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Kinesiology Students To Vote on Raising Their Tuition

Posted By Neal Yonson On March 16, 2015 @ 9:32 am In Featured,News | Comments Disabled

Today is the first day of voting on a $250 tuition increase for Kinesiology undergraduates. It’s not being called a tuition increase, but that’s what it amounts to: a new student fee which will be handed over in its entirety to the university. The fee is to fund a $5M loan towards the construction of a new kinesiology building, the Community Health Science Centre (CHSC). The CHSC will house the School of Kinesiology and the School of Nursing and is “envisioned as a leading knowledge centre [1] in the field of sustainable community health” which “will address individual and collective teaching, learning, community engagement and research mandates in the fields of community health, healthcare and science.” In short, the CHSC is primarily an academic building, putting it in a different category from other buildings recently funded by student levy (AMS Student Nest, Engineering Student Centre, Arts Student Centre) all of which are dedicated student spaces. The scenario playing out in Kinesiology right now is very similar to what played out in 2010 when the Commerce Undergraduate Society held a vote on a $500 student fee to fund the construction of their faculty’s new building. It appears no one learned anything from that experience.

Last week, things blew up when the Kinesiology Undergraduate Society (KUS) brought a motion to AMS Council asking them to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) about their upcoming referendum. The motion came as a surprise to most of council, having been added to the agenda the day of the meeting and the MOU was not circulated in advance, leaving people just a short recess to read and digest what they were being asked to agree to. The MOU outlined the conditions under which the KUS would run the referendum and what UBC’s obligations would be should the referendum succeed. This is unusual, since under normal circumstances there would be no reason for a student group running a referendum for a student fee to even talk with UBC about it, let alone draw up a document outlining their mutual obligations to each other. Drawing up an MOU would only make sense if fee in question was not a genuine student fee and was in reality a university fee. It’s fairly clear that’s the case here.

Make Your Mark

A campaign called Make Your Mark (MYM), not the KUS, has been the driving force behind this referendum. MYM is described as “a student led campaign to secure funding for a new Kinesiology building at UBC.” The person leading it is Robyn Freiheit, a fifth-year Kin student whose LinkedIn page [2] says that in her role as Special Projects Coordinator for the School of Kinesiology, she is “Responsible for the creation and project management of the “Make Your Mark” informational campaign focused on the Community Health Science Centre (CHSC) building project.” In other words, she’s on the school’s payroll to push this project.

KUS minutes from this year mention MYM only sparingly and from the few times it appears, it’s clear that the KUS is little more than a bystander while this campaign goes on all around them. When the KUS president was asked for more information about the building project and referendum, his response was to forward the inquiry to Freiheit. A similar scene went down at AMS Council in which Freiheit did all the talking while the KUS president sat at the table with little to say. There’s a lot that’s wrong with this picture: a constituency president who is unable/unwilling to talk about a referendum his organization is running, instead deferring to a paid employee of the school.

If this referendum was being driven by the KUS, it’s hard to imagine why the fee would go towards the CHSC when for $5M – the same cost as the Engineering Student Centre – the KUS could build their own building!

Do you believe in a thing called Kin manipulating its students?

While MYM claims to be an informational campaign, it is light on information. Basic details about the overall scope of the building project or how the rest of the building will be funded have not been published anywhere obvious by MYM. In fairness, that may be because the building is still just an idea – it has not even entered the initial design stages – and if that’s the case, what exactly are students voting to support? MYM gets around that by being a social media campaign of boosterism focused on feel-good things like leaving a legacy, showing leadership, and getting access to things like a juice bar, KIN-only gym, and 24/7 study space.


While the lack of basic information about the project is concerning, what’s even worse is the amount of misinformation sprinkled in. Two of the bigger claims are:

    This building will only start [4] with a successful student referendum to gain further funding from external donors and the Provincial Government.”

That’s a strong assertion to make about a project still in the conceptual stages in which the overall funding picture is unclear. The only profile of the CHSC project [1] (which could easily be out of date) describes an $88M project of which $78M will come from government, $5M from UBC and $5M from donors. It certainly seems like the $83M from other sources will be what makes or breaks this project, not the $5M that might be generated from students.

    These features have been confirmed [5] by all relevant positions at UBC in a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) document and legal contract between UBC and the KUS-AMS. All conditions of feature inclusions must be met for funds to be required by students in the future.”


    UBC has promised in a legally binding contract [6] that the future building Planning Committee will have one seat for a Kinesiology undergraduate student, and one seat for a Kinesiology grad student.”

There is no legal contract in place about anything. Even if AMS Council had signed on to the MOU, it would not be legally binding in any way. An MOU is not the same as a contract, it’s better described as a Letter of Intent. Many of the promised benefits of the building are not backed up by anything concrete, which is not what these statements would lead you to believe. There are many ways in which UBC could wriggle its way out of any commitments in the future. Just five years on from its referendum, there are rumblings from the CUS that the university has failed to live up to its end of the bargain after they put their fee in place.

There are other issues with this referendum as well, to do with the timing of the building, that only KIN undergrads are being asked to pay (but not grad students, and not nursing students) and that many promises and agreements seem to be done on a verbal basis. On the other hand, it is also true that Kinesiology is currently hindered by being spread out all over campus and has been searching quite a long time for a single building on campus in which it can consolidate. It’s hard to begrudge any admin or students who want a place to call home on campus. But bottom line, as student referendums go, this one is a sham. It’s being driven by the School of Kinesiology, using the KUS as a shell organization through which to institute the fee. Like the Sauder fee, it’s a back door tuition increase, and students in Kinesiology should think hard about why this referendum exists, how the fee got so large, whether they could get better value for that fee, and in whose interests it is to vote in favour of it.

Article printed from UBC Insiders: http://ubcinsiders.ca

URL to article: http://ubcinsiders.ca/2015/03/kinesiology-students-to-vote-on-raising-their-tuition/

URLs in this post:

[1] envisioned as a leading knowledge centre: http://www.infrastructuredevelopment.ubc.ca/infrastructure/capital-priorities/community_health.htm

[2] LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/robyn-freiheit/61/5b/5b3

[3] Image: http://ubcinsiders.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MYM-Forum-Ad.jpg

[4] This building will only start: https://instagram.com/p/zc5VBEQnQb/

[5] These features have been confirmed: https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpf1/t31.0-8/s960x960/10847391_1554218111517981_6364068873671015017_o.jpg

[6] UBC has promised in a legally binding contract: https://scontent-sea.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpa1/t31.0-8/s960x960/10380009_1554218068184652_8220805717799487724_o.png

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