UBC President Arvind Gupta held a Twitter Town Hall over one hour this afternoon. He answered 22 questions total, mostly softballs. He ignored at least 10 times that amount, and signed off promptly at 4pm with a promise that he’d do it again sometime. Here’s a transcript, just to get it on record in a coherent way (Storify, yuck). You should absolutely go check out the #askarvind tag on twitter to get a sense of the questions that were not answered.
NOTE: This transcript has been edited. However, the substance of the questions and answers should be unchanged. The editing consisted of unifying multi-part answers, removing almost all pointless hashtags and tagging of other twitter users, incorporating links that were tweeted out into the actual text, and cleaning up grammar, punctuation, abbreviations, etc. Without further ado…
Thanks to everyone for joining my first ever Twitter Town Hall. The theme is “What’s in store for UBC’s second century?” For a brief introduction to the topic, watch: video. There was a student protest on proposed housing fee increases today. While not directly related to the theme, I want to assure all I will leave time to address questions on housing fees. Let’s get started!
Judy Chan (@judycchan): Dr Arvind, How can I, a sessional lecturer, foster flexibility, passion and guts in future leaders in our everyday teaching?
- Great question! 3 things to consider: 1. Broad based programs maximize opportunities for inspiring passion. 2. We must adopt pedagogy that ensures our students learn how to handle ambiguity and how to be innovative. Finally, let’s work together to ensure our material is imaginative and our teaching inspiring. Announcements on specific measures to support excellence in teaching and learning will be coming in the year ahead. I welcome your ideas. Please email me.
Sanyam (web form): Since you’re Indian born, I’d like to know what UBC has for Indians & what you’ve done for stronger ties between the nations?
- For many years UBC has had a focus on fostering stronger ties between Canada and India through higher education linkages. India has tremendous potential for UBC to build learning & research links. See here for more. In Oct I joined Christy Clark’s trade mission to India. Met with reps of Narendra Modi’s government to build UBC’s engagement. Announced $250K CAD to support merit-based scholarships for Indian students entering UBC undergraduate degree programs.
Abhishek (web form): How do you propose to drive UBC’s University Ranking from ’30-40′ slot to ’1-10′? Does increase in student fees help?
- We will focus on excellence across our core learning and research mandate. Student fees are an integral part of the UBC budget.
Steve Kennedy (@stevemkennedy): What is UBC’s position on the upcoming transit vote?
- Increasing connectivity throughout the region is critical. I encourage everyone to get out and vote in the referendum.
Mazdak Gharibnavaz (@Mazdakg): What do you think is impact on student diversity from 10% increase in international tuition and 20% in housing?
- Attracting a diverse student body is a major focus of our international student strategy. We recruit in 78 countries & are engaging in countries not well represented. We also have one of the largest bursary funds for international students which allows us to recruit for diversity. We also cannot underestimate the impact of UBC’s reputation in attracting a more diverse population. Early indications: our efforts are paying off with the most diverse group of applicants this year than we’ve seen before. For more on how UBC recruits a diverse range of students from around the world, see here.
Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco): Dr Arvind what are you going to do to increase tenure lines at UBC? Also, will UBC ever develop North American Studies?
- I have made a commitment to excellence in teaching and learning and in research. Re: NA studies. Lots happening on this now. I’d be interested in hearing your ideas. Please email me.
Viv Jaehn-Kribaum (@vjaehnkreibaum): UBC known for great researchers, but what about excellence in teaching going forward? The issue needs to be addressed.
- Great question. We need to be constantly examining what the right mix & # of students is. It’s more a matter of ensuring the resources to keep up our standards as we accept students. To keep up with the significant demand for UBC, we must be strategic in investing in these resources.
Jean-François Caron (@jf_bikes): Why are University degrees turning into job training? This is public money being used for something employers used to do.
- We must educate our students so they have broad skills that position them for life-long successes and to be global citizens. We know society is changing faster and faster. Students must be ready to adapt, to think systematically and be innovative. We should be proud that our grads contribute to every facet of society from healthcare policy to environmental sustainability.
Silken Handford (@SilkenHandford): Where was the consultation of the students about increasing fees and tuition?
- UBC has committed to work with students on how tuition fees are spent, including funding for student financial support. Students were invited to provide input over a 49-day period online and through a series of town hall meetings. Members of my executive team held 11 face-to-face meetings with student leaders during the consultation period.
