Questions from the Town Hall
The Fall Town Hall provided an important forum for faculty and staff to pose their questions to UBCO Leadership. Given time constraints, not all questions could be answered live and written answers are provided below for questions that were not addressed during the event.
Note: some questions have been edited and combined for clarity and brevity
Q: The ProPASS is great, but is limited to two four-months options. As a cyclist, I would take it for 4 months, but Nov-Feb. Would you consider allowing us to select the four-month period that works for us instead of prescribing the two existing periods?
- ProPASS is a program offered by BC Transit and their Regional Partners, and is administered through the City of Kelowna. UBCO facilitates the program in accordance with the processes, terms and conditions set by Kelowna Regional Transit.
- As such, UBCO does not have direct control over many of the program elements. For example, the timing of the Pass periods, eligibility requirements or refund conditions are not set by UBCO.
- Increased flexibility for enrolment and payment options are some of the ways the ProPASS program may evolve based on user feedback and as we continue to work with BC Transit to offer this program.
Q: What impact will the presidential transition have on UBCO?
- The role of UBC president is incredibly important for the whole university, including with respect to governance and strategic priorities. On a day-to-day basis, the Okanagan campus runs largely based on the contributions and expertise of the local leadership team. As Principal, I’m extremely proud of the team we have in place and am confident we’ll continue to thrive through Dr. Ono’s departure and beyond.
Q: Will there be any on-campus events regarding the municipal elections and getting out the vote?
- Planning is underway for a mayoral debate jointly hosted between Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan at the end of September. Stay tuned for details!
- For those eligible to vote in the Kelowna municipal elections, an advance poll will be set up on October 12 from 8:00am to 6:00pm in the Nechako Building – Gathering Room (1255 International Mews)
Q. Is the BC government providing additional funding to UBC to compensate for inflation?
- The BC government is currently conducting a sector-wide review of how it funds operations of universities, colleges and institutes. Inflation was not specifically cited as a reason for calling the review, although the current climate may well figure in to how the review considers updates to the funding model.
Q. Will the new student housing be available for graduate students?
- Much of our development in recent years has been to serve first year students for whom we have a housing guarantee. The data shows that those who live on campus in their first year of their undergraduate studies become more connected with the institution and are more likely to complete their degree. As a result, we guarantee housing to students (domestic and international) coming directly from high school – recognizing that this is a time period when the greatest support is needed.
- The downtown project will be providing housing more appealing for graduate student (studio suites and one/two-bedroom apartments). On campus we are currently undergoing a feasibility assessment to determine how best to construct a residence building consisting mostly of studio apartments to further support our upper year and graduate students.
Q. How many housing projects on campus are being worked on? We might need double to accommodate a wider range of students.
- With the opening of Skeena and Nechako we increased our on-campus capacity by 440 beds. Student Housing and Community Services continues to assess the waitlist and further needs. We anticipate further projects may be on the way in the next 2-3 years with the first stages of approval likely occurring in the next few months
- The waitlist largely consists of “upper class” students that are not a part of the 1st year guarantee that UBC has and would like to continue to live on campus.
- Downtown will further increase our capacity by over 500 beds. The hope with downtown is that we can begin to accommodate students that have moved off campus and are electing to live downtown closer to some of the amenities/services that are provided there. We hope that the downtown facility will attract students that are taking their program in the Downtown building for a variety of academic, social and sustainability reasons. Beyond that we hope that having a university centered building will be better suited to the housing and support needs of undergrad students but also masters and PHD students. Overall, we would like to help get students out of other living arrangements that may not be nearly as suitable for their needs and creating unintended pressure on rental units downtown.
Q. Is there any immediate or solution implementation for “affordable parking cost”?
- Today, 55% of the University’s GHG emissions at UBC Okanagan are from commuting to and from campus – the highest of all emission contributors. Personal automobile use accounts for the majority of these.
- As the low cost of parking is one of the main contributing factors to the high use of personal automobile usage, making parking more affordable counteracts our commitments in the UBC Okanagan Climate Action Plan 2030 to reduce GHG’s from commuting by 40% from 2013 levels by 2030.
- As a result of our continuing community partnerships (e.g. regional transportation authorities), changes in infrastructure and trends in remote work we will work to reduce the reliance on personal automobile use.
- We will continue to invest in programs, such as the PROPASS program, that make alternative transportation options more accessible and affordable.
Q. As we are reaching enrollment levels (12k) which were not planned until 2026 to 2034, as laid out in the Outlook 2040 plan. Have we made the requisite investments to ensure that the projected FTE ratios meet the levels laid out in the plan?
- Enrollment continues to be strong, reflecting the growing interest in UBCO’s current and new programs. Campus leadership has been monitoring enrollment levels during the somewhat less predictable COVID years (2020-22), and will continue to work with faculties to ensure a quality experience for students and faculty members by hiring of faculty and investment in needed space. Grad student numbers will naturally rise as the campus’s research programs intensify and the need for these highly qualified students/ professionals.
Q. When will the Annual Financial Act Report be published?
- The Financial Information Act will likely be approved at the Board of Governor’s Audit Committee meeting on September 21 and the information will be available shortly after that.
Q. Will all food services on campus be opened and running as the school year starts?
- Many of our food services will re-open or be open for longer hours with the start of the school year!
- This website will show you in real time which food services on campus are open.
- Although we hope to maintain longer hours throughout the term we, like many in the region, are facing challenges in recruiting food services workers. Hours may be impacted based on the availability of staff. Please be patient and kind with the wonderful food service staff members as you interact with them on campus.
Q. Is there a timeline for implementing a mortgage assistance program at UBCO?
- We are assessing now and hope to have something in place for the start of the new fiscal year in April 2023.
Q. With many international students facing ongoing study permit delays, what is UBCO doing to support and advocate for them?
- We recognize this is a difficult and stressful situation facing many of our students who are eager to be here on campus. Sector organizations of which UBC is a member have been advocating strongly to the federal government on behalf of all universities to address this important issue as quickly as possible.
- Locally, the Provost Office and the Faculties are exploring various options including deferral, hybrid options, or temporary online instruction in anticipation of the application backlog being alleviated soon.
- AVPS will also be offering rolling small group orientations for those international students who arrive late. A winter orientation will also be considered if there are a significant number of deferrals to the winter term
Q. Are we looking at options for using the vast amount of unused offices on campus instead of taking small leases off campus in order to take advantage of those who are working remotely?
- Leadership is keenly aware of how the precious resource of space is being used in different ways. As we enter what we hope will be a more normal academic year with students and faculty being on campus in a more regular way, we will be assessing how we might reorganize our space allocations and use. Units are still understanding how remote work can work for their staff and when they will be on campus. With that information now becoming available we can now start to have meaningful discussions about what changes may be possible. These might involve changes to space use, different furniture, workstations etc. that will be considered over the next few months looking towards possible changes next summer or fall.