At Board of Governors Great Debate, incumbents welcome newcomer to the stage

The second showdown of student candidates for the Board of Governors featured a new candidate, Brandon Connor, to spar with incumbents Jeanie Malone and Max Holmes.

Compared to Malone and Holmes — both veterans to UBC governance — Connor struggled to present an informed and detailed platform, and he answered most questions by saying he will engage with students.

A fourth candidate in the race, Axel Kong, once again failed to show.

“I thought the BOG debate is at a later time from AMS's Facebook page. But either way, I would think time wise, it will be very hard for me to attend both debates because my team and I have been very busy with campaigning,” wrote Kong in an official statement to The Ubyssey.

A major topic of the night was the Indigenous Strategic Plan. When asked how they would ensure it is well-implemented and -funded, Holmes emphasized its long-term foresight.

“This is a laudable document that is going to be pushing for changes that are going to take time. … This is a 10-, 20-year vision for the university,” he said.

Alongside other governors, he’s been pushing for it to be split into shorter, three-year-long implementation plans that outline specific resourcing costs.

In the open debate period, Connor challenged Holmes and Malone on the length of the project.

“To me it seems like just a lot of talk about planning, but there’s not much talk about implementation …” he said. “I feel that the Board should be pursued to decrease the amount of time that is spent on planning for such things, because something like Indigenous engagement shouldn't take that much time to plan compared to something like tuition costs, maybe.”

Holmes explained that speeding up the planning process would require the Indigenous staff who are leading the initiative to put in even more hours of labour, which he “absolutely” thinks is “not the right thing to do.”

Malone added that the planning needs to be done in consultation with the First Nations who own the land where UBC is located, both in Vancouver and the Okanagan, which takes time. But she agreed with Connor that resourcing for the plan could be happening faster “to some extent.”

Candidates were also later asked how the Board should consult with host nations when building new infrastructure. Connor was quick to say that UBC should never build without Musqueam consent.

“Every time we start with an event or every time we say something we first mention that we are on Indigenous land,” said Connor. “Similarly, I think every time a new development is made, we need to ask for consent every time that's happening.”

The other candidates agreed, but said the Board should and does do more than simply ask for permission.

“We're thinking beyond just the required informed consent, which is something that is still pretty ambitious, I think, for a university itself to consider,” said Malone.

Holmes specified that host nations are being consulted for the Indigenous Strategic Plan, and memoranda of understanding are in negotiations for the construction of the Stadium Road Neighbourhood, among others.

Connor’s inexperience was most apparent when he was asked how Student Housing and Hospitality Services’ transfer to a Government Business Enterprise (GBE) will affect housing affordability. He said housing affordability was important, but he wasn’t able to explain what the GBE is or outline any other solutions.

Though it’s on his online platform, Holmes did not clarify what the GBE is and how it would help students, and instead talked about opportunities for UBC to collaborate with the City of Vancouver to build affordable cooperative housing.

The question wasn’t answered directly until Malone explained that the GBE will allow the university to take out loans for housing projects, which will make funding capital projects easier. The creation of the GBE has been delayed due to discussions with the Canadian Revenue Agency about how the university’s money will be taxed when it’s transferred over.

In response to a question about easing the financial burden on graduate students, Holmes called out Connor for not mentioning them on his platform. He added that the university should increase its minimum stipend for grad students and advocate for more funding from the BC government, which gives less on average than other provinces.

Malone mentioned that she, after all, is a grad student herself, but as a biomedical engineer she’s lucky to do research in fields that receive more funding. Other disciplines like the humanities need and should receive more financial support, she said.