From the Boardroom: Governors pass tuition increase despite student protests

The Board of Governors voted to increase tuition by two per cent for domestic students, three per cent for returning international students, and five per cent for incoming international students. The increase passed amid a protest organized by students calling for a tuition freeze. 

The motion passed with a 12–6 majority, a closer vote than last year's 14–4. All three student representatives, as well as faculty governor Marianne Legault and provincially appointed governors Anthonia Ogundele and Alison Brewin opposed the increase. 

Protestors stood chanting outside the boardroom, but a few sat in the gallery during the meeting.

VP Students Ainsley Carry presented the results of the tuition engagement surveys, which 4,868 students, or 6.7 per cent of the student body, completed.

The results showed over 90 per cent of students opposed the tuition increase. 

Responses also showed that housing and food are the top financial stressors students face. On a question asked where UBC should invest money, students chose financial support as their top priority.

Next, Carry presented an update on the Student Affordability Task Force. He said the university is attempting to find the "scope of responsibility" that the university has to financially support students and what "the students [should] come to the table with." 

Carry also highlighted the Forward UBC fundraising campaign, which will partially support need-based aid.

Governors struggled to hear Carry over Zoom as protesters shouted ‘shame on UBC’ outside the boardroom. 

After the presentation, the floor opened for questions, and protestors attempted to read aloud their open letter. 

Board chair Nancy McKenzie initially stopped them and moved the meeting into a closed session. Once everyone returned, the board allowed the students to read their letter. 

The student protestor, who did not provide their name, called for a tuition freeze, increased funding for post-secondaries from the government, and a government commission to conduct a study on the feasibility of free post-secondary education. 

"Today we are here for an important choice either vote to make the school more elitist and inaccessible, or vote to turn the tides of corporatization of this university," she said. 

Four more protestors came forward to speak on struggles faced by graduate students, international students, and students attempting to access gender-affirming health care.

When the fifth and final student began speaking, McKenzie adjourned the meeting, asking governors to leave and for security to escort the protesters out. Most governors left, but a few remained for the rest of the speech. Security also did not remove the protestors.

Interim UBC President Deborah Buszard voted in favour of the tuition increase.
Interim UBC President Deborah Buszard voted in favour of the tuition increase. Nathan Bawaan / The Ubyssey

After five minutes, McKenzie and the other governors came back into the room and restarted the meeting. The protestors returned to their seats, at which point governors returned to discuss their stances on the tuition increase and vote. Many also thanked the protestors for attending. 

Provost and VP Academic Gage Averill said the increases were necessary and said domestic tuition was comparable to other research institutions in Canada. 

“The university also has to pay all the inflationary increases … we balanced this with the needs of university and the needs to invest in this university’s future.”

Faculty governor Mark Mac Lean, who had not voted in favour of a tuition increase during his term as a governor, said he would be voting in favour this year because of UBC’s need for funding for services.

"I don't see a way not to [vote for tuition increase] and to meet the commitments that this university has to the students," he said. 

Student governor Max Holmes voted against the tuition increase, but echoed Mac Lean's idea and agreed that there is no way to increase services and have a tuition freeze without more funding from the government. Holmes said he believes UBC needs to do more to demand increased funding before deciding to raise tuition. 

"When you see what students have shown today, the university… the faculty unions, staff unions and students working together can send a message that if we want to make education more accessible, we need funding from the government."

Student governor Georgia Yee, who also voted against the motion, expressed concern about how UBC could say they recruit "the greatest faculty" and strive for academic excellence while pushing students to a "crisis point."

"So ultimately, when UBC is thinking about creating a just and sustainable future, continuously raising tuition is not sustainable. And I want to ask us, all of us here, when does the continual raising of tuition end?"