UBC drops students from campus head count

File photo Geoff Lister/The Ubyssey

Students living on campus will not be included in a population count UBC is passing on to Metro Vancouver.

The university is set to file its Regional Context Statement — a document that outlines how UBC and Metro Vancouver’s development plans are in sync — but the AMS feels the university should rethink their decision to exclude student residents.

Associate VP Campus and Community Planning Nancy Knight said the university is not including students in their population projections because Metro Vancouver does not require them to do so. She said UBC does include projected student population numbers for other population projections and transit demand projections.

“This is a technical exercise…. You can’t add things that aren’t in the scope,” Knight said at a Board of Governors standing committee meeting. She said legally the university shouldn’t include items not referenced in the Metro Van growth strategy.

But Kiran Mahal, AMS VP academic, said the increasing amount of year-round housing in the works, such as Ponderosa Commons and Orchard Commons, puts UBC in a situation that is different from other municipalities with post-secondary institutions.

Excluding students from population counts could be problematic in terms of emergency preparedness planning, according to Mahal. When asked at the board meeting by President Stephen Toope about possible risks of disaster planning without including student numbers, Knight said, “I have no concerns about that.”

After the meeting, Knight said most service providers do ask UBC for their population numbers when making new service plans.

The Regional Context Statement ties together UBC’s Land Use Plan, which describes the university’s criteria and policies for development, and Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy, which outlines the region’s projections for community development through 2040.

Toope and other board members were concerned that any changes to the UBC context statement, such as including the UBC Housing Action Plan, could invite Metro Vancouver to interfere with UBC’s academic plans.

UBC’s current Regional Context Statement, written in 2011, includes student residents in their projected 2021 population counts, though it differentiates between the 22,500 residents living in non-academic housing and the 10,000 students in residence accommodations.

The submission passed with no objections at today’s Board of Governors meeting.

Despite concerns of Metro Vancouver interference, both Toope and Chancellor Sarah Morgan-Silvester found it “shortsighted” to not include student populations for the Regional Context Statement. During the meeting, Morgan-Silvester said the omission should be rectified in the future, but not for this upcoming Regional Context Statement.

The AMS’ written submission outlines other qualms with UBC’s statement, such as the designation of the UBC Farm as a “green academic area,” and the focus on redevelopment of the Acadia Park residence. These objections were deemed to be out of context by the university, as they do not connect the Land Use Plan to the Metro growth strategy. Mahal agrees with Knight, but said that may suggest that the Land Use Plan needs updating to include those points.

Metro Van’s Regional Growth Strategy asks municipalities to “provide municipal population, dwelling unit and employment projections … and demonstrate how municipal plans will work towards accommodating the projected growth within the Urban Containment Boundary.”

Mahal said excluding students from the statement hints at how the university perceives the student population.

“If we’re going to make students feel like they are part of a community we need to include them as part of the numbers.”

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