From the Boardroom//

From the Boardroom: Students advocate for ‘holistic’ affordability plan at September 22 BoG meeting

The open session of the first Board of Governors (BoG) meeting of the 2020/21 school yeat ran for four hours over Zoom, with governors discussing COVID-19 planning and hearing from student unions about what they want from the Board this school year.

Here are some highlights from the meeting.

Student unions push for affordability

The AMS, GSS and the Students Union of Okanagan (SUO) all presented at the meeting, sharing their priorities for the year with the Board.

Ali Poostizadeh, SUO president, highlighted the need for equality between UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan.

According to the SUO’s 2020 student experience survey, 62 per cent of students feel that UBC values students at UBC Vancouver more than UBCO Okanagan. Poostizadeh said that the lack of study space and recreational facilities have also led many students to consider transferring to UBC Vancouver.

Taylor Dotto, SUO VP External, advocated for a parallel Climate Hub on the UBC Okanagan campus, saying that UBC underestimates students’ commitment to climate activism.

The SUO executives ended with a discussion of affordability, a conversation continued by AMS and GSS representatives.

AMS VP Academic Georgia Yee spoke of annual tuition increases.

“As we face discussions of tuition for the next academic year, we must reckon with how UBC is, year after year, continually approving tuition increases without a holistic plan for affordability, driving students towards financial hardship,” Yee said.

The GSS closed out the conversation with discussion around its anti-racist task force led by GSS President Kimani Karangu and another push on affordability by GSS VP Academic Nicolas Romualdi.

“I would like this Board to make a commitment to drive every graduate student above the poverty line,” Romualdi said.

Emergency funding by the numbers

In a COVID-19 update, Associate Vice-President of Enrolment Services & Registrar Kate Ross presented data on student emergency bursary usage.

The university distributed technology bursaries of $347,000 to UBCO and $59,000 to UBCV. The Ubyssey found in June that information for the technology bursary wasn’t available online and that students had to contact their enrolment services advisor to find out about it.

At UBCV, students received more than $3.3 million in emergency bursaries, compared to $766,000 at UBCO.

In Vancouver, graduate students claimed the majority of emergency bursaries at $2.4 million — over two and a half times more than undergraduates, who received $887,000.

Student representative Jeanie Malone asked why around 20 per cent of graduate students had been pushed into crisis situations requiring emergency funding. Ross said this would require a systemic look and said she was meeting with grad studies to discuss summer funding next week.

Building renovations get the go-ahead

UBC’s property committee requested board approval for two building projects.

The university is performing seismic upgrades on the Museum of Anthropology’s Great Hall. Construction is expected to continue into 2022, but the museum will still be open to the public during that time.

The motion asked for a $30.3 million with 75 per cent coming from the provincial Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training.

In the engineering precinct, the committee requested approval for seismic upgrades and other renovations to MacLeod Building.

The MacLeod Renew Project requested a $51.1 million funding release, with the province also covering three quarters of the cost.

The Board approved both motions.