Discontinuation of VIPIRG funding to be called to a referendum if motion passes on Monday

If the motion passes at Monday’s UVSS board meeting, VIPIRG’s student levy will be put to a referendum in February’s UVSS election

Photo accessed via vipirg.ca.

On Monday, Jan. 7, the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) voted to hold an emergency meeting the following Monday — Jan. 14. At this meeting, the UVSS board will try to pass a whole host of motions, including one that could put at risk the non-profit organization Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG).

VIPIRG functions out of the Student Union Building, and is funded almost entirely by student fees. Their mandate is to conduct research in the public interest, as well as to financially support students at UVic through a community grants program. The organization also holds events, workshops, and has a publicly-available library with alternative resources.

“Our work is carried out by the volunteer board (Coordinating Collective), University of Victoria students and community volunteers, and staff. Our organization is made up of almost entirely students,” states their website.

According to the proposed agenda on the UVSS website, in a motion put forth by Director-at-Large Eric Jakubowski, students would have the opportunity to answer the following question in the upcoming UVSS elections in February:

“Are you in favour of ending the fee, which is $3.00 for full time students per semester and $1.50 for part time students per semester, that goes towards the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG)?”

Should the motion pass at the Monday’s upcoming board meeting, then the question of VIPIRG’s funding could fall in the hands of the small percentage of students that typically vote in UVSS elections.

VIPIRG states on its website that they are “funded almost entirely through ancillary student fees; $3.00 per full-time undergraduate student and $1.50 per part-time undergraduate student and $2.00 per graduate student, per term. These fees cover all of VIPIRGs operating costs: office space, human resources, library resources, funding for working groups, campaigns, and publications.”

Therefore, without these student fees, VIPIRG’s existence could be at risk.

According to the proposed motion in the Jan. 14 agenda, Jakubowski’s reasons for bringing VIPIRG’s student fees to a referendum are as follows:

 

  • Students should have the ability to critically evaluate the fees they pay.

 

  • VIPIRG receives $115 000 from students per year.

 

  • VIPIRG’s bylaws state that their fee should be re-established by the membership through a referendum from time to time, and such a referendum has not occurred since the 1990s when the organization was established.

 

Note: The agenda states that VIPIRG was established in the 1990s, while VIPIRG was actually established in 1988.

 

  • External auditors recently brought up some concerns regarding VIPIRG’s finances — specifically regarding bank reconciliations, grants issued by VIPIRG, minimal board meeting minutes, and a lack of itemized receipts for business expenses.

 

  • VIPIRG is meant to serve the broader community and not just the campus community or students in particular.

 

Note: VIPIRG’s website states that they do in fact exist to serve the UVic community in addition to the wider community.  

 

  • Based on this statement, however, the motion concludes by arguing that according to the UVSS 2018 Annual Survey, a majority of students believe that ‘student-focused’ is the UVSS’s most important value — seeming to make the argument that VIPIRG is not student-focused.

 

In 2016, a similar motion was proposed — and quickly rescinded. Jordan Quitzau, the then-UVSS Director of Events, had put forward a motion for VIPIRG’s student fee to be questioned in a referendum.

In response to the news, a group of students mobilized in action, starting a change.org petition, and attending the UVSS meeting where the proposed motion would be voted on.

At the time, VIPIRG had made a presentation at the beginning of the meeting, urging the board to not vote in favour of the motion.

Dakota McGovern, VIPIRG’s then-community engagement coordinator, had said that defunding the organization would “set a dangerous precedent” for the relationships between the UVSS and other SUB occupants.  

Duncan Jones, another VIPIRG coordinator at the time, had said the organization represents “charity, compassion, self-inquiry, and humanitarianism . . . turned into research and social activism, and had asked the board to “rectify its mistake” and rescind the motion.

In the end, the board rescinded the motion.

Over two years later, VIPIRG once again faces a similar situation.

The Board of Directors meeting that will see this motion proposed will be held in the Upper Lounge of the Student Union Building on Monday, Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. These meetings are open to the public — or you can follow our live coverage at twitter.com/themartlet.

Leave a Reply