February 5, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 70  

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UBC denies capping courses for Maclean’s

By Maureen Finn
Gazette Staff

The University of British Columbia’s student union wants proof that no student was denied registration in a course required for graduation after it was suggested in an article in the National Post that administration had capped enrollments to improve the school’s standing in the annual Maclean’s university ranking.

Oana Chirila, president of the Alma Mater Society, UBC’s student union, said the society asked to see documentation of the changes the university made for Maclean’s. She said the university was not communicating with students or AMS directly, but rather through the media.

“We don’t even have the documents the National Post has from the university. They are not giving us the same consideration they’re giving the media,” she said, adding the AMS asked the university to speak directly to students. “A direct explanation to the students is necessary — they should not have to hear it from me or the media, but from [university administration] directly.”

Chirila said the university’s statement claimed that they have not changed class sizes, however, it did not comment on other areas that they have been suspected of tampering for the Maclean’s ranking. She said class sizes may have been altered by splitting class sections, hiring teaching assistants to teach sections and by putting large classes in small classrooms.

She also noted that UBC claimed tuition increases were necessary to decrease class sizes and make education better for students. “They need to be honest about this,” she added.

Paul Patterson, associate director of public affairs at UBC, said the issue of class size is one the school has been concerned with for years. “Students want smaller class sizes — for over a decade we’ve been making efforts to reduce them,” he said.

Patterson noted that when a course size is capped, a new section is created to accommodate additional students. “In the past two years, we’ve created more than 400 new sections,” he said. “We’ve never denied a student because of capping for Maclean’s.”

He said if UBC actually wanted to manipulate class sizes for the sake of the Maclean’s ranking, then they could simply reduce enrollment. “The reality is we continue to take more students than we receive funding for,” he said, noting that last year UBC accepted 1,200 more students than the university received federal funding for.

James Kusie, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said he was disappointed by what universities are doing to look good in magazines. “To deny students entry into required classes is absolutely horrible and unthinkable,” he said.

Kusie explained that many Canadian universities are too focused on how they rank in Maclean’s. “Many universities have committees to see how they can do better in the Maclean’s ratings,” he said, adding any changes to improve standing are costly

“To think that a university would do something that has such negative effects on students is horrible,” he said. “Congratulations to the AMS for getting to the bottom of this, because it is very serious.”



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