Saturday, April 25, 2009

Freedom of Information Applies to UBC's Corporate Entities

UBC just got a little more transparent.

A very recent ruling from the Office of the Infomation and Privacy Commissioner for BC has ruled that UBC must release records requested under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) for three of its subsidiaries: UBC Properties Investment Ltd., UBC Research Enterprises Inc. and UBC Investment Management Trust.

The FIPPA request was initiated by Stanley Tromp, a former UBC student and Ubyssey reporter who, in 2001, also managed to force the release of Coca-Cola's 12-year exclusivity contract with UBC and the AMS.

The initial request asked for the annual report, salary of the highest ranking employee and meeting minutes from 7 organizations associated with UBC:

  • UBC Properties Investments Ltd., and UBC Properties Trust
  • Discovery Parks Inc.
  • UBC Foundation
  • University Golf Club, and University Golf Course
  • UBC Research Enterprises Inc.
  • BC Research Inc.
  • UBC Investment Management Trust

UBC denied the requests, asserting that these organizations are private organizations, and therefore FIPPA does not apply. Mr. Tromp then requested a review by the Office of the Infomation and Privacy Commissioner for BC resulting in the ruling linked above.

In the end, it was found that UBC Properties Investment Ltd., UBC Research Enterprises Inc. and UBC Investment Management Trust are "under the control of a public body" and therefore must fulfill FIPPA requests. While UBC tried to pull out all the stops in arguing why the records of these bodies were not under their control, the adjudicator seemed distinctly unimpressed with their arguments and rejected all of them as being irrelevant, contrary to the spirit of the law, or inconsistent with precedent.

The adjudicator pointed out that the three organizations were incorporated by UBC, 100% owned by UBC, must report to UBC administration and/or BoG, and most if not all of their directors are UBC employees or BoG members. That constitutes "control".

The other four organizations were found not to be under UBC's control and not required to disclose the requested documents. UBC has thirty days to appeal the ruling.

Update April 27: UBC does intend to appeal.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Want chairs? Perhaps... 99 of them?

In case you were unaware, 99 Chairs and Trek Express will be closed for the summer in order to undergo renovations. 99 Chairs is kaput, to be replaced by a White Spot. Pizza Pizza and Timmy's will be staying put and the sandwich place will get a new name familiar to those in Vanier: Stackables.

So, without further ado, here's your Craigslist ad of the day. Chairs and tables from Trek Express and 99 Chairs can be yours for as low as $5! Not only that, Andrew Parr, the head honcho over at UBC Food Services is actually volunteering to take calls on the weekend to sell their stuff on Craigslist. Folks, that is what is known as dedication, or possibly just workaholism. Give this man a promotion!

Actually... UBC did just promote him. But that is another topic for another post!

A few weeks ago, I went to 99 Chairs for the first and last time, mostly to be able to write this post without being completely uninformed. (According to my co-worker, the main reason most people went to 99 Chairs was to buy beer on your meal card.) Although the food was passable, I did get the sense that this was a worn-out restaurant - no pizazz or excitement. It could certainly use some sprucing up. But... a White Spot?


I don't think UBC Food Services runs franchises very well. Like many university campuses, with a near-monopoly on campus food service, there is only a token effort to be competitive. (Check out this other Craigslist ad too . They go out of their way to tout “No competition” as one of the best qualities of their UBC business.) Personally, I thought the whole idea of having a franchised restaurant is that all the locations are pretty much the same. UBC Food is running the black sheep of all of these corporate families. (For the record, UBC Food describes their franchises as being “non-traditional”.)

Much like my beloved Shopper's Drug Mart which refused to honour Shopper's Drug Mart flyers, nowhere except A&W accepts coupons. The Subway in the SUB doesn't ever participate in the never-ending Subway promotions and in fact, their regular prices are slightly higher than average. The Tim Hortons at Trek Express doesn't accept Tim Hortons gift cards which are being heavily promoted chain-wide, though I'll note they do participate in Roll Up the Rim; there probably would be a revolt if they ignored that one. Have you ever been to another Manchu Wok that closes at 2:30 pm and is never open on weekends? How about a Tim Hortons that closes at 3:30 pm and is likewise restricted to Monday to Friday? Heck, McDonald's in the Village is open to 3 AM!

So you may have guessed by now that I'm not terribly excited about White Spot. Don't worry, there will be no Durganesque rant about the horrible dangers of corporations. Instead, I am wondering how much time and effort is going into this plan. After all the dust has settled, what real changes will we see? My prediction: not much. The food will still be mediocre, the hours terrible, they won't participate in White Spot promotions, and you'll have to start tipping. It seems like a completely lateral move from what 99 Chairs was, except that it will take a large amount of money (franchise fee of $75,000 and an initial investment of $750,000 - $2,500,000) and effort to get there. What's the point?

