Senate Summed Up: Senators vote to cut academic ties with Russian government entities, increase support for at-risk scholars

UBC Vancouver Senate met virtually on Zoom last night and approved motions related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and new degree requirements for future arts students.

Here’s what you might have missed.

Motions to cut academic ties with Russian entities, increase support for Ukrainian members and scholars passed

Senators approved two motions from the Academic Policy and Research & Scholarship committees regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The two committees drafted these motions following a lengthy discussion at the last Senate meeting around the invasion and UBC’s response.

The first motion — which condemned Russian human rights violations and encouraged increased support for Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians — called for UBC Vancouver to suspend current and future academic relations with Russian governmental entities indefinitely.

The motion passed without any questions or discussion, with 58 senators in favour and 1 opposed.

The second motion recommended the expansion of the current Scholars at Risk UBC Advisory Committee to a broader ‘At Risk Scholars and Students Advisory Committee’ in order to increase its scope.

Senators spoke largely in favour of the motion, voicing their concern and support for those impacted by the ongoing conflict.

Student senator Georgia Yee asked how both of these motions related to UBC’s greater approach in engaging with states that commit human rights violations.

Dr. Kin Lo, chair of the Academic Policy Committee, said that this broader topic was beyond the scope of the discussion, as the committees were focused on the Russia and Ukraine situation when drafting the motions. Dr. Guy Faulkner, chair of the Research & Scholarship Committee, noted that given the short timeline, the motion on increased support for the Scholars at Risk program seemed to be the best way to provide support to Ukraine.

Dr. Murali Chandrashekaran, chair of the Scholars at Risk committee, added that UBC’s relationship with states that commit human rights violations was a topic that his committee had spoken about and would be raising to UBC President Santa Ono soon.

Dr. Santokh Singh asked about the quantum of funding being requested, as well as the specific activities that the money would be directed to.

Chandrashekaran said that the fund is currently only able to support one to two scholars.

“The request here is to … think about a holistic and sustainable and community approach where UBC brings together the strength and assets of the university together with a community of organizations to make a difference,” Chandrashekaran said.

He added that a separate proposal sent to Ono from the committee covered the next five years and asked for two million dollars to enable the funding of five scholars, five practitioners and ten students, or “some combination thereof.”

Dr. James Stewart, vice chair of the Research & Scholarship Committee, voiced his support for both motions and said that the Scholars at Risk program reflected greater principles and moral values.

“I think it's not just a program that supports scholars who are at risk. Certainly, it provides them with a great deal of safety, but it also reinforces freedom of conscience, [which] is crucial at this important moment,” he said.

Stewart added that the program provided an important way to honour UBC’s commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion on a global level.

After a lengthy discussion, the second motion passed unanimously.

Senators approve revised requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree

Dr. Claudia Krebs introduced a motion with several academic curriculum updates, which included major changes to the general degree requirements for Bachelor of Arts students entering UBC from 2024/25 onwards.

The revised requirements — which the faculty of arts released in December 2021 — combine the current language, science and literature requirements into a Ways Of Knowing breadth requirement. Students will have to take a combination of 21 credits across four subject areas outside of their major.

There was no discussion on this motion, and the motion passed with 56 in favour and 1 opposed.