UBC Responds to VSB Facilities Review

Over the past several weeks a variety of concerns and complaints have been expressed regarding UBC’s obligations toward building a new high school within the campus area. Some have argued that UBC is completely responsible to build any such schools west of Blanca. As previously noted, however, the responsibility for building schools is provincial and the local institution to do that is the Vancouver Board of Education.

Following a meeting with representatives of all of the affected UBC/Dunbar School Parent Advisory Councils Friday January 25th, Stephen Owen issued a letter outlining and clarifying UBC’s obligations. At the meeting itself (held in response to the parent’s earlier letter to Prof Toope) Mr. Owen was clear in expressing the desire of the University to work with all parties to facilitate a resolution to the current issues that can meet the very real needs of a school for children in the UBC area.

2 thoughts on “UBC Responds to VSB Facilities Review

  1. Date: Mon Jan 28 (22:51:30 PST 2008)
    From: “Ned Glick”
    Subject: UBC’s Educational and Community Roles
    To: stephen.toope@ubc.ca, stephen.owen@ubc.ca, bog@interchange.ubc.ca, nassif@math.ubc.ca

    On January 25, two top executives of The University of British Columbia issued two public statements. Reading them together makes me ask: What has UBC become?

    UBC’s president, Stephen Toope, sent a “broadcast e-mail” reminder that March 7, 2008, will be the 100th anniversary of “an inspired act of forward thinking” – the provincial legislation that established a university to promote education and the future of BC. “Thanks to the foresight … and to the continuing efforts of our community,” the president writes. “The party has already begun…. [with] centenary academic and community events … now happening.”

    Sadly, the UBC centenary date may coincide with decisions at the Vancouver School Board,under some duress, to close and sell a superb, cost-effective elementary school, the Queen Elizabeth K-3 annex. UBC can prevent the loss of this school. Just two weeks ago the VSB proposed its sale specifically to pay part of $30 million (or more) for school construction to accommodate UBC’s massive real estate developments – for profit (and endowment).

    Disposal of a neighbourhood school would mock the spirit in which UBC was founded. And land sales would be the opposite of foresight with regard to financial sustainability of the school district. UBC would not relinquish a proposed new school site, but only give the VSB a lease there.

    In December 2005, UBC adopted a South Campus plan that said: “The school will be built in the first phase of construction of the neighbourhood. If government funding for the school is not available at this time, UBC will build the facility. The University would lease the school to the Vancouver School Board to operate the facility.”

    On January 25, in response to questions about UBC’s role – and particularly this plan – UBC’s vice president for “legal and community relations,” Stephen Owen, addressed a letter to “Dear Concerned Residents.” His message is disappointing.

    The vice president says, “There appears to be a misunderstanding” –”as some have interpreted” the 2005 plan. But the plan’s language quoted above seems clear; and for years UBC did not implement the plan – not even the vice president’s interpretation of it. UBC still seems not forthright about the full history of the former NRC structure (built and vacated within a decade?) – the site UBC proposed for renovation as a school.

    On January 15, at a VSB public forum that I attended, the head of UBC Properties Trust suggested that UBC is like any other Vancouver real estate developer with regard to school site obligations. This notion is nonsense, because UBC is a tax-privileged institution, the recipient of public largesse, and exempt from City of Vancouver zoning or governance.

    As part of its “Mission” UBC proclaims that “graduates of UBC will ,,, work with and for their communities, and … strive to secure a sustainable and equitable future for all.” UBC executives now should fulfill these same ideals, and honour the UBC centenary, by supporting educational priorities (and future UBC students) in all BC communities.

    Ned Glick

  2. Dear Eric, Thanks for pointing this out and suggesting that it be posted to the blog. It is yet another example of some of the problematic aspects of this issue.

    No where else in BC is a major public institution -outside of the provincial or federal government- expected to solve all of the social and demographic problems that surround it. UBC itself is a victim of the same funding mechanisms that has led the Vancouver School Board to have to sell property to build needed schools. Budget cutbacks and funding shortfalls, combined with declining enrollments are having impacts on the post-secondary sector as well.

    How does one propose UBC to pay for the new school? Raise tuition fees? Cut wages of it’s employees? Take money out of research grants? None of these solutions are really tenable.

    Some would like the developers to pay more. I am happy to support such a call, but only if the same demand is made of all developers operating in Vancouver.

    Are people who are concerned about the reallocation of public resources (i.e. the selling of a school) in this case also willing to make the same arguments for every possible school closure in Vancouver and the rest of BC? Are they willing to make these demands against all developers -being they residential, commercial or industrial? Are they willing to make more significant contributions in their taxes so that everyone can have the luxury, the benefit of small cozy schools? I hope so. That would be the principled and consistent stance.

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