From the Boardroom: Governors hear presentations from student leaders, background on eagle nest coning

UBC’s Board of Governors met together yesterday on Zoom and in person in the Robert H. Lee Boardroom to hear an annual update from all three of UBC’s student unions and a brief presentation on the eagle nest coning in Wesbrook Village.

Here’s what you might have missed.

Student leaders focus on affordability 

The AMS, Graduate Student Society (GSS) and Student’s Union Okanagan (SUO) all gave an annual update to the board, with a focus on improving affordability for students. 

AMS President Eshana Bhangu asked governors to stay engaged with the Student Affordability Task Force, rather than solely UBC administrators. 

GSS President Sam Kenston said the GSS is hoping to get the board’s support on moving from four to five-year guaranteed funding and  fast-tracking higher minimum funding for PhD students. 

Vice-Provost and VP Academic Gage Averill said he agreed with the necessity to extend PhD funding, saying the average PhD currently takes more than five years to complete. 

Food insecurity was another major concern. SUO VP External Cade Desjarlais said the SUO needs more space for its Food Pantry, and would like more “dedicated supports” on food insecurity from UBC.  

Bhangu mentioned the funding needs of the AMS Food Bank, which received a one-time funding increase last year, but has continued to see rising use. 

“Food insecurity is not a one time issue, so one time funding just doesn't work that well,” she said. 

UBC VP Students Ainsley Carry noted that UBC, the AMS and SUO combined invest $1.9 million in food-specific aid for students. 

Later in the meeting, President Santa Ono added that an additional, previously unannounced $500,000 would be coming from UBC to combat food insecurity, though he did not specify to which initiatives. 

Cone of shame

Governors also received a briefing from UBC Properties Trust on the decision making behind the coning of an active eagle nest in Wesbrook Village.

On September 14, Properties Trust placed a cone on top of an eagle nest to encourage the inhabitants to nest elsewhere during construction of a new residence nearby. Community members have been vocal in opposition.

Paul Young, director of planning and design, said Properties Trust contacted the Hancock Foundation — the group behind the coning method — about erecting a man-made nest for the eagles to migrate to during construction in 2020. Properties Trust had been monitoring the active nest since 2017.

Plans for the cone were deferred until this year while construction wasn’t underway, he added. Both the man-made nest and the cone received approval from the BC Ministry of Forests.

When asked by Professor Mark Mac Lean how Properties Trust planned to monitor the nest while the cone was in place, Young said monitoring would occur on a weekly basis.

“Hopefully they will go into the alternate nest — that’s what the biologists believe will happen. There's also a possibility that they will build a new nest in a different location,” he added.

Max Holmes asked if the decision around the coning was made in a public meeting and if there was any publicized data on the success of this practice.

In response to Holmes’ question, Young said Properties Trust believed this decision was operational and therefore did not need to go to the organization’s board — which he later acknowledged don’t hold public meetings.

Young said Properties Trust relied on the expertise of the Hancock Foundation and Diamond Head Consulting to answer Holmes’ second question.

Frustrated community members have said they have not been able to find public data from the Hancock Foundation and they have not heard when they requested for more information.

Two posts related to nest coning are on the foundation’s website — one written by Hancock and another linking to a 2018 Toronto Star article that both say eagles reallocated to an alternative man-made nest built by him.