UBC's ancillaries, UBC Food included, could definitely serve students and the larger UBC community better with a different set of priorities. If you read the documentation of UBC Food's visit to BoG in February, there is a long list of objectives they are working on. Reading it as a potential customer of theirs, I could not find a single objective where I read it and thought “Oh, that's a good idea.” I guess potential customers is not a market segment they are hoping to attract.

Some things about ancillary structure are indeed changing soon, driven by UBC Admin. The full details aren't out there quite yet, but I'm sure you'll hear more as it develops.

I will give UBC Food some brownie points for the simple fact that they are not Aramark or Sodexo. Still, I can't help but thinking that they are wasting a lot of resources on initiatives that, in my opinion, have no real benefit in the end. If they really have so much money and time they wish to expend to improve food service on this campus, I have ideas for some more tangible ways to do it:

  1. Lower prices. That's pretty self-explanatory. While I would not describe myself as a poor, starving student, I am cheap and would love the food to be more affordable.

  2. Keep longer hours. As a grad student, I habitually work evenings and weekends. I also work year round. Over the summer, dinnertime service at UBC Food outlets stops. Surprisingly, my body's need for dinner does not.

  3. Stop running “non-traditional” franchises. Start accepting coupons and participating in specials at ALL of the chain locations. Please stop abusing the fact that there is very little competition at UBC.

  4. Follow the AMS's lead and invest in water fountains at any location big enough to handle it. Put a fountain in Trek Express over the summer, and follow it up with some more around the dining area of Pacific Spirit Place.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

From the Archives

Please accept my apologies in advance to those who find copy and paste posts offensive.

I was recently introduced to CanLII, a site that archives court decisions. After a brief search for "UBC", I found this one which was too funny not to pass along.

"The plaintiff says that U.B.C. should not have left a goal upright on McInnes Field at night. I reject the suggestion that the goal as it stood was an allurement or trap to the plaintiff, an adult male, to use as a kind of jungle gym."

An excerpt, condensed and edited to remove extraneous information:

The plaintiff claims damages for injuries suffered when, after clambering onto the crossbar of a portable soccer goal at the University of British Columbia, the goal tipped forward, the plaintiff fell and the crossbar hit his face.

The plaintiff, aged 33 years, is an unemployed mill worker living in Prince George. On Friday, 10 March 1990 he was staying with a friend in Vancouver. He went out with his friend early in the evening for Chinese food. He drank two bottles of beer. After returning to his friend's apartment he left to go out for the evening with another friend, Brian Saarela. They went to a cabaret for an hour or so where the plaintiff said he had one bottle of beer. After waiting in a line-up to get into the Kitsilano Pub, the two friends decided instead to drive to the Pit, a drinking establishment for students at U.B.C. They arrived there shortly after 11 p.m. and stayed for an hour and a half or so. The plaintiff said that while there he drank three or four pints of beer.

The plaintiff had not visited the U.B.C. campus before. He was taken there in Brian Saarela's truck. Saarela parked his truck in a parking lot at the side of McInnes Field, a large grassed sports field adjacent to the Student Union Building which houses the Pit. The plaintiff and Saarela walked across McInnes Field to get to the Student Union Building. There were portable goals on and around the field (perhaps four in total).

The two friends emerged from the Pit at about 12:30 a.m. and began retracing their steps across McInnes field to get to their vehicle. The two men approached a portable goal which was standing upright on the field. The plaintiff began to walk across the front of the goal. Saarela saw his friend put his right hand on the goal's left upright post. He saw nothing more until a few seconds later he heard a thump and saw his friend lying face up on the ground with the goal's crossbar across his chest. Saarela's attention had been diverted when he was fumbling in his pocket for his watch and then dropped it.

The plaintiff says that he jumped up and grabbed the crossbar with both hands. He was facing along the line of the crossbar. He pulled himself up to the bar and then threw his right leg up and around it. Then says the plaintiff, "I think I felt it let go - something happened so fast, I didn't have time to do anything...I was on the ground...with the crossbar on my face".

Brian Saarela assisted the plaintiff back to his truck and drove him to the nearby emergency ward of the U.B.C. Hospital. The plaintiff was found to have suffered severe facial injuries. It was the view of both the emergency ward doctor, and the plastic surgeon intern who saw him later that night at the Vancouver General Hospital, that the plaintiff had been drinking heavily.

The plaintiff says that U.B.C. should not have left a goal upright on McInnes Field at night. I reject the suggestion that the goal as it stood was an allurement or trap to the plaintiff, an adult male, to use as a kind of jungle gym.

Even if it can be said that U.B.C. should have reasonably anticipated that the occasional nighttime visitor, inebriated or not, might try to do chin-ups on an encounter with the portable goal while crossing McInnes Field, that I find is not what happened in this case.

I regret the plaintiff's serious injury, but must conclude that he was the author of his own misfortune.

