Freshpersons, Welcome to Debt!

17 10 2013

Yesterday, a student came by the Writing Centre with this article written by Barbara Ehrenreich. I gave the article a read and found myself laughing at the sheer satire, irony, and hyperbole of the piece, which I thought was very well-written and clever. The student was to talk about literary rhetoric devices but I was so interested in the article and how awesome it was that I think I was a bit scattered in what I had to say — there were so many things to talk about! Needless to say, the student wasn’t as enthralled as me, but he did seem interested in the English class he was taking. Hooray for that!

Problems with UBC: AMS (a.k.a. Assholic Moronic “Students”)

6 03 2013

“Alright.  So the UBC bureaucracy has no semblance of common sense when it comes to money.  But I’m smart.  We students are smart.  At least the Alma Mater Society (AMS), which is run by my fellow students, has a positive influence on UBC and my university experience.”

I am in my first year of studies at UBC, but as a transfer student, I am starting in 3rd year.  I have already taken about 4 years of studies prior to transferring to UBC.  When I arrived at UBC, I continuously heard about some group called the AMS, yet the descriptions of this group and what they do was always vague at best.  Confused, I asked my friend who is in his third year, “What exactly does the AMS do?”

His answer was immediate: “Nothing.”

Surely that couldn’t be true.

Back in 2011, there was a provincial protest in Victoria held by several universities against rising tuition and student debt.

The total number of UBC students?  Eight.  None were members of the AMS.

Here’s the hilarious thing: when asked why he and the AMS didn’t go, the then-president said they couldn’t afford the transportation.


I get that buses can be expensive, but couldn’t you just all pile into a car and drive there?  Would that have been so hard, to even get one of you there?

Or maybe you should have paid for transportation yourself, with the $25,000 cheque you receive every year for not attending important political events.  And then you have the audacity to give yourselves a bonus when UBC is itself in debt, which, not only is this obviously a conflict of interest, but the fact that the money is coming out of students’ pockets is absurd (and why does seemingly no one care about this??).  And then hide this raise with some bullshit about a vague process of listing goals to earn this money when this process — and these lists themselves — don’t exist.  Perhaps this quote sums up the AMS best: “a bunch of 18–21-year-old political nerds fucking around with your student fees.”

I don’t quite understand student unions.  To me, they are a paradox.  You vote for a student to represent you and your interests, then pay them a large sum to work for you.  But by giving them such a generous salary, doesn’t that, in a sense, make them less of a student when many are struggling with debt?  Sure, you don’t have to be a poor student to understand poor students, but when you decide it’s more important to award yourself more money and then say you’re hard at work to make the art collection available online — that’s just a big f- you to your fellow, debt-drowning students.

But if this isn’t enough comedy for you, my favourite story about this group of wannabe intellectuals is the incident involving then-VP Admin Caroline Wong (now somehow President) kicking out a homeless woman from the Womyn’s Centre, claiming it was for safety reasons, since there were no overnight security guards.  As if it would be safer for this woman elsewhere, with no place to stay.  A classmate of mine, who interviewed Jennie Roth, the manager of the centre, said the AMS responded with statements such as “it’s not really the university’s business”.

I think that statement about sums up the indifference of the AMS towards students’ well-being at UBC.  You’re in trouble?  Fleeing from an abusive partner?  Well, you can’t stay here.  Sucks to be you. 

Mostly, I can’t believe Wong.  She seemed unprepared and unsympathetic, not to mention she puts Arts students to shame for her lack of understanding about women’s safety and sexual health concerns.  Also ironic is that the AMS has apparently spent a considerable amount to stay at fancy hotels but hasn’t fixed this issue after the incident.

Of course, this is all based one articleI don’t know for sure what happened.  But if it was true, and Wong did in fact do what she did, well, then the AMS just plain sucks.

Taking the You out of UBC

Stephen Toope and the then-president of the AMS spew sparkly propaganda at you that reminds me of cheesy VHS educational tapes I watched in high school. (I find this even more hilarious than the other video, especially because Toope is clearly trying really hard)

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]