Midterm review: VP Academic and University Affairs Dana Turdy

Dana Turdy ran for VP academic and university affairs on a platform of affordability, health and wellness and student engagement. 

Seven months into her term, Turdy is working hard to fulfill her campaign promises and despite some setbacks, she appears to have made significant progress.

With rising costs of tuition, food, housing and learning materials, one of the main priorities for Turdy this term was addressing affordability issues facing students. 

The AMS was able to secure an additional $500,000 in funding for food security for both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses which Turdy said was a “big win." 

Turdy acknowledged that it was a difficult term for students financially and that the AMS struggled to find ways to support students in finding housing at the beginning of the term. 

“With skyrocketing inflation and a possible recession that we're going into, rising tuition and the housing crisis …. we were seeing a lot of students struggling to find stable housing. We were, at first, at a bit of a loss on how we can support those students,” she said. 

For next term, Turdy wants to focus on submitting the AMS’s budget priorities to UBC and pushing UBC to implement the recommendations of the Student Affordability Task Force.

She said her team is also advocating for student housing and food services profits to be put toward students. 

“What we're arguing is that [since] students are funding this revenue, this revenue should go back directly to students … in the form of student services and different affordability measures.” she said. 

Another priority for Turdy was improving substance testing on campus. Although she hasn’t been able to fulfill her goal of getting a permanent clinic established on campus due to logistical issues, she advocated for the pop-up testing clinics on campus this semester.

“At the beginning of the year, we outlined our priorities to the UBC administration and the UBC Board of Governors and said that you have to offer some sort of substance testing clinic… and they listened. [As a result], we have Get Your Drugs Tested, which is an amazing resource,” she said.

Turdy and her team also provided feedback to UBC Student Housing and Community Services on the resident policy regarding substance use that can get students evicted

“With the decriminalization of certain substances happening at the end of January of this upcoming year in 2023, that language [in] resident contracts will have to change.” she said. 

Turdy has also worked on increasing student engagement in UBC policy, noting student involvement during the recent Campus Vision 2050 engagement period.

“A lot of students [called] for more affordable housing, for more student housing to be built on campus and so that was really great to see, ” she said.

Next semester, Turdy said her and Advocacy Committee are interested in running a referendum on whether students support UBC divesting from companies involved in human rights violations, following an ESG principles report produced by the AMS Advocacy Committee.  

“Referendums are a great advocacy tool for us because …. we can directly see how students feel about a certain issue. And if students you know vote that this is something that [they] care about [and] this is an issue that [they'd] like to see UBC make progress on, then that gives us a lot of advocacy power with the university.”