The plaintiff's claim must be dismissed with costs on scale 3.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

AUS Election Results

The AUS Elections happened quite recently, and the results are posted below. I'm a little bit saddened, in general, by elections of both the AUS and SUS- a fair number of the positions this year were uncontested or were yes/no votes. In fact, the UBC Debate Society's election was more contested than either election (only 2 yes/no votes), just to use an example that I'm familiar with. I don't know much about the candidates in this race, but I do recognize some of the names of the AMS reps- Matt Naylor will be continuing on in student politics, and I'm pleased to see Mike Silley there as well. Kristian Arciaga will be taking on the VP Fin job, which he should also be fantastic for given his enthusiasm about student governance this year. I'd just like to see more names and fewer yes/no votes next year!

Yes 157
No 224

President (1)
Guillaume Houle 150
Ryan Trasolini 147

VP Finance (1)
Kristian Arciaga
Yes 232
No 47

VP Internal (1)
Tracy Leung
Yes 199
No 24

VP External (1)
Kyle Warwick
Yes 194
No 26

VP Academic (1)
Regina Tay
Yes 187
No 15

VP Administration (1)
Cheryl Kornder
Yes 196
No 19

Social Coordinator (1)

Promotions Coordinator (1)
Katie Fedosenko
Yes 175
No 17

Student Services Coordinator (1)
Laura Manyari
Yes 182
No 21

MASS Coordinator (1)
Alina Kwan
Yes 179
No 24

AMS Representatives (5)
Kyle Warwick 182
Mike Silley 152
Matthew Naylor 141
Carolee Changfoot 137
Jeremy McElroy 132
Jeremy Wood 126

General Officers (2)
Sarah Bihis
Yes 178
No 40

Kelsi Biring
Yes 187
No 32

Social Officer (1)
Richa Sharma
Yes 169
No 22

Promotions Officer (1)

Student Services Officer (1)
Judy Yuen
Yes 173
No 19

MASS Officer (1)
Pelican Mann
Yes 197
No 40


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Introducing Neal Yonson

Hi everyone,

I would like to extend a warm welcome to Neal, who will be joining the Insiders team! Neal has already done some writing for us, as you all well know by know, and has been really passionate about some of the things going on at UBC, particularly those to do with the NCAA. He is a graduate student in chemistry who is familiar with the way the university works, and I'm really glad to have him on board!

Apologies for my lack of posting, by the way- my course load caught up with me and I'm now trying to catch up! I will resume writing once things have settled down a bit.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Stay Safe

Some of you may have heard the news today about a woman who was killed in Pacific Spirit Park on what appears to be a random attack while she was out for a run/walk around 41st and Camosun. I just wanted to make a quick post in relation to it, as I know that with upcoming exams, lots of people seek exercise as a form of stress relief. I would like to remind everyone to stay safe, to not go to places where you may be vulnerable, to not run with headphones if you are running in the woods or by yourself, and to stay alert and aware of your surroundings and preferably not go out on your own if you're going somewhere isolated. This incident has affected me personally, and I would hate to hear any more news about anyone getting hurt. So please- be aware, follow some of the suggestions laid out by the police: always jog or cycle with a companion, do not wear headphones, carry a whistle or personal alarm, wear visible clothing, and take a cell phone.

Link to the story: "

Please take care.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Collect $200 As You Pass Go

As a number of media sites have already reported, UBC lost its parking case at the BC Supreme Court. The court found that UBC has no authority to issue parking tickets or collect money for parking violations. I know what you're thinking...

Well, not necessarily.

The suit focused on UBC's ability to issue parking tickets and collect money for parking violations. And as it turns out, they can't. However, UBC's ability to regulate parking, charge for parking and enforce parking were not at issue. UBC can still legally do all these things.

What will be interesting to see is whether of not UBC comes up with a genuine, reasonable response to this. From the beginning, it never seemed like they were taking this lawsuit very seriously and were basically trying to bully their way out of it. It's never a good sign when you abandon your main defense right before the trial. And so far, after the decision, everything they've done has merely been posturing. They've already said they'll appeal. They also released a bulletin which I can't help but snicker at.

"Nothing to see here, folks... business as usual... here is some legalese to obscure what's really going on... continue overpaying us for parking... if you do not continue to pay us you will unleash a traffic Armageddon... and if we do have to tow you, please know we're only doing it for your own good."

The result of the ruling is that now, the only way UBC can enforce parking regulations is by either 1) asking everyone nicely to continue paying for parking, or 2) towing and impounding vehicles. I really hope UBC thinks long and hard before using option #2 given that heavy-handed application of parking rules is what got them into this mess in the first place. If they start towing cars left, right and centre, they are eventually going to end up with another lawsuit on their hands.

I don't have a whole lot more to add, but was hoping to hear what people think about this in the comments because I think it's a very interesting development. No other campus blog has mentioned it and the Ubyssey won't have the story ready until next Tuesday.

Personally I am interested in learning that if this judgement is upheld on appeal, what are the broader implications? There must be other instances where UBC has granted themselves powers they are not legally entitled to under the University Act. Anybody know?