The UBC Board of Governors will be holding an extraordinary Board Committee meeting tomorrow, April 21st, to approve the new Commerce student fees and a Board 3 for the Sauder building upgrades (agenda). It’s important to note that the date-stamp on the agenda is April 19th. This means that there was only two days of notice given to the public (and Board members, as I have confirmed). This gives extremely little time for any consultation or feedback to happen. As members of the public are required to apply for tickets at least 24 hrs in advance, it makes it extremely hard for any interested parties to attend.

The agenda lists only the following four open items, and Sean Heisler, student Board rep, has confirmed that there are no closed items on the agenda:

Finance Committee

  • 1.1 2010/2011 Tuition Fees Correction to Schedule ‘A’
  • 1.2 Alma Mater Society UBC Vancouver Commerce Undergraduate Society Student Building Fee (approved by student referendum)
  • 1.3 Graduate Student Society UBC Vancouver – MBA, ECM & MMOR Sauder Student Building Fee (approved by student referendum)

Join Property & Planning and Finance Committee

  • 2.1 Sauder School of Business Building Project

Considering all the controversy surrounding the CUS Building Fee, it’s alarming to see this being pushed through so quickly and under the table.

In particular, this meeting raises a number of interesting questions:

1. Why is this so pressing that an extraordinary meeting has to be called?
2. Knowing the controversy surrounding this fee and the building project, is this being deliberately done semi-secretly?
3. There is no extraordinary Full Board meeting scheduled. Will these resolutions be brought into effect prior to a resolution of the full Board?
4. Is the Board 3 being rushed to prevent students from being able to change the building program now that they are a major donor?

Further discussion, rampant speculation, and a detailed analysis of each item after the jump.

The Sauder Building & Fee
A number of hacks, involved students, and random people have expressed concern about the CUS fee setting a precedent of students paying for academic space. Additionally, there are worries that this is a method of exploiting a loophole in the 2% tuition cap which could be used adversely in the future. Some of these concerns were assuaged through discussions with CUS members who ensured these editors that they were pushing for changes to the building so that there would be student space, CUS space, and other things that students need (now that they are contributing millions).

With the project going to Board 3 tomorrow, however, there will be absolutely no opportunity for any changes. Board 3 is the last checkpoint for a project before it goes to tender and gets constructed. That means any premise that there would be meaningful student input into the project, opportunity for students to sit on a programming committee, etc. have been shown to be invalid. Specifically, in numerous places (referendum question, Board 3 document for the building, etc.) it is stated that “Students will have formal input into Phase 2 building design through representation on a user committee.” It’s hard to understand how student input will be taken under regard when the final plans will already be approved. This strikes as just another example of lip service from Dean Dan.

Furthermore, it’s hard to understand why this issue is so important that it needs to be approved now. The next regularly scheduled Board Committee meeting is in late May, with Full Board early June. The student fee does not come into effect until the building is completed (earliest 2012), so it is hard to see how it’s pressing.

As part of the undergraduate referendum question, it was stated that the fee would go to support “a mortgage of approximately $20 million”. Looking through the Revised Board 3, the mortgage will actually only be “up to $17.9 million”, and will fund the entirety of Phase II. I would argue that a mortgage value 10% less than expected isn’t exactly in the category of “approximate”. It’s also ironic and sad to think that the Commerce school failed to correctly estimate the mortgage. This mortgage will come from within UBC, which should lead to a fair amount of clarity regarding rates.

Perhaps even more distressing is that the MBA, ECM and MMOR referenda will pay for seismic upgrades that were originally slated as part of Phase I but reputedly have yet to occur. This is alarming in a couple ways. Firstly, the entire publicity swarm regarding the referendum was that students were paying for Phase II. Reading through the referendum question for the Masters students, it is suggested that the fee will go towards the Phase II program, without mention of what it is actually paying for. Personally, I find seismic upgrades even more of a stretch for students to pay for than renovated classrooms.

Another incredibly alarming point about this entire endeavour is that there does not seem to be an associated Full Board meeting. My understanding is that all resolutions brought before Board Committees must be approved by Full Board before they take effect. Thusly, either these resolutions will be acted upon without following proper procedure, or they really aren’t as pressing as they seem to be, since it will require waiting for Full Board in June regardless.

Tuition Returns

Apparently the first item regarding tuition is nothing new, simply a correction of an error in the previous Board Resolution. Specifically, when the tuition increases were approved earlier this month, they referred to graduate fee increases from last year, not this year. Supposedly this new resolution is just a correction to that switching the fees to what they were intended to be. However, if you read in detail, it appears that the erroneous document, involving fee increases for *domestic graduate students* is being replaced with fee increases for *international graduate students*. It would appear that a mistake is being fixed with… another mistake.


Comments

11 Comments so far

  1. The Banker on April 20, 2010 11:52 pm

    I find it quite interesting how the expected mortgage of 17 is well below the 20 million asked by the Dean… good finance job UBC students

  2. Alex Lougheed on April 20, 2010 11:52 pm

    If “phase” means “standalone project”, and if Phase 1 was built alone, the building would be vacated indefinitely as it wouldn’t be meeting seismic code.

