The UVSS Board of Directors voted unanimously to rescind a motion that would put the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group’s (VIPIRG) fee to a student referendum after directors were taken to task by its membership at last night’s board meeting.
The referendum, which was proposed last week by Jordan Quitzau, UVSS director of events, would have asked if students supported removing the mandatory $3 fee for VIPIRG and re-allocating part of it to the Food Bank & Free Store, clubs, and course unions.
The board quickly backtracked, however, after it was criticized by VIPIRG and other members of the society over lack of transparency, and for pushing a vote through with a third of the directors missing.
Kevin Tupper, UVSS director of finance and operations, issued an apology late that evening, saying he would be moving for the board to rescind the motion at its meeting last night.
First we have a presentation from VIPIRG. Lots of applause from the assembled audience.
— The Martlet (@TheMartlet) December 13, 2016
Click through for a full live-tweet of last night’s meeting.
Membership mobilizes to oppose referendum
In response to the motion, VIPIRG went on the offensive, with a change.org petition and Facebook event inviting students to attend last night’s meeting and voice their opposition to the referendum.
Far more students than usual filled the SUB Upper Lounge for the meeting, which began with a presentation from VIPIRG.
Dakota McGovern, VIPIRG’s community engagement coordinator, said that the organization supports a number of community-based initiatives, and that defunding it would “set a dangerous precedent” for the relationships between the UVSS and other SUB occupants.
Duncan Jones, another VIPIRG coordinator, said the organization represents “charity, compassion, self-inquiry, and humanitarianism . . . turned into research and social activism.” He then asked that the board “rectify its mistake” and rescind the motion.
The presentation was followed by nearly three hours of pointed criticism and questions from students and members of affiliated UVSS groups.
One issue raised on multiple occasions was how there was nothing to stop the board from putting not just VIPIRG’s but any student group’s fees to a referendum, and that it wasn’t clear why VIPIRG was singled out — especially when other groups like the Martlet and CFUV have larger fees.
Many speakers called the board out for questioning the merits of VIPIRG’s research and role in the community. Katrina Woolgar, a former UVSS director-at-large, called it “insulting.”
The debate was tense more often than not, with members of the gallery and directors alike speaking over each other. Much of the gallery’s ire was directed at Quitzau, whose motivations behind the referendum was repeatedly called to question.
Kaylee Szakacs, former UVSS director of student affairs, asked Quitzau if he’d handle the situation differently after this week. “Oh, God, yes,” he said.
But for the most part, he stuck to his guns, arguing that letting students opt in to paying the fee gives them more choice rather than less. “If students support VIPIRG they can still opt in,” he said. “Those who support VIPIRG can donate money.”
UVSS reputation and legacy damaged, says members
Finally, with a roll call vote unanimously in favour — including Quitzau — the board rescinded its motion and corrected what many saw as a terrible mistake. But even with the motion rescinded, the damage was done for some.
Daphne Shaed, former Third Space coordinator, told the board that she “lost faith in y’all,” and that she would attend every board meeting from now on due to the “shady” nature of last week’s motion.
And Heather Middlemass, another former director-at-large, hoped the board would seriously consider the concerns raised, as the mistakes made would shape the legacy the board leaves behind.
To their credit, many of the board members expressed remorse over how things played out.
Maxwell Nicholson, director of campaigns and community relations, apologized for his role in pushing the motion forward last week, and admitted that “process wasn’t followed.”
Tupper acknowledged that the board would be dealing with a “loss of trust” for the remainder of its term, and that the relationships it built with affiliated groups will not be the same.
The next UVSS board meeting will take place on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.