Senate Summed up: Senators disestablish the Peter Wall Institute and discuss UBC’s budget

Last night, Senate met to vote on the disestablishment of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and received a presentation on UBC’s $3.8 billion budget for the next academic year.

Here’s what you might have missed.

Disestablishment and new course standing

The Research & Scholarships Committee presented a motion for the disestablisment of the The Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS).

PWIAS was first created in 1994 and was funded by an endowment from Peter Wall, but in 2022 UBC and Wall reached a new agreement to restructure the previous donation to become the Peter Wall Legacy Fund.

Subsequently, an academic committee was formed to decide the future of PWIAS and a consensus was reached that the the University should explore the creation of a new UBC Institute of Transdisciplinary Studies.

Senator Charles Menzies asked about the timeline for the new institute and raised concern that the idea “might just fade from memory as time goes on.”

Provost Gage Averill said the new institute is in the “design conceptualization stage” and that there had been discussions with UBC President Benoit-Antoine Bacon. Undertaking this project would need “significant amount of fundraising,” said Averill.

The Academic Policy Committee also presented a motion to change some course standing titles. This change would remove Course in Progress (CIP) and Not Submitted (NS) from Workday Student and replace it with Grade Not Submitted (GNS).

Senator Kin Lo said this change was put forward for clarity, as GNS makes it clear that the reason there is an absent grade is because the instructor has not submitted it and not the fault of the student as a “late grade has negative consequences for students and adjudication for promotion, or other functions.”

Both motions to disestablish PWIAS and the new course standing carried.

Budget babble

Averill also gave a presentation on UBC’s $3.8 billion budget which was passed at the Board of Governors meeting on March 27.

Averill said UBC is in a "generally healthy position" financially, but also noted that some faculties are seeing a greater than expected loss in incoming students and that "saying healthy doesn't mean there's a lot of money sloshing around."

Student Senator Kareem Hassib said he wished this presentation came before the budget was approved as then Senators feedback could be taken into consideration.

Senator HsingChi von Bergman said that in the past 14 years, the travel award for the faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has remained the same and noted that only two per cent of the budget is allocated towards travel expenses.

Averill said while they want to keep travel available to students, it is also a “a major contributor to our carbon footprint.”

He said that UBC’s executive administration has also been attempting to challenge their “own travel habits we've pulled back from doing anything that might be seen as a junket.”

Student Senator Taushifa Shaikh also highlighted the tuition disparity between domestic and international and said the five per cent increase for incoming international students creates a “financial privilege” of who is able to attend UBC.

Averill said this is partly due to BC’s Tuition Limit Policy which only allows UBC to increase domestic tuition by two per cent every year and he also added that government funding used to make up a larger part of the universities budget.

“Unless we are more successful in developing a number of other types of revenue, that leaves the international student tuition as a very major portion of how the province expects us to raise the money to run a great university,” said Averill.

He also said UBC is cautious that they are not “out pacing” other universities and said that UBC is still less expensive than University of Toronto.

“But there's no there's no way around the fact that the disparities you talked about are real.”