The UVSS Board of Directors has quickly backtracked on a motion put forward at last night’s board meeting that would have seen students vote on funding currently allocated to the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG).
The referendum would have students choose between continuing to pay $3 per academic term to VIPIRG, or re-allocating half of the funds to the UVSS Food Bank and Free Store, Clubs Council, and Course Union Council, with a further reduction of $1.50 per student.
Just hours after the board had motioned to add the referendum question to UVSS election ballots in the spring, Director of Finance and Operations Kevin Tupper released a statement apologizing for the lack of transparency around the motion. Tupper promised to try and rescind the motion at the next board meeting on Monday, Dec. 12.
His full statement, in which he calls the decision-making process neither “fair, nor transparent, nor good governance,” is included below.
Jordan Quitzau, UVSS director of events, put forward the motion. He pointed to a similar referendum that took place at the University of Waterloo last September, wherein students voted with an overwhelming majority to eliminate the opt-out fee for the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG). He also cited the board’s mandate of “fiscal responsibility” as his rationale for proposing the referendum.
The motion was passed by a margin of nine votes for and three against, with two abstentions, but seven directors-at-large and advocacy group representatives were missing, including two board members who also work directly with VIPIRG.
Some board members were confused as to why Quitzau felt the motion needed to be passed that evening. Emma Kinakin, UVSS director of student affairs, attempted to table the motion until the following week, but that motion failed.
Both the motion itself and the way it was put forward raised concerns among various student groups.
Dakota McGovern, VIPIRG’s community engagement coordinator, was at the meeting for an unrelated presentation, but the motion to hold the referendum was only amended to the agenda after he had left.
Speaking with the Martlet, he didn’t believe the board were adequately informed before making their decision.
“I don’t think that multiple members know what VIPIRG does,” said McGovern. “This is a sizable amount of student fees that they’ve decided on without any consultation whatsoever . . . I think that it’s a serious issue.
VIPIRG itself took to Twitter to defend their work within the community, describing the UVSS’s decision-making process as “shady.” It has also started a change.org petition in opposition to the referendum.
— VIPIRG (@VIPIRG) December 6, 2016
— VIPIRG (@VIPIRG) December 6, 2016
Courtney Striker, Food Bank assistant coordinator, wrote on Facebook that the Food Bank does not support the referendum, and that it wasn’t consulted before the board meeting took place.
Quitzau confirmed today that he had not discussed the motion with either VIPIRG or the Food Bank before bringing it to the rest of the board.
But he disagreed with critics who say the process was not transparent.
“We could have been more transparent by . . . going around and talking about it,” said Quitzau, “but just because we didn’t do that doesn’t mean we weren’t transparent. It’s just that we weren’t as transparent as possible.”
Quitzau still hopes the referendum will be held, but he expects the motion to be rescinded at the next board meeting.
“I support [the referendum] but there are decisions that get brought up and shot down all the time,” Quitzau said. “If this goes onto the next board meeting and we do a re-vote and it passes, great; if it doesn’t, win some, lose some, you move on. You’re not going to see me make a big thing of it on social media.”
In his statement, Tupper made it clear that he would be inviting VIPIRG to discuss the motion at the next board meeting.
“We made a clear mistake,” wrote Tupper, “and now it is time for us to correct it.”
UPDATE 4:27 p.m.: We’ve added VIPIRG’s change.org petition created in response to the referendum to this article.
Kevin Tupper’s full statement, released last night: