AMS responds to UBC Board of Governors Fact-Finding Report and Proposed International Tuition Increases

On October 15th The Honourable Lynn Smith released a summary of her fact-finding investigation into the university’s conduct and reaction to allegations of infringement of academic freedom levied by the UBC Faculty Association. On the same day, the UBC administration officially announced a proposed 46.8% average increase for international tuition for all undergraduate and non-thesis based masters programs over the next three years in response to a June 2015 Board resolution.

Firstly, we at the AMS would like to thank the Honourable Lynn Smith for her detailed, thorough, and fair investigation into a matter of great controversy at UBC.  We respect John Montalbano’s decision to resign from the Board, and we recognize his years of service to the university and its students.

We are disappointed in the university and its administration for failing to protect the academic freedom of its professors and believe that a failure to do so reflects a troubling misalignment of priorities. We expect the university to be more active in its role as a custodian of academic freedom. As such, we implore the administration to follow through with UBC’s four responsive actions designed to ensure the positive obligation to uphold academic freedom is met. Furthermore, we feel it is necessary for the wider university community to be involved in a significant, meaningful, and well-informed manner during the ensuing selection of a new chair of the UBC Board of Governors.

Secondly, as outlined in the AMS external policy on university affordability & accessibility, we oppose any increases to international tuition in excess of the provincial 2% cap on domestic tuition and express significant concern with the university administration’s most recent proposal. Our concern stems from a failure of the administration to meet the four principles of the Board resolution, specifically:

  1. Excellence: UBC currently does not have an official definition of what they consider to be university “excellence.”
  2. Peer Institutions: Listed comparator institutions were chosen based solely on international rankings, and we believe that many of the schools, specifically American institutions, are not comparable peers.
  3. Diversity: UBC does not have an official metric for measuring diversity, neither cultural nor socioeconomic.
  4. Mission: The proposed strategic fund is meant to contribute only to initiatives involving research and learning, leaving out the key student experience element of the UBC Vision Statement.

Considering the above, as well as significant interim leadership within the administration including the President, Provost, and Board chair, the AMS does not have confidence in the capability of UBC for fulsome consultation, consideration, and decision-making regarding the proposed increases. As such, we believe that UBC administration should not make decisions of this magnitude without long term leadership and strategy.

Lastly, we encourage students to have your voice heard and assist the AMS Executive in preparing a response to the proposal by participating in AMS hosted consultation sessions and attending the AMS AGM to discuss possible courses of action. This issue deserves the attention of all UBC students, both international and domestic, and the AMS needs your help to remind UBC’s administration and the Board of Governors that this school was built by – and still belongs to – its students.

Aaron Bailey, AMS President president@ams.ubc.ca 

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