On October 14th, The Ubyssey broke the news that the university proposes to dramatically increase tuition for international students. The proposed hikes vary by program, with an average 49% increase over the current cost, and a maximum of 60.15% (for Sauder). The increases, if passed, would send a clear message: only the rich need apply to UBC.
Along with the university’s website about the hikes, the AMS (our student society) released its own. It reveals that not only has the AMS known about the proposed increases since April of this year (and kept them secret from the student body), it is a full participant in the university’s corrupt consultation process.
The AMS has a crystal-clear mandate to oppose these proposed increases based on the will of the student body, yet it has not done so.
In the 2014 AMS elections, the Social Justice Centre put a referendum question on the ballot asking whether the AMS should “advocate for reduced tuition for both national and international students”. The question passed with 91% voting in favour.
Last school year, when UBC proposed to increase international tuition by 10% and eight-month housing contracts by 20%, a protest movement called I Am A Student emerged. Frustrated with the inaction from the AMS, IAAS rallied students to the AMS Annual General Meeting, achieving quorum for the first time in four decades. Students proceeded to pass a series of resolutions, including that the AMS oppose the increases, support the nascent movement, and organize protests. The response was lacklustre: as several organizers of I Am A Student later wrote, “Only after being mandated with a wide majority at the AGM to organize protests did the AMS host a march, which was then poorly advertised and poorly attended, including by members of the AMS council and executive.” The increases ended up being passed by the Board of Governors.
Along with the announcement of the proposed tuition increases, the university administration and the AMS both announced a series of consultations.
Last year, the consultations were recognized by students to be fraudulent; the decision about the hikes had already been made. As one student put it, “Is it really a democratic consultation process when the university has already decided what the problem is (that we’re behind on charging our students), how they’re going to fix it (increase student fees) and exactly how long it is going to take them to convince us that they’re right (30 days)? All of this before bringing us into the loop. That’s not consultation; that’s notice.” This view was vindicated by the fact that, despite the high attendance at the consultations, and the many students stating their opposition to the hikes, they were passed without modification.
This time, the administration does not even have the pretense of genuine consultations. According to the Interim Provost, the consultations “will be limited to discussing the allocation of the increased revenue rather than whether the tuition increases should take place at all”. This time is different, too, since the AMS is now holding its own consultations with students, doing part of the work for the administration. It will engage in “think tanks” and “dialogue” rather than protest, as students demand. In participating in the administration’s fraudulent consultations, the AMS is legitimizing the process.
The AMS has kept crucial information from the students for months, leaving almost no time for mobilization before the Board of Governors intends to vote on the increases in November. The AMS must answer for its choice to ignore its democratic mandate to oppose tuition increases, and willingly collaborate with the university in its consultations.