This year on Insiders we’ve tried to stay away from ranty editorials but this time I can’t resist.

I was brought into this commerce fee thing innocently enough, when Alex told me about a CUS meeting where they would be discussing the fee. I was happy to stay out of it and let him deal with it all until I got a message saying that he couldn’t make the meeting and could I please go take notes in his place? So I went, and got my first taste of the CUS.

From the beginning, the process behind running the referendum has been poisoned and as is widely acknowledged, is an inititative of the Dean, not the CUS. Most, if not all, of the info the CUS went on appeared to have come in the form of “Dean Dan said…” and the CUS blindly trusted anything that was said. I understand that Dan is a popular fellow. I had the pleasure of working with him on a university committee considering NCAA membership. He’s charismatic and persuasive. But it doesn’t mean he’s necessarily on your side.

So as far as the comments Dean Dan made today, we had given Dan an outline of what we suggested we would like to see him talk about. That being said, Dean Dan is obviously in a position where he wants, you know, he is personally invested in this and we really wanted him to share the information that he shared with us two Fridays ago. So he shared that information with students as well. He went on to share his own personal biases as well.

Connor McGauley, incoming CUS President
From March 1, 2010 CUS meeting

Recognition by the CUS that the dean was (obviously) biased in favour of the referendum occurred even before the referendum was officially approved. Despite this, the blind trust remained. The CUS has continually encouraged his direct involvement in the referendum as an information source, including an FAQ released for “concerned students” directly from the faculty, hosted on the faculty’s website. Thing is, in the haste of making this referendum happen, no one bothered to enforce any sort of boundary between fact and opinion.

The CUS elections administrator has done a good job by creating this site. And the CUS deserves credit for providing a number of forums where people on both sides can air their views. However, allowing for two sides of a debate is not the same as the provision of unbiased information. The blind trust in the dean, and the encouragement of his involvement, has resulted in a situation so muddled that at this point no one, probably not even Dean Dan, could possibly extract the factual information from the overabundant conjecture and posturing mixed in, all of which is posing as information. As a result, the encouragement of everyone on all sides to have voters “get informed” has become a nothing more than a platitude advocating for what has truly become an impossible task. Although it is clear to everyone that this is not a CUS-initiated referendum, due to their willingness to undertake this referendum in a deliberate ploy to undermine government policy, the burden falls on the CUS to ensure the referendum is run responsibly. Encouraging faculty meddling that muddles the debate and makes accessing factual information next to impossible is irresponsible and fails the voters.

Of course, maybe the CUS never saw themselves as an arbiter of unbiased info. After all, they’re not unbiased: they took a “yes” stance.

I think to not take a stance fails to do a responsibility that I believe that we all have as elected representatives and if you as a leader can’t stand up and vote and make a decision on this, then maybe you should think about not being an elected representative, because that’s what you’re elected to do – to make decisions on behalf of students.

Laura Silvester, outgoing CUS President
From March 1, 2010 CUS meeting

On any given day, taken in isolation, I would probably agree with that statement. But the context was a discussion on whether or not the CUS should take a “yes” stance on the fee. Simultaneously deciding to hold a referendum – whose purpose is so that the commerce student body can make this decision – while also presuming a duty to make that decision on their behalf is plainly condescending.

The question of what information was used to reach these decisions is troubling as well. The fact that comprehensive FAQ documents did not appear until essentially the day before voting started indicates to me one of two things. The first option is that they are deliberately delaying the release of information. I don’t believe this is the case. More likely, the reason the answers weren’t ready in a more timely fashion is because they didn’t already know what the answers were. Which means the CUS never thought to ask these questions before agreeing to run the referendum. Worse still, they never thought to ask these questions before deciding to take a stance in favour.

One of the scariest scare tactics used has been the threat of lost accreditation. But any attempts to verify the details around it have not been fruitful.

These documents aren’t public information — not sure about you, but I wouldn’t want business schools and the professional community knowing all of the weaknesses of our school when we as Sauder are still trying to get the credit we deserve for our strengths. Fair point that it’s hard to confirm our “risk factor” without it.

Laura Silvester, outgoing CUS President
From the “Questions to Consider” Facebook thread

There’s an obvious failure in logic here. If the documents are private so as to not have people learning about the faculty’s weaknesses, then why has the rhetoric around the accreditation issue has been basically: “You should vote for the referendum because the accreditors say this building is our big weakness!“?There have been plenty of references to things supposedly said by the accrediting bodies. It’s secret, except maybe not. Why not do something to verify such a big, scary claim? Even if there was no referendum, if accreditation truly was on the bubble wouldn’t you want to know?

The number of things where due diligence was not done is so broad as to be almost everything. The one I’ll pick here is that there’s been no talk of what the other options are. The rhetoric has been that there are no other options. Phase II has been elevated to a sacred status where it’s portrayed as untouchable. If the results of the referendum comes back as “no”, the FAQs state that the building will continue forward. Money will be found, and budgets will be cut. No mention of scrapping, delaying, or scaling back the building plans. Why can’t that even be a consideration? Does commerce truly believe that a building will be in the best interest of students even if it comes at the expense of funding the actual in-class education that students are given?

Are there really no other funding options? It’s known that UBC is trying to extricate itself from the province’s finances which would give them more capacity for borrowing funds. At the same time, it’s also known that UBC is asking the province to exempt professional programs from the provincial policy limiting tuition increases to inflation, which could include the commerce program. Other funding avenues are being explored which may pan out if given time, though it has been much more useful for Dean Dan to invoke a crisis situation where all funding doors are closed, and putting shovels in the ground is mere weeks away regardless of what happens.

Unfortunately the video of Tuesday’s info session has not yet been put online so exact quotes cannot be obtained, but during his motivation in favour of the fee I remember Connor Topley saying something along the lines of ‘I don’t have time to look into the details around other funding options. I trust that Dean Dan has tried to get any funding available and that it’s not out there.’

Not only is that not doing due diligence, it’s seemingly advocating against doing due diligence before making a decision. There’s funny/tragic exchange on the Sauder Referendum Facebook wall where I ask for documents, am told it’s “not for us” to look into it by a CUS director, then told by the same person that I should be looking into the facts to decide for myself, which is precisely the reason I had asked for documentation in the first place.

To me, the bottom line is that the CUS has put a decision worth tens of millions of dollars before its members based on blind trust. After that, how anyone can trust them is unimaginable.


2 Comments so far

  1. ~*~Sexy Brunette~*~ on March 12, 2010 1:00 am

    “Does commerce truly believe that a building will be in the best interest of students even if it comes at the expense of funding the actual in-class education that students are given?”

    That’s what I don’t get.

    But who am I to say anything, I don’t even know what the word accreditation means.

  2. Mijay Pavon on March 12, 2010 9:43 am

    Great article! Pretty much hit on the head all of my concerns with the referendum and how it has been handled.

    Mijay Pavon
    BCom, 2008

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