arvind: So, well, what we’re finding is that people who are merely wealthy also donate, they don’t have to be just extremely wealthy or very wealthy. Of course we could try and measure the socioeconomic background of our donors… you know, here’s a question – 2008 or 2015 for a 100th anniversary – where was this discussion in 2008? Were you asking these questions in 2008?
Audience Member: I wasn’t actually here in 2008.
While that particular scene may be quasi-fictional, our fearless leader Arvind has already announced on numerous occasions that UBC will be celebrating 2015-16 as its centennial. There’s a Centennial Initiatives Fund already raring to go with make-work, feel-good projects. Other ideas floated include a website, public art, centennial merch, signage, and events. The upcoming #AskArvind Twitter Town Hall somehow gets a Centennial tie-in too as will many other wholly-unrelated events over the next year. Which is all well and good, but fictional Arvind brings up a good point: where was everyone in 2008?
You see, UBC already celebrated its 100th anniversary. In 2008.
Back then, it was a Centenary (not to be confused with a Centennial!) celebrating 100 years of UBC. There were banners in the streets!
There was a handsome book produced called UBC: The First 100 years. The university’s annual report was called “Foresight“. It included “1908-2008″ above the UBC crest and used, non-ironically, phrases like this: “On March 7, 1908 provincial legislators didn’t just pass a piece of legislation; they performed an act of foresight.”
Oh, and who can forget the must-have social media product of that era, the “Youtube vignette”:
So we’ve been through this all before. Beloved hipster president Stephen Toope was doing 100th anniversary celebrations before it was cool. To be fair, there’s actually a more legitimate reason to celebrate in 2015 (2008 celebrated the passage of the University Act in 1908, which created the university, but just on paper – classes did not actually officially commence until 1915) but depending on when the next UBC President takes office, it’s easy to imagine yet another century celebration in 2022 (The Great Trek was in 1922) or 2025 (First classes held on Point Grey Campus in 1925). How many 100th anniversaries can we have?