From the Boardroom//

From the Boardroom: Board of Governors approves tuition increases by the closest vote in recent history

The UBC Board of Governors met again this month to discuss tuition increases and approve the budget for the 2021/22 fiscal year.

Here is a quick rundown of what you need to know.

Governors approve tuition increases by small margin

After a lengthy discussion on transparency, fiscal responsibility and the purpose of student consultation, the UBC Board of Governors approved tuition increases amid the biggest wave of COVID-19 BC has seen yet.

Domestic students will see an increase of two per cent and international students will see an increase of between two and four per cent. Domestic increases passed with ten in favour, eight against and one abstention, while the international increases passed with eleven governors in favour.

The closest vote in recent years, elected faculty governors Mark Mac Lean and John Klironomos and elected student governors Max Holmes, Georgia Yee, Shola Fashanu all voted against the increases.

They were joined by new Chancellor Steven Point and provincial-appointed governors Allison Brewin and Bill Sundhu. UBC Vancouver faculty representative Anna Kindler abstained.

The two motions were initially presented as one, with governors intended to vote on domestic and international tuition increases together.

But the motion was separated on Sundhu’s recommendation after he said he felt comfortable raising increases for international students because many are “wealthy.”

Yee, Holmes and Fashanu fiercely argued against the separation, saying that international students do not feel well supported by the university.

Holmes said that the university “exploit[s] the international middle class in many ways.” He said this would send a “horrible message” to international students.

“In which case we separate the vote … we’re saying it’s unjustified, but we feel comfortable being unfair to our international students,” Fashanu said.

International tuition increases passed in an 11–7 vote. Sundhu voted in favour.

Governors also discussed the point of student consultation — and how the Board can see the overwhelming majority of students saying they are against the increases, but still raise tuition.

Brewin said the Board must change how they consult students, if tuition increases are going to be the default.

“Let us stop asking students whether or not they agree with the increase. Let us tell them we are going to be increasing [tuition], but help us discuss what to do with that increase,” Brewin said.

Chair Nancy McKenzie voted for the increases and thanked governors for the discussion.

“This was not an easy decision for any of the Board’s members,” she said.

UBC budget for 2021/22 receives overwhelming support

The Board also approved the budget for the 2021/22 fiscal year which will see a $10 million surplus.

Karamjeet Heer, a member of the VP finance & operations portfolio, said that the university was still in a “recovery phase” from the pandemic but that it is committed to supporting the long-term health and well-being of students, faculty and staff.

Heer outlined several of the key spending commitments, including $11 million to support the transition to in-person classes in the fall, $10 million for mental health services and $380 million in student financial aid.

$2.8 million will be spent on the implementation of the Indigenous Action Plan (ISP), with an additional $13 million dedicated to the plan over the next five years.

In a series of tweets posted on April 14, Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot, a senior advisor to President Santa Ono on Indigenous affairs, criticized the university for not consulting with Indigenous persons during the drafting of this year’s budget.

Executive Director of Academic Initiatives David Shorthouse said that the budget would help support UBC’s anti-racism initiatives, such as expanding the Indigenous faculty hiring program and creating a similar program for Black faculty.

Holmes said that he supported 98 per cent of the budget, but voiced opposition to the lack of details around the spending of the projected $18 million revenue from the approved tuition increases.

“We haven't gotten a lot of information on where it's going now and whether that's towards the right priorities,” he said. “I think that there needs to be more involvement in where this money is going to be spent.”

Provincially-appointed governor Azim Lalani seemed to reject Holmes’ request, arguing that the Board is meant to monitor spending, not micro-manage it.

The motion to approve the budget passed with both Holmes and Yee opposed.

Senior Staff Writer

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