We need campus events. Student societies are unparalleled in their direct connection to campus culture and community. They also have a specific mandate to serve students, and are uniquely equipped to do so. In theory, events put on by the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) should be widely appealing, culturally appropriate, and highly valuable to the student population. These occasions are fantastic opportunities to create a vibrant, active, and connected campus.
So I am slightly disappointed by the result of November’s referendum.
To recap: the UVSS was looking for a $2 (per full-time student, per term) increase in fees to put into a dedicated events budget. After a 16 per cent turnout of the eligible student voters, the additional funds were denied. As somebody who doesn’t drink coffee, I was fully supportive of creating an outlet for my small change. Aside from that, I think that campus events could greatly benefit from some additional financial help—it would allow the UVSS to bring in larger acts of all varieties, as well as provide the financial security that permits greater flexibility. In turn, this could facilitate a wider variety of events, and open up opportunities for students to participate in the creative or organizational process. Events could include music, comedy, speaking series, pancake breakfasts, town hall meetings, or other things. Watching the most surefire way to ensure more financial help get shot down was a little disheartening.
Can these benefits be achieved without the extra money? They could if we look for partnerships, dig deep for further operational efficiencies, and consider other creative solutions. But this effectively means a lot more complication and uncertainty than getting the money directly from students. As the referendum pamphlets asserted, the UVSS does indeed sit at the “kids table” as far as budgets go. Our relatively tiny pot of funds has been skillfully utilized by recent events directors. Last year’s Frost Fest and the upcoming second incarnation are great examples; however, notably absent are the international-level, frequent, and varied acts that other Canadian student societies are able to invest their money in. Local art and performance deserve the support of the UVSS, but we should also be able to welcome and showcase a broader spectrum of talent. Yes, the University of Victoria and Farquhar Auditorium do run events, but we have little control over what they put on. Beyond that, the price is often prohibitive for students. For the recent Barenaked Ladies show at the Farquhar, the