Problems with UBC: Construction Fever

5 03 2013

If you’ve visited UBC sometime in the last, oh, year or so, you will have noticed the crop of construction projects blocking roads and sidewalks.  You may have wondered, if you actually think critically and are not a sheep-zombie like the typical student, “Wow.  That’s a lot of construction!  I wonder where UBC got the money to afford such giant projects.  They’re an institution and I pay a ludicrous amount of money for tuition, so they must be rich.  Makes sense.  Now I just gotta take this 15 minute detour to get to my next class.”


Even a small dig through UBC’s financial records shows they are millions of dollars in debt — and yet they continue to keep building.  The Aquatic Centre is missing $9 million from its budget; the Earth Sciences building still owes a further $10 million.  As if this wasn’t bad enough, some buildings, which have already been built and are being used, actually still owe money, like the Pharmaceutical Sciences building, which is still looking for someone to pay the whopping $24 million tab.

In layman’s terms, what the fuck?

How is a self-proclaimed, “world-class” institution like UBC allowed to get away with such blatant lack of controlled spending?  It would be one thing to owe money after a few construction projects but to keep on building and knowing that they’re in debt — that is simply appalling.  It is beyond irresponsible.  It is callous, ludicrous behaviour, and ironic that an institution for learning seems to lack enough brain cells to actually learn themselves.

What’s most upsetting about all this is President Stephen Toope’s blatant disregard and/or seeming oblivious to the problems at the university in which he works.  When asked about the construction projects, he said that “95 percent were funded” and that the university is “not in debt”.

So either between the time the first Ubyssey article was published and his interview, UBC managed to magically find about $200 million dollars to cover their outstanding and glaring debt, or Toope, like a skilled politician, is just a big fat liar.

“He’s the president.  Why would he lie?  I’m sure he knows what’s going on,” you might think.

How about this?

In that same interview, when Toope is told about how students feel like the campus isn’t developing with students in mind, he responds that all the construction has been student residences or academic buildings, which are for students.

Okay.  Two things wrong here.

1.  How about the Alumni Centre, which not only is yet another building which has a gaping hole in its budget, but is clearly designed to suck money from those who have escaped UBC’s money-hungry claws?  Or the new fountain in the Martha Piper Plaza?  Are students going to be allowed to swim in it or is it only to create an illusion of beauty for an otherwise ugly campus?

2.  Construction isn’t simply about the buildings themselves.  It is a long process that goes in stages:

Planning: the Alumni Centre and the plaza, for example, were clearly not planned with students in mind.

Paying: because of being ridiculously in debt, UBC resorted to raising student housing fees, among other means, to pay for the buildings .  This was clearly not kept with students in mind.

Construction process: many students reported not being told the extent of the construction and the confusing, winding detours that would make them late and cause grief.  Many students also cheerfully woke up to the sounds of jackhammering and pounding in the early morning.  This was clearly not kept with students in mind.

You are a damn liar if you say the construction and the buildings are all for students.  Or else you don’t have a fucking clue (excuse my language, but the swearing is quite appropriate here) about what it means to be a student.

So.  What does this all mean?

Quite simply, I am ashamed, and I am embarrassed to attend the University of British Columbia.  You should be too.

A place of mind?

A place of one mind.  And it doesn’t give a shit about you.

— Taking the You out of UBC.

[hilarious video below]