Motion to reprimand interim Director of Events discussed in online meeting
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) Board of Directors met in the penultimate meeting of the 2019/20 term for nearly three hours through the online video conference app Zoom.
While the original agenda included a call to ratify the results of the 2020 UVSS elections and various other financial motions to transport funds to cover installations in the Student Union Building, an amendment was brought forward to the board that would place punishment on a Lead Director.
The motion, raised by Society of Students with a Disability (SSD) representative Natalie Blecha, asked the board at the start of the meeting to include a motion to reprimand the interim Director of Events, Kai Richins, for asking targeted questions to Isabella Lee, a candidate for Director of Outreach and University Relations in the student election last month. The motion also asked for the board to offer a formal apology to Lee.
“On March 3, 2020, during the question period of the Lead Directors Debate, current Interim Director of Events Kai Richins purposely targeted Isabella Lee, candidate for Director of Outreach and University Relations, by asking her hostile questions prefaced with blatant untruths demeaning to her character with the express intent to humiliate her in public,” the motion read.
On Mar. 3, at the Lead Directors debate, Richins pressed Lee on her presence at the Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en demonstrations at the legislature. Richins said Lee only showed up once at the legislature for a photo-op. However, Lee responded that she showed up multiple times and donated to the cause, criticizing Richins for misrepresenting her at the debate.
The motion to amend the agenda passed with six yes votes, four no votes, and a few absententions from board directors — and was added to the end of the agenda.
Following the adoption of the new agenda, Shawn Slavin, UVSS Chief Electoral Officer, gave the board a presentation on the 2020 election. Slavin reflected on the implementation of “cooperatives” instead of slates in this year’s election, and said the biggest question that was brought up was how candidates could campaign — specifically, through liking or sharing posts from other candidates and third party organizations such as the Martlet and CFUV. He added there will need more transparency going forward in future elections with this new format.
“Candidates were looking for some additional clarity around permitted campaigning activities,” Slavin said. “It all stems around one of the policies in the EPM that candidates may not make references to other candidates, including other cooperative members and campaign material, so further clarity is requested.”
Slavin also recommended that the Board of Directors make amendments around chalking policy, as he said there was a significant amount of chalking around campus this year and there were concerns from UVic facilities management around the quantity of chalk campaigning on buildings.
“The Office would recommend that the UVSS Board of Directors place restrictions on size, quantity, and permitted locations of all exterior chalking,” he said. “As well as clarity around candidate responsibility to remove all exterior chalking.”
Announcements and priority business
Following Slavin’s presentation and a brief question period, the board ratified the report and results of the election. The board also voted to postpone the financial results of the election until the accounting department is operational.
In the announcements portion of the agenda, Alannah James, UVSS Executive Director, said her primary goal is working to orientate the incoming board through online meetings. Dakota McGovern, Director of Finance and Operations, also said the SUB’s Food and Beverage department was on track to be in a surplus for the first time since 2014 before the building had to close due to COVID-19.
After announcements from the other directors and constituency organizations in the video meeting, the board moved into the priority business portion of the agenda.
The directors first approved a motion from McGovern to cover expenses for a replacement espresso machine that broke down earlier in the year at Bean There, and Blecha took the stage to motivate a motion that would see the board approve funding to implement a new ramp for the SSD office.
“This motion has been in the making for about 12 years in the SSD end, because every time a person in a wheelchair comes into the SSD they have to go all the way around, and the first thing they ask is ‘why isn’t there a ramp?’” she said.
The motion was carried by the board, and the UVSS will cover 45 per cent of the cost — with a maximum cost of up to $50 000 — for a new ramp.
Next up, the board approved a motion that would see the student society donate funds from various accounts into UVic’s COVID-19 Emergency Bursary.
Eventually, the remainder of the motions, all recommended by the Policy Development Committee and led by McGovern, were passed and the board returned to the amended motion led by Blecha.
After Director of Outreach and University Relations Jonathan Granirer reread the motion, Blecha took the floor to explain why she brought the motion forward.
“At the Lead Directors debate, I’m sure everyone that was there could attest to this, during the question period Director Richins led a particularly focused, targeted, and nasty set of questions towards Isabella,” she said. “Considering that it was in Director Richins’ workplace during his time of work, and he’s a spokesperson and a Lead Director for the UVSS, it made the entire UVSS board look really bad in my opinion.”
Blecha also mentioned that she felt three current members of the UVSS board members asked targeted questions in a hostile way.
Richins responded that saying he was framing his questions as hostile and untruths was disingenuous to his questions and concerns.
“To challenge claims made by somebody running to represent me in somewhat public office is, in my mind, a necessary step in elections, I disagree that my attempt was to humiliate,” he said.
Richins also added that he was asking those questions outside his time of work. He said he arrives for work at 8 a.m., and works a seven hour shift that is completed at 3 p.m. Richins showed the group a picture of him asking those questions at the debate at 5:30 p.m. — which he said was on his personal time — therefore suggesting that the situation and resolution should be held as a private matter.
Efe Türker, Director of International Student Relations, voiced support for Blecha’s motion.
“It may not be during your shifts, Kai [Richins], but it was an event that [the UVSS] have hosted and have had the position of power in, and the person that was targeted was the lowest and most vulnerable in that meeting room,” he said.
“I believe a formal apology is the best way to pursue this. I cannot stand down when there are people of colour — especially women of colour who are the most vulnerable of all this demographic — are being targeted.”
Blecha would go on to reiterate that not the entire board asked poignant questions at Lee, and many asked reasonable questions of both sides, but said the multiple questions in a row from UVSS members framing questions was inappropriate.
Juliet Watts, Director of Campaigns and Community Relations, who also asked Lee questions at the debate, reached out to Lee to see if her question caused any harm — and said she hoped Richins did the same. She added that although she can’t speak for the entire board, she was at the event as an individual voter and thought it shouldn’t be up to the board to give an apology for personal matters.
“Just due to the long nature of the preamble of many of the questions, that I think [Richins] should be embarrassed of, I don’t think it’s up to us as a board to issue an apology as many of these were personal questions,” she said.
After discussion, Granirer moved the motion to a vote, and the motion failed.
Following the vote, the Martlet was asked to exit the video meeting, and the board moved in-camera. The next, and final board meeting of the term will take place on Apr. 20 on Zoom.