UBC Farm Threatened by Condominium Development
Not so long ago I was talking to a UBC alumna, who had been on one of those official tours where former students are shown around the campus. She was utterly disgusted as the person leading the tour was simply concerned with selling them on the various real estate developments on the campus. She was particularly offended that this individual knew absolutely nothing about the UBC farm and how important it is to the academic program, apart from anything else.
Martin Twigg has done an interview with Gavin Wright, academic coordinator at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC, about the farm’s uncertain future, the university’s byzantine planning process and how people can best help to ensure the farm’s survival. You can find it on his spiffy new WordPress blog.
It seems to me that UBC has been drifting way off course, and it started when the fees were frozen by Glen Clark. This drove the university ever closer to the commercial market, to do things that they were willing to pay for, as they had no other way to keep funding themselves adequately. This has affected research, teaching and the planning of the campus. The worst effect from my perspective is that given its location – on the end of a peninsular – it is not well located for a student body that does not live on campus. Instead of enjoying the whole range of the university experience, students are commuters – forced ever further out to find affordable accommodation and trapped into long commutes. The UPass worked to get them out of cars, but at great cost to the publicly funded transportation system. Students have to make far too many and too long motorised transport trips, and spend too much time in transit, and thus have much less time for all the activities that are supposed to make university a growth experience.
UBC has lost sight of its prime purpose. It has become a developer, not an institute of learning and academic research. One of the great weaknesses of the “free market” model is that it actually fails to recognise diversity of purpose. Every human activity is reduced to a commercial proposition where money making is the one and only measure. UBC should have been smart enough to recognize this, but it either didn’t – or more likely came up with spurious justifications for their self interest of the influential few who dominate decision making – and a great deal has been lost in the pursuit of a stronger financial bottom line.