Reading Break 2010

Posted by: | July 8, 2007 | 17 Comments

On May 16, the Senate approved to extend the 2010 reading break from 5 days to 10 days, adding another week of jolly freedom to the schedule of an otherwise overworked undergraduate student. This, as you rightly predict, is a response to the VanOC which approached Academic Policy chair Paul Harrison with this proposal quite some time ago, and consultation to the student senate caucus was conducted during the turnover meeting (end of April) in an informal setting. To which extent the student senators consulted the rest of the student body thereafter is unbeknownst to me, due to a self-imposed temporary post-retirement retreat from anything and everything to do with this illustrious institution. Call it a refractory period.

In any case, the registrar’s office came up with a schedule of least inconvencience to students, and it’s linked here (link):

– total teaching days for term 2 will be reduced from 63 days to 62 days
– reading break will be held from February 15-26 instead of 15-19
– consequently, classes will end on April 15, instead of April 9
– exams will be held during the period of April 19-May 1, instead of April 14-28
– graduation dates will not be changed

At the caucus meeting, the following points were raised to Paul Harrison:
– there is a significant number of students living off-campus but not at home who will be affected by exams ending on May 1. Housing arrangements extend in most cases to the end of the month and there will be contractual implications for those individuals who wish to move, sublet, and otherwise make arrangements while they are still writing exam(s).
– there are several private on-campus residences (Fraser Hall, and the many more that are budding at the speed of light) which do not have to abide to the administrative orders like any residences under UBC Housing and Conferences do. We asked that the VP Students office and the UNA be approached by the Senate in order to communicate this concern.
– Transit services need to be increased on Saturday, May 1 in order to accommodate for the increased number of students who are commuting into campus

To give you some frame of reference, this is not the first time the exam period has extended into May. However, since my little project of looking into the exam schedule in 2003, it was informally agreed that spilling over into May should be avoided for reasons mentioned above. We saw the Olympics as extenuating circumstances.

This, of course, beckons considerations beyond these logistical matters, on whether or not we should accommodate to, and thereby support the principles of the Olympics, of the Olympics in this city, and of the Olympics in this city in the way it has unfolded thus far. It is well known that despite of the grand principles which infused the realization of the Olympics at the cusp of the twentieth century (the celebration of human performance, sportsmanship, friendship, “global citizenship” etc), processes leading up to the events may not necessarily have lived up to these ideals in several cities.

A prime example is VanOC’s pledge to social sustainability, in particular housing. It has been reported that already hundreds of evictions have taken place in low rent housing in the inner city, despite of a promise that this would not happen. Given this neglect, it is doubtful on whether 30% of housing built for the Olympics will be converted to social housing after (another key promise).

I have been in contact with the founder (Rob Van Wynsberghe) of the IOCC (link) (an independent community coalition which has been tracking the development of the 2010 Van Olympics from the social perspective of housing, transit, environment, social accountability, safety and civil liberty (I may have missed some). In any case, the IOCC has been giving the VanOc committee some pretty grave grades (D- in a recent 24 Hrs article) so far.

He and I both agreed that there is a certain duty of citizenship on our part to respect and foster the City’s wish to host the Olympics. While a refusal to accomodate to the Olympics through congesting traffic during those five days in February would stiffle the experience of both student and winter sport enthusiast, the degree of inconvenience may or may not have been a constructive or effective way to show concern around the development of the Olympics in this city.

Nor am I certain whether it is in the best interest of the University’s already esoteric reputation to out-right refuse to collaborate and make concessions for the community at large that it finds itself embedded in.

However, if citizenship were a virtue, I would challenge this position further. It would be complacent of us to dwell simply on cooperation – cooperation for the blind leading the blind towards detriment to already marginalized parts of the City. We have a responsibility to use our cooperation with VanOC as a leverage to raise concerns about the way in which social issues such as housing in the DTES have been utterly neglected. This is a bargaining chip with great stakes. Members of the senate and individuals on AMS council should take this to heart and act, and they need to do it now.


17 Comments so far

  1. Matthew Naylor on July 10, 2007 5:00 am

    I just wanted to mention that, during contract negotiations with Translink, we expect their full cooperation in extending the U-Pass coverage and standard winter service at least an extra day in order to meet the exam period coverage needs of our students.

    As a entity of the GVRD, I would expect that transit will fully cooperate with this request, given the significant acquiescence that we have given them.