Urooba Jamal: (@uroobajamal): How do you plan on supporting Indigenous students on campus?
- Good news: The number of Aboriginal students at both campuses has grown from 782 to 1307 in the past 10 years or 67%. We will continue & strengthen our long history of partnership with First Nations communities. I work closely with the President’s Aboriginal Advisory Council. UBCO has supported aboriginal students through important programs like Access Studies. Lots of programs to be proud of. Eg. attracting more Indigenous students to the health sciences. See here. I welcome your ideas. Please email me.
Kayla (web form): How will UBC continue to reduce it carbon and water footprints in its second century?
- We’re moving in the right direction. UBC’s GHG emissions down by 14% and we’re using 55% less water. We will keep demonstrating what’s possible. See what’s planned here. Initiatives like our district energy system can be replicated in cities around the world. We’ll lead from here.™
Katherine Bermiller (@kathmaryb): What are you doing to reduce sexual assault and sexism on campus? Especially considering the events at Dalhousie…
- Violence and discrimination of any kind is not acceptable at UBC. We’re determined to make long-term systemic changes to ensure safety of our community. See here. UBC has committed to posting the number of sexual assaults reported to the RCMP and Campus Security. We are working closely with the RCMP & campus safety to raise awareness & increase reporting rates. We are already having some success but more needs to be done. Watch for more on this in the coming weeks.
Mike Hager (@MikePHager): Do you support the UBC Divest campaign?
- Let’s make sure our entire community is engaged in discussing this important issue. The faculty will be discussing in the coming weeks. Last year UBC’s Board established a responsible investment policy.
Pryde (@XphrP): What is the purpose of UBC going after rankings? Are we in competition? If so, does that serve our community best?
- It’s not about rankings. It’s about aspiring to be the very best. Excellence creates a better educational environment for our students which benefits society in many ways.
UBC Professional Development & Community Engagement (@UBC_PDCE): We are named the University of British Columbia. How do we fulfill our role as BC’s university in our 2nd century?
- We were formed as BC’s provincial university and have a duty to the whole province. About 75% of our students come to UBC from across the province. Our two campuses also make UBC much more accessible to British Columbians. I imagine technology will play a much bigger role in the future to provide even more access.
Jake Mullan (@JakeMullan): Do you plan on pursuing the creation of affordable student housing at UBC? Especially due to the expensive market of the Lower Mainland?
- UBC housing rates are and will continue to be at or below market comparators.
Tim Krupa (@Tim_Krupa): How can #UBC preserve the role of universities as knowledge producers & resist denigration as training hubs for specific skills?
- UBC ranks among the top three Canadian universities in attracting research funding. Our focus is on research excellence both pure and applied in every Faculty. This is working. In 2013-14, UBC attracted more than $564 million in research funding from all sources for over 8,000 projects.
Tanner Bokor (@TBIRN176): What are your thoughts on how to create more opportunities to treat students as partners, rather than customers?
- We are fortunate to have strong student leadership at UBC such as the AMS and UBCSUO. I enjoy working with the leadership on issues across our campus.
Miranda (web form): How will you support mental & physical wellbeing for UBC students, faculty, and staff?
- This is a top priority for UBC. We’re working to ensure our students continue to have access to campus mental health services. We are updating our mental health strategies, with a specific focus on mental health and wellbeing within student services. We’ve invested in programs like Early Alert. See here for more resources & initiatives. Stay tuned for more on student mental health services & see here for staff & faculty initiatives.
Melissa (web form): What will UBC’s Okanagan Campus do to encourage a more sustainable mode of transportation/bus for Faculty and Staff?
- Great question. Just yesterday we spoke with mayors across the Valley about this. Happy to note the high level of awareness for the need for better connections to the campus.
Lainey (@Lainey50): Love my role at UBC, the demands are great for all. How do we make the pursuit of the Healthy Workplace Initiative a reality?
- Our well-being initiative is actively being developed right now. Plans to roll out a whole-campus healthy campus initiative coming later this year. Watch for more details.
Rick Hart (@RickinVancouver): 6 months into your role as president, what have been the biggest surprises?
- I am amazed how passionate everyone is about what they do at UBC.
We’re coming to the end of this Town Hall. I want to thank everyone who sent questions. I’m sorry I couldn’t get to all of you. Please submit a topic for the next Town Hall. Thank you!