UBC students vote to keep Whistler Lodge

Cabin is costing money, but appeal of location and cheap accommodation wins out

The UBC Whistler Lodge will continue to be owned and operated by the student society at the University of British Columbia, despite recent efforts by the Alma Mater Society's (AMS) student government to sell it.

A referendum question on allowing the sale of the Whistler Lodge was included on the ballot for the AMS elections that that wrapped up Friday (Jan. 27). Even though the "yes" voters outnumbered those who voted no by 46 votes, the question failed to meet quorum and failed to pass. Voter turnout amounted to 11.6 per cent, with 5,789 students voting.

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"We did rally the troops, we emailed people out, made it a huge deal and it helped people become knowledgeable about the issue," said Charlott Sandor Johansen, the president of the UBC Ski and Board Club. With almost 900 members, the club is one of the biggest on campus. "I think we increased the vote by doing that, the overall vote."

The UBC Whistler Lodge is a 42-bed hostel that is available to both students and the general public at affordable rates.

In a Jan. 22 letter to The Ubyssey, UBC's student paper, Elin Tayyar, vice president of finance for the AMS, urged the student body to vote "yes" on the referendum question.

"The reality is that students don't use it," Tayyar said in the letter. "In fact, more non-students benefit from the highly subsidized operation than students."

An initiative to expand the number of beds in the lodge to create a more economical model was looked at, he stated, but was denied by the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

According to Tayyar, the sale of the lodge would not only save UBC students over $100,000 per year, it would provide increased funding for student services and programming at no additional cost as well as help lower student fees.

"From an economic perspective I understand his dilemma, and yes, that it is a money drain," said Johansen. "But as we've been saying in the last couple weeks we don't think enough effort's been done besides checking the economic situation."

By implementing innovative measures such as offering different services within the hostel, removing some of the strict operational constraints and improving the advertising, Johansen said she thinks the lodge can become a more profitable property for the AMS and a better service for the students.

"There's a whole change that needs to happen within the lodge if they want to keep it sustainable," she said. "The Whistler Lodge is one of the only tangible services that the AMS offers."

Johansen also has heard from club members that the enhanced rules at the lodge are too strict, which make it a less desirable place for students to stay.

"I think that's also an issue, because it's a hostel for mostly students and they want to have a good time," she said.

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