  2. Gina Eom on July 10, 2007 5:38 am

    Mr. Red Liberal, do you know if the AMS has plans to lobby for the private student residences on campus to be accomodating to exam schedules?

    Fraser Hall this past year has kicked students out before their exams were over.

  3. alougheed on July 10, 2007 7:17 pm

    It could be argued that the Olympics are directly beneficial to students as UBC is getting a new building out of it, and the entire campus will be getting global exposure.

    I do not forsee the grander social implications on the rest of the GVRD as a problem for students as students (who the AMS definitely represents), but it may be a problem for students as citizens (a group which I do not believe the AMS government represents).

    – Mr. Gray Apartisan

  4. Gina Eom on July 10, 2007 7:48 pm

    group which I do not believe the AMS government represents

    Students are a major population demographic on campus. The AMS represents these students. Students are agreeing to have their schedules shifted to accomodate for the Olympics.

    Students felt it important enough for the AMS to pass a resolution opposing the Iraq war. Your position is not an “apartisan” one, but that of an inability to see beyond the miniscule realm of the SUB or the university calendar.

    If the University adopts a principle of global citizenship, and the AMS finds itself embedded in the University, then how can you be so blind to the connection?

    There are too many bridges between citizenship and “student-relevant” portfolio for me to list, but here are a few:
    -Campus 2020 which aims to aggressively increase Aboriginal enrollment at UBC
    -the Tsunami relief effort (which we sponsored by the way)
    -the AMS’s resolution to support the Philadelphia Consensus (to allow equitable access to essential medicines and foster neglected disease research on campus)

    To which extent a student union finds itself politically connected is a debate held many times, and I would position myself to state that we are sticking our head in the sand if we were to pretend that the AMS should not raise concerns about the way VanOC has carried out developments of the Olympics especially in the realm in which we are in direct negotiation with them.

  5. Alfie on July 11, 2007 5:08 am

    I guess the University and the students should help make the Olympics be more socially sustainable and foster a more inclusive, more equal society. After all, UBC do get some spotlight and by making us and the AMS completely blind to the issue will be a shame. So let’s just drop all the partisan issue, be it rainbow, red, orange, blue or green or gray. Let’s not embarass ourselves in front of the world and take a stance.

    As for the will of the students, I bet there must be several groups of active,compassionate students trying to make this Olympics rock.(Though I still don’t know much, as i am still very ignorant.) As the Olympics is approaching, more students will sign up as volunteers to get involved in the game and the voice will only grow stronger. I guess we should not be totally shooting down the idea in the involvement of the Olympics. It is a time for us to engage in a meaningful discussions with different student groups.

    It may not take much for the AMS to make an impact on this amazing event and I think, if needed, that we should bring up a discussion or even a motion in the Council meeting.

  6. Brendon G on July 11, 2007 5:14 pm


    In the larger context of society, the AMS is a an organization, meaning a group of people who got together, organized, to make change, get their voice heard better, etc. Just becuase we’re a student society in a University, doesn’t mean we can’t organize around other issues that are important to us. The AMS is funded by students’ personal money, and thus that money can theoretically be used to do anything we’d like. Now, if student’s didn’t want their money spent on this issue, directly or indirectly (through the exec putting time and energy into for example), then we’d be waivering from our mandate. But as we all know, that’s a very hard thing to determine with our constituents – how much they know or care.

    If all we did was communicate student’s opinions about the Olympics to the broader or global community, then we would be serving students and our mandate.

    And I whole heartedly believe that taking no action is still a political act – it is an intentional decision. Both “Apathy” and “inaction” can’t be confused with “apartisan.”

    Just my thoughts, B.

  7. Anonymous on July 11, 2007 7:32 pm

    I’m confused. Where was it ever said that no action should be taken? Ideas seems to have sprung up on Gina’s tangent and then y’alls started taking it to be the central point of something.


  8. Anonymous on July 11, 2007 7:40 pm

    “The AMS is funded by students’ personal money, and thus that money can theoretically be used to do anything we’d like.”

    can I quote that for truth? That’s a pretty serious sentence. Now I know how the AMS exec operates!

  9. Anonymous on July 11, 2007 8:31 pm

    It looks like Rainbow guy was saying that the AMS didn’t have to do anything unless the constituency came and talked to them.

