After contracting a cold over the holiday period, I arrived at 2017’s first UVSS meeting with bronchitis. Unfortunately, that may have been the least painful experience of the four-hour marathon student politics session.
The board entertained a range of ideas, from the nitty-gritty policy definition for future fee referendums to the notion of lending a club $15 000 in order to help fund a concert in Vancouver.
Here’s your recap of the UVSS board meeting on Monday, Jan. 9.
UVSS MEETING DRAWS CROWD
Not many people usually attend the board meetings in their spare time, but several groups in the SUB have recently committed to showing up and holding its members accountable after the board made some shady decisions with no one looking last month — more on that here.
That comes after the board voted to add a referendum question to spring election ballots directly concerning the student levy for VIPIRG (the Vancouver Island Public Research Group) without informing the group that such a proposal was being discussed.
The board rescinded the referendum question the next week after sparking considerable backlash from VIPIRG and other members. That didn’t entirely alleviate fears of something similarly shady happening again — but if it was all a ploy to see more people show up to Monday night board meetings then it really was a stroke of genius.
UVSS DECLINES SUPPORTING CONFERENCE FOR CANADIAN INDIAN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
First on the agenda was a presentation from UVic’s Indian Student Association (ISA), who are hosting the first ever national conference for Indian students at Canadian universities. The conference, which can be attended for free, will be held in Victoria but financed with a concert to be held in either Victoria or Vancouver. The ISA were hoping for any help the UVSS could give them — including a $15 000 loan for a deposit in booking a concert venue.
The board declined all requests. In regards to the loan, Kevin Tupper, UVSS director of finance and operations, explained that the society doesn’t actually have $15 000 lying about. The board also declined any social media/promotional help, with the reasoning that the board cannot favour one group above any other at UVic. While Tupper wished the ISA representative all the best, he reiterated that the board’s hands were tied.
FOOD BANK FEE INCREASE GOES TO REFERENDUM
Next up was a motion to add a referendum question to the UVSS election ballots in the spring. The referendum will ask students if they support a fee increase of 75 cents per full-time student, and 37 cents per part-time student, with proceeds going to the UVSS Food Bank. Full-time students currently each pay $1.50 per year, while part-time students pay $0.75.
Food Bank coordinators Jasmine Robertson and Courtney Striker explained that the increase would address a growing demand in both the number of students who use their services and the number of services being offered, made their case with a brief presentation.
The board voted in favour of adding the referendum to the ballot, as well as formally offering their support to the referendum.
UVSS BOARD DIVIDED ON PREVENTING “VIPIRG 2.0”
Then came the real meat of the meeting. The board introduced a motion that would reduce their own ability to call a referendum that involved the fees of groups that receive levies from students at UVic (groups like VIPIRG, UVic Pride, and even your very own Martlet).
The motion can be paraphrased as follows:
First, in the case of a referendum being put forward to adjust an affiliated group’s fees (either to be increased, decreased, or re-allocated), the group must be given a week’s notice.
Second, 2/3rds of the board members present must agree to send the question to ballot, and at least 2/3rds of the board’s total members must be present when voting.
However, some on the board argued the motion didn’t go far enough. With Director-at-Large Michelle Brown and Third Space representative Kenya Rogers leading discussions, an amendment was proposed that would change the motion to require permission (rather than just give notice) from a group before their finances could be altered in a referendum.
Some agreed— Alysha Flipse, interim director of outreach and university relations, Kevin Tupper, and Emma Kinakin, director of student affairs, all thought permission should be required. Others— notably Alec Dawydiak, director-at-large— thought that while groups deserved more power over their fees being put to a referendum, requiring permission from those groups was going too far in that respect.
The discussion was sidetracked in favour of discussing the nitty-gritty of how permission would have to be granted— would each group have their own mechanism for giving the board permission to send their fees to a referendum?— and to which groups the policy would apply to. These discussions lasted for over an hour and a half— with the board breaking from Robert’s Rules at one point in order to more effectively debate policy— but ultimately went nowhere.
With the key issue not fully discussed— the idea that requiring permission from a group gave them too much power and little accountability over their own fees— the motion failed. With it failed the provision to require 2/3rds of 2/3rds of the board to vote on any fee referendums — a motion that no one on the board denied was a reasonable idea but got swept up in among dissent to the motion it lay within.
The tension in the room after the motion failed was palpable, and most were now ready to leave. It was 10 o’clock at night, and there is a hard limit on how long people can discuss student politics without losing their minds.
OH MAN, NOT FREE SPEECH AGAIN
Before they did, however, there was one more controversy to address. While discussing the ratification of new clubs (with Clubs and Course Union Days taking place two days later) concerns were raised about a Free Speech Club.
The club, who are interested in hosting all points of view— even those deemed controversial — bears a similar name to a controversial club at the University of British Columbia and a Facebook group that surfaced at UVic last year — UVic Students for Free Speech and Accountability.
Both Rogers and Brown argued for delaying ratification until the club could present to the board and prove their mandate wasn’t problematic. But other board members, including Tupper and Jordan Quitzau, director of events, argued that the board shouldn’t delay ratification since the club hadn’t done anything wrong (and that delaying ratification would simply play into the club’s narrative).
The counter-argument was that the name itself was so loaded that caution must be taken, and that the safety of students was more important than potentially offending this certain group.
The board eventually voted to delay ratification, though the vote was close— seven for, five against— and a few board members had left by this point. The club is slated to present to the board at the next meeting on Monday, Jan. 16.
IF YOU THOUGHT THAT WAS LONG, YOU SHOULD’VE BEEN THERE
In summary, the board voted to add a referendum question for the Food Bank but declined to strengthen rules surrounding how to send future fee increases/decreases to the ballot. They also decided to delay ratification for the Free Speech Club in order to make sure there are no harmful viewpoints being encouraged within that group.
Coming up soon is the board’s semi-annual general meeting, where we’ll all vote on whether or not to define a four-hour UVSS board meeting as cruel and unusual torture.
OK, fine, I made that up.
The next UVSS board meeting is on Monday, Jan. 16, at 6 p.m. in the SUB Upper Lounge.