UBC launches student strategic plan, AMS believes it could go further

After initial setbacks due to the pandemic, UBC officially introduced the2021-2026 Student Strategic Plan (SSP) in October. The SSP defines UBC’s commitments to its students, concentrating on addressing issues of racism, colonialism and inequities impacting students’ experience at the university.

Joining a long list of UBC’s other strategic plans, the SSP encourages the “consistent application of the student lens when decisions are made at UBC,” wrote Ainsley Carry, UBC cice president, Students and Dale Mullings, associate vice-president, Students, UBCO in a letter introducing the plan.

According to the university, student input was central to the plan’s formulation. 

As VP Students, Carry oversaw the SSP’s development. He said, in an interview with The Ubyssey, the university began student engagement in 2019, asking students five questions —  “What’s working? What’s not working? What do you want us to maintain and not maintain? What question are we not asking?” 

Student input was acquired through questionnaires and town halls, which the university had to organize virtually from the outset of the pandemic.

Dana Turdy, AMS vice-president academic and university affairs wrote in a statement to The Ubyssey that she was disappointed in the lack of consultation with student government.

“Unfortunately, the VP Students office held very little direct consultation with the AMS on the SSP … [and] there is no explicit mention of the student unions (including the SUO and GSS) in the plan,” she wrote. 

UBC says extensive consultation with staff in the offices of the VP Students, Deans and Provosts of both UBC campuses was also involved in the plan’s development.

The plan is structured around three main commitments the university is making to students. The first pillar is ‘transformative learning’, which Carry described as focusing on creating new, varied learning experiences for students. 

“We want the outside-the-classroom experience to also be a learning opportunity,” he said. 

The second pillar, ‘collective wellbeing’ , focuses on the promotion of health for people and the planet. Finally, interconnectedness, about celebrating diversity and building networks.

Nine student outcomes are articulated in the plan, written as statements which the university hopes will define students experience at UBC in five years time. 

These outcomes include, “I can access resources and programs to help me participate in university life” and “I have developed as a person through learning and interacting at UBC.” 

The plan states the university will track its success by a yearly assessment of students’s agreement with the nine outcome statements. Carry plans to gather this feedback through questionnaires and town halls , similar to those administered during initial SSP development. 

“When we receive that [feedback], our team will create a report card that we don't mind sharing with the community,” Carry said. He hopes the report card will demonstrate areas where the plan is successful, where they need to do better and strategies they may need to amplify going forward.

Turdy believes the plan could go further for students. 

“[The AMS] that these outcomes could be more ambitious,” she wrote. “For example, the outcome of students being able to access resources and programs should be a minimum standard at post-secondary institutions, not something to strive for.”

According to the SSC, current manifestations of the plan include UBCO’s harm reduction program, the intercultural sports series and expanded career supports

Turdy pointed out that the plan does not include goals for financial aid or student food security.

“We do recognize that this is a living document,” says Turdy. “We look forward to seeing improvements in the future.”

With files from Danny Liu