Sunday, July 8, 2007

Reading Break 2010

On May 16, the Senate approved to extend the 2010 reading break from 5 days to 10 days, adding another week of jolly freedom to the schedule of an otherwise overworked undergraduate student. This, as you rightly predict, is a response to the VanOC which approached Academic Policy chair Paul Harrison with this proposal quite some time ago, and consultation to the student senate caucus was conducted during the turnover meeting (end of April) in an informal setting. To which extent the student senators consulted the rest of the student body thereafter is unbeknownst to me, due to a self-imposed temporary post-retirement retreat from anything and everything to do with this illustrious institution. Call it a refractory period.

In any case, the registrar's office came up with a schedule of least inconvencience to students, and it's linked here (link):

- total teaching days for term 2 will be reduced from 63 days to 62 days
- reading break will be held from February 15-26 instead of 15-19
- consequently, classes will end on April 15, instead of April 9
- exams will be held during the period of April 19-May 1, instead of April 14-28
- graduation dates will not be changed

At the caucus meeting, the following points were raised to Paul Harrison:
- there is a significant number of students living off-campus but not at home who will be affected by exams ending on May 1. Housing arrangements extend in most cases to the end of the month and there will be contractual implications for those individuals who wish to move, sublet, and otherwise make arrangements while they are still writing exam(s).
- there are several private on-campus residences (Fraser Hall, and the many more that are budding at the speed of light) which do not have to abide to the administrative orders like any residences under UBC Housing and Conferences do. We asked that the VP Students office and the UNA be approached by the Senate in order to communicate this concern.
- Transit services need to be increased on Saturday, May 1 in order to accommodate for the increased number of students who are commuting into campus

To give you some frame of reference, this is not the first time the exam period has extended into May. However, since my little project of looking into the exam schedule in 2003, it was informally agreed that spilling over into May should be avoided for reasons mentioned above. We saw the Olympics as extenuating circumstances.

This, of course, beckons considerations beyond these logistical matters, on whether or not we should accommodate to, and thereby support the principles of the Olympics, of the Olympics in this city, and of the Olympics in this city in the way it has unfolded thus far. It is well known that despite of the grand principles which infused the realization of the Olympics at the cusp of the twentieth century (the celebration of human performance, sportsmanship, friendship, "global citizenship" etc), processes leading up to the events may not necessarily have lived up to these ideals in several cities.

A prime example is VanOC's pledge to social sustainability, in particular housing. It has been reported that already hundreds of evictions have taken place in low rent housing in the inner city, despite of a promise that this would not happen. Given this neglect, it is doubtful on whether 30% of housing built for the Olympics will be converted to social housing after (another key promise).

I have been in contact with the founder (Rob Van Wynsberghe) of the IOCC (link) (an independent community coalition which has been tracking the development of the 2010 Van Olympics from the social perspective of housing, transit, environment, social accountability, safety and civil liberty (I may have missed some). In any case, the IOCC has been giving the VanOc committee some pretty grave grades (D- in a recent 24 Hrs article) so far.

He and I both agreed that there is a certain duty of citizenship on our part to respect and foster the City's wish to host the Olympics. While a refusal to accomodate to the Olympics through congesting traffic during those five days in February would stiffle the experience of both student and winter sport enthusiast, the degree of inconvenience may or may not have been a constructive or effective way to show concern around the development of the Olympics in this city.

Nor am I certain whether it is in the best interest of the University's already esoteric reputation to out-right refuse to collaborate and make concessions for the community at large that it finds itself embedded in.

However, if citizenship were a virtue, I would challenge this position further. It would be complacent of us to dwell simply on cooperation - cooperation for the blind leading the blind towards detriment to already marginalized parts of the City. We have a responsibility to use our cooperation with VanOC as a leverage to raise concerns about the way in which social issues such as housing in the DTES have been utterly neglected. This is a bargaining chip with great stakes. Members of the senate and individuals on AMS council should take this to heart and act, and they need to do it now.