Apathy and Elections

What the UVSS Health Care Controversy tells us about students

In the spring of 2017, the UVSS Board of Directors voted to change the student health and dental plan to BC. Fair Pharmacare. This new plan offers a decrease in coverage for prescriptions of all kinds — though if you are a student at UVic you are probably already aware of this. Many students learned of the change only when they went to pick up their new prescription and were charged 10 times more than expected.

The decision to change the student health and dental plan was made after a UVSS referendum in the spring of 2017 failed to meet quorum with a scant 13.8 per cent voter participation. This referendum would have adjusted student fees (fees that went into the UVSS’ health care fund)  paid to the UVSS alongside Canada’s inflation target, which is capped at 2 per cent per year. Quorum for this referendum was 15 per cent of the eligible student voter population.

Now, granted, there are things that the UVSS can be criticized for regarding the health care situation. They could have made the upcoming changes to the health plan more clear and up-front in e-mails to registered students, and all parties involved in last spring’s election could have campaigned harder to raise voter participation (even the results for the board of directors came to a meagre 14.99 per cent).

But at what point does student apathy become the fault of the students? It’s easy to point fingers at an organization collectively screwing us over while twirling their dastardly waxed mustaches — that is easy precisely because that is not what happened. At the end of the day, the executive team of the UVSS are students, just like any of us. They are doing the best they can, but there is only so much they can do for a student body that doesn’t care.

But maybe the apathetic attitude of UVic’s student body is beginning to shift.

Take Lilia Zaharieva, for example. For anyone not yet aware, Zaharieva has cystic fibrosis and used the drug Orkambi to acquire a new lease on life. The cheaper health plan did not cover Orkambi, and Zaharieva relied on the student coverage for access to it. And the community response to her hardship was nothing short of astounding.

Both online and physical petitions began circulating, with one on change.org bearing just over 8 000 signatures as of the time of this writing.

The story has received news coverage by everyone from the Martlet to the CBC. People who were not students, who had no reason to come to the UVic campus, made a point of bussing there for the explicit purpose of signing these petitions. A story like this — people coming together to support and fight for someone whose life is at stake —  could warm the most cold and stoic of hearts.

Maybe the response to Zaharieva’s situation is a sign that things will change. People have experienced the consequences of choosing not to make an informed decision. Maybe they will put in the necessary effort to make sure that their time at this school can be the best that it possibly can be —

. . .

Y’all had one job.

It’s a sad time when members of the executive have to personally walk up to students and beg them to attend the AGM just to meet quorum. It’s even worse when they are met with laughter and derision. These people are doing their jobs to the best of their ability, and unfortunately the “best of their ability” requires you to pay attention. Maybe it means missing a single lecture, or maybe it means staying on campus later than you would have wanted to. If the timing for meetings or elections are inconvenient, you can easily attend any of the UVSS’ public meetings to suggest a change that would work better for everybody.

But if you really gave a shit about the people who can’t afford their life-saving drugs, you would give a shit before the crisis starts.

I have participated as much as I can during the span of my degree, but, as I have just completed it, I am not able to anymore. It makes watching people ignore this kind of thing all the more painful. I do truly hope that the people reading this take any part of this to heart. Because people not getting involved in politics is the direct cause of too many problems in the world. Apathy is a bad habit to have.

You have the power to affect all of this. You can make your campus and your world better by giving a shit and taking action.

The UVSS is trying to find some solution to the health care issue thanks to the student response; through petitions and town halls and consultations, people are working to make a difference. But by the same token, the trash fire you build is the one you’re gonna be stuck with.

Some of you are going to attend the University of Victoria for half a decade. Think very carefully about what you want those years to be like, both for yourself and for the people around you.

Your years at university don’t need to suck, but they definitely can if you let them.

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