Slate profile: Refresh UVic

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Mental HealthScreen Shot 2015-02-25 at 3.43.15 PM

Current UVSS Chairperson Kayleigh Erickson is running for re-election as part of Refresh UVic. “I promised students I would give it my all, and I did,” she said. Erickson says she fulfilled the goals promised from last year’s platform, including the new transit loop, mental health campaigns, and changes to harassment policy.

Refresh UVic hopes to continue the push for mental health, and widen the Health & Dental Plan to cover counselling. “You should not have to go see a doctor and have them decide if you’re stressed enough to go see a counsellor,” Erickson said. “I think that’s a huge barrier to services and getting the help you need. I want to change that.”

She also hopes to be able to continue hosting affordable mental health training sessions for students, staff, and faculty, funded through the UVSS’s first grant from Coast Capital.

Erickson diversified the Food Bank as its Director, and plans to continue expanding it to become a charitable organization. “[The food bank] really opened my eyes to the struggles students have. I’ve been really thinking [about] how I can help in that process,” she said. Erickson is a Community Leader on a sustainability floor in residence, working with students who are heavily involved with the Campus Community Gardens.

The charity process will take a full year, and allow students and community members to claim donations in their taxes. “Because we self-fund, we can only afford to put so much into it before we have to increase student fees,” she said. “It seems counter-productive to say, pay for a service that we have because you can’t afford to pay for things—we really want to see communities step up.”

Student Engagement

Following a 17 per cent voter turnout at last year’s UVSS elections, Refresh UVic is looking at creative ways to structure their Annual and Semi-Annual General Meetings, and incentivize voting.

Chris Tang, running for Director of Events, is well-connected in the events scene in Victoria, and is the co-founder of Atmos Events. Having also participated in the UVSS events committee, Tang hopes to bring his four years of experience to UVic, and “implement the changes [students] want to see.” Tang hopes to host a two-day music festival on campus.

“I’m looking for versatile and safe events. I want to foster a sense of community with my events, making sure it’s memorable—something students can look back [on],” Tang said.

After a year as chairperson, Erickson has learned to prioritize and listen to what students and the community want from the UVSS, including tackling social sustainability. “One of our main campaigns is affordable housing—we should be still pushing to decrease the residence fee increases and make it affordable for students on campus, and our community,” she said.

Residence fees were proposed to increase by 13 per cent. Erickson began the Student Rights campaign to speak to students in residence about the increases. “We’re seeing these huge increases, which are problematic on so many levels. Through [the UVSS, Board of Governors, and Senate], I know I can decrease them, and I know I can make a difference,” she said.

Running for a position as Director-at-Large, Gabriel Gutierrez believes reaching out to students on social media to be insufficient. “Really being out there on the street is important,” he said. “I really want to look at how the university is using the funds that are supposed to come in from raising the price of both tuition or housing.”

Advocacy and Sustainability

Gutierrez is looking to see which policies will be worth defending, and which policies will be worth changing. “From my own position, I want to increase transparency, and make the University accountable for what it’s spending,” he said.

According to Erickson, as part of SUB renovations, plans to replace bar stools at Felicita’s were expected to cost thousands of dollars. “You need to be looking for the most cost-effective way of doing things, especially because we’re using students’ money. At the end of the day, we need to be cognizant of that,” she said.

Erickson supports re-allocating money from the UVSS Election Fund to the food bank, as the funding level was set when the society still used paper ballots. After transitioning to online voting, money is now left over. She also supports the creation of a dedicated fee for the Students of Colour Collective, the only on-campus advocacy group without one.

“Every year they have to try finding money through the UVSS committees—it would be really nice to instead have them funded by students, and use that money to re-allocate for something that we think is important. In particular, maybe advocacy events,” she said.

Erickson would like to see the referendum for fossil fuel divestment pass. “I understand, as a student leader, how frustrating it is to go to your government on something you care about, and see no progress,” she said. She hopes to work closely with Wesley Boyd (running for Director of External Relations) and Lloyd Lin (running for Director of Finance) to collect research and information on other universities’ approaches to divestment, company stocks for investments, and to ensure student financial aid is unaffected.

Also running with Refresh UVic: 11 Directors-at-Large.

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