    If “phase” doesn’t mean “standalone project”… what does it mean?

    Hope someone can attend the meeting. I’ve got an exam.

  3. Andrew Carne on April 21, 2010 12:21 am

    The Banker: I believe the Faculty is the ones arranging the financing, as students generally do not conduct their own negotiations with Treasury. Thus, if the financing is not coming through as expected, that would be the Dean/Faculty’s responsibility and not students.

  4. Alex Lougheed on April 21, 2010 12:33 am

    A big question: Will UBC be waiting for the Province to give the thumbs up before going ahead? In 2007 they broke ground expecting the Province to say yes, but they said no, and boy did it get ’em into a pickle.

    Angus docket item has some gems in it:

    “Project commenced prior to establishment of firm sustainability targets.” [in 2007?

    UBC didn’t care about sustainability in 2007?

    “Cyclical Maintenance: $642,500/yr. Funding Source: Student Fees”

  5. Jason on April 21, 2010 12:41 am

    Interesting… seems like they don’t need all $500 anymore since the mortgage amount just went down by 10%. Either they can reduce payments by $50 to $450, or they can use the extra $50 per student to prepay the mortgage.

    Any basic mortgage calculator will tell you that the additional prepayments ($50*2700 students) could reduce the mortgage from 35 years to 26 years. I wonder if letting students off the hook by 2036 is sufficient.

  6. Peter on April 21, 2010 4:05 am

    You know what’s also funny:
    “Dean Daniel Muzyka appointed Dean of Faculty of Management at UBC Okanagan”

    A friend of mine said it best:
    “Maybe the university there wanted to somehow get a new building?”

    Honestly, all this entire saga has taught me is that university administrations and investment banks have much more in common than one would have thought possible.

  7. Peter on April 21, 2010 10:47 am

    Oh, also, does this mean that the AMS Council passed/approved the Sauder fee as well?

  8. Andrew Carne on April 21, 2010 12:13 pm

    Peter,

    Council did in fact approve the fee. It was felt that according to the way the AMS Bylaws are written, the only grounds Council has to reject a student fee are if procedure was not followed correctly. Since they did in fact follow the procedural rules set forth in the Bylaws, Council was obligated to approve the fee for submission to Board.

    That said, the majority of Councilors abstained in protest of the nature of the fee, and a lengthy discussion was had. Ideas regarding authoring a letter to AvEd were also tossed around, but as I’m no longer on Council I’m not sure if those are being pursued or not.

  9. Peter on April 21, 2010 12:53 pm

    Sigh. Abrogation of moral responsibility in the face of established bureaucratic procedure?

    Maybe, but I can see the point. Not like it, mind you, but see it nonetheless.

    Though, the same used to be said of the Council’s inability to reject Student Court motions… until it first tabled them (ignore) and later voted them down (reject) [if I recall correctly].

    Thanks for the info and great article Andrew!

  10. Andrew Carne on April 21, 2010 1:56 pm

    All items reportedly passed at the Committees meeting today. The items are to be circulated electronically for Full Board approval at a time TBD. (see: http://blogs.ubc.ca/ubcinsiders/2010/01/11/board-of-governors-invents-voting-procedure/)

    A few interesting points:
    1. The Provost and VP Students were tasked with checking the fee with AvEd before this will go to full board. This exposes an opportunity to raise concerns with the Ministry, and I feel there’s a good chance it’ll be thrown out.
    2. Apparently there was little-to-no concern around the table about the precedent this sets, and in fact one Board member reportedly spoke up about how it’s ‘fantastic’ students want to pay for academic buildings.
    3. The reason given for why this has to be done so fast is so that seismic upgrades can be done over the summer. If this is true, I would prefer to see a Board 3 revised approval for just Phase I and seismic, with a separate Board 3 for Phase II at the May/June Board meeting. This would allow the CUS time to try to negotiate any changes to the building that they desire, and would at least provide the appearance of being more transparent.
    4. Reportedly the final approval also hinges upon Commerce and the University being ‘on the same page’ as well as student by-in, but somehow I’m not sure I believe them.

    The tuition-related fix apparently had “International” written instead of “Domestic”, which was fixed at the meeting, and apparently is all correct now with no changes of substance.

    Peter: Trust me, there was great debate about moral responsibility, but when it came down to it, it appeared that we were *legally bound* to vote yes (or abstain). The wording of this bylaw was more specific than the Student Court one, and there appeared to be no reasonable wiggle room.

  11. pouillet on April 26, 2010 9:12 am

    The timing for the Board simply reflect proper governance: the Board did not feel appropriate to endorse the project before the Student Societies ratified it. Waiting for the June Board would have meant delaying the project by a year given that disruptive work should take place over the summer. Waiting one year would be both a waste of time and a waste of money: construction costs are still at an all time low but this will change.
    Conspiracy theorists, get a grip! I just posted a few Q&A on my blog to bring some common sense here. http://blogs.ubc.ca/theadministration/2010/04/26/sauder-facts-and-fiction/
    Pierre ze VP

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