Op-ed: Why is UBC asking us for more money?

I, along with the rest of the UBC community, received another broadcast email yesterday. Upon opening it, I discovered another request from UBC for donations, this time under the guise of "Giving Tuesday." I would therefore like to take this opportunity to ask Martha Piper and the university administration a simple question: why is UBC still asking us for money? 

The university's first scandal of the year erupted on August 7 when former President Arvind Gupta quietly resigned only one year into his five-year term. After this announcement, Jennifer Berdahl, a Sauder professor hired to study gender and diversity at high levels of leadership, posted an argument that Gupta had “lost the masculinity contest among the leadership at UBC," which, according to her, could explain his resignation. It was not the blog post itself, however, that drew more attention to the issue, but rather John Montalbano’s, the chair of the board, treatment of it. Montalbano subsequently resigned after a report on the incident found that the university failed to protect Berdahl’s academic freedom, leaving an interim president and chair of the Board. Questions still remain about Gupta’s departure as no explanation has been given and The Ubyssey’s Freedom of Information requests, filed in August, have been stalled until December 18. 

This year’s pattern of scandal has not slowed since #GuptaGate and we have now seen the AMS call on the BC government to stop UBC’s common practice of hiding behind private corporations, the suspension of the chair of the creative writing program due to unspecified “serious allegations," and most recently, a CBC documentary featuring UBC’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault complaints. 

As if UBC’s continuous scandals and complete lack of transparency were not enough, the university is also seeking to take more money from students by raising tuition across the board. While everyone knows about the proposed international tuition hikes, which — while greatly opposed by the student body — still appear to be moving forward, some are unaware of UBC’s efforts to raise domestic tuition. The university has been lobbying the provincial government to remove the cap on domestic tuition, which currently prohibits domestic tuition from increases of more than two per cent a year. The last time there was no cap in place, UBC’s tuition almost doubled over the course of three years. 

As a UBC student, I am frustrated. I came to this university in part because of its long history of student activism, going all the way back to the first Great Trek in 1922. I thought that a university with our history would engage in critical thinking and would encourage its students to be active within the university. Instead, we are currently attending a university that is fighting its own students as well as the provincial government in order to charge us more even though it has not specified what the fees will go towards. We are attending a university that allegedly ignored six female students reporting sexual assault and harassment for more than 18 months and currently has no specialized policy in place to deal with sexual assaults on campus. We are attending a university that continues to hide behind corporations and confidentiality agreements in order to keep its students in the dark. 

So no, Martha Piper, I will not be donating today. 

Sophie Sutcliffe is a staff writer at The Ubyssey