  10. Peter on July 11, 2007 9:37 pm

    I think what Alex was saying is that the AMS has been laid forth with a certain mandate. That being “””In addition to offering services to students, the AMS is an advocate of student issues and ensures the needs of students are presented to the University Administration and the Provincial and Federal governments.””

    To stray from that would be to disingenuously use the money paid by students in good faith for the aforementioned purposes to pursue specific political agendas that is outside the direct purview of “services to students… [and] student issues”.

    Its not that the AMS does nothing unless the constituency talked to them. But I think its the AMS does nothing NEW (and by that I mean totally new) unless talked to by the constituency.

    Imagine that all the Execs believed in social welfare so much they decided to give all of the AMS’s funds to build housing on the Downtown East side. Not because students said so, not because it was somehow earned, but simply out of the goodness of their great big hearts and the great need of the poor. Would this be fair?

    Also, to defend Brendon: I’m pretty sure the ‘we’ in “The AMS is funded by students’ personal money, and thus that money can theoretically be used to do anything we’d like” referred to we, the students. Not we the exec or we the AMS Council.

  11. Anonymous on July 12, 2007 6:19 am

    tristan here:

    some people wouldn’t want to deal with development issues on campus unless (or even if!) the condos were being built directly within their own cranium!

    these same types wouldn’t want to think about the effects of the olympics unless the ski hills were literally sculpted into their cortex!

    they wouldn’t stand up for marginalized students unless their neural ganglia were themselves marginalized students.

    retreat into the fantasy of our self-imposed limitations and lack of creativity!

    these same people would rather the AMS be literally bulldozed under than deal with the CONTEXT IN WHICH IT EXISTS.

    and these people are of privileged backgrounds, and don’t HAVE A CLUE what it’s like to not have everything handed to them on silver platter.

    and they have deep political sympathies with parties openly hostile to students’ rights.

    (if these statements don’t apply to you, then don’t worry. about it; i’m obviously not talking about you, then, right?)

  12. Anonymous on July 12, 2007 8:03 pm

    Who the hell ARE you referring to?

  13. Maayan Kreitzman on July 12, 2007 8:25 pm

    I don’t see how having the world shoved at you on a gnarly wooden tray would make you understand CONTEXT, instill you with creativity, or make you deliriously draft policies for the AMS’s response to the olympics. If only the privelaged people you’re not not referring to are the root of all evil, why bother pointing out that they’re privelaged? Face it Tristan, there are underprivilaged people who disagree with your politics, just as there are privelaged ones who agree. I beg you to be more clear and specific if you’re going to make these pronouncements.

  14. tariq on July 13, 2007 6:06 am

    guh, maybe I’ll just point out that the extended break also means that it will be easier for students to protest during the Olympics too…so everybody wins*, well kind of…

    *offer may not apply to students who live off-campus and will have exams in May

  15. alfie on July 14, 2007 6:33 am

    Some really good dark humour there, Tariq,

  16. tristan on July 31, 2007 6:29 am

    hey maayan,
    you really don’t ever agree with me, do you. i’m sorry to be your foil! my post was even really funny, you retorted humourlessly thus:

    “Face it Tristan, there are underprivilaged [sic] people who disagree with your politics, just as there are privelaged [sic] ones who agree.”

    That would obviously apply to everyone, or whatever. That’s not going to stop be from observing trends among the self-righteous (i think that is indeed a good word for our student elites) representatives.

    I was saying that privileged people can afford to ignore complex issues of exclusion etc. Agreed, it doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who do.

    “I beg you to be more clear and specific if you’re going to make these pronouncements.”

    Well, its only a blog, and i try to say what i think in reasonable amount of time. if it’s any consolation, i don’t find your posts clear either. :)

    I think it would be silly of you to automatically disagree with me all the time, if that is indeed the case. Who wants to be a knee jerk?

  17. maayan kreitzman on August 2, 2007 5:25 am

    It’s not a knee jerk Tristan. You didn’t say in your first post that privileged people can afford to ignore issues of exclusion, which is pretty obvious. You basically said that they won’t ever stand up for others, don’t give a shit about student rights, and won’t advocate on campus development issues. I don’t know what your standards for effective action on those topics are, or how you separate the world into either “privileged” or not, but I definitley don’t agree with those generalizations.

    I’m sorry that you don’t find my posts clear, but I’m happy to offer clarifications. Also, picking at my spelling is pretty lame. like you say, it’s a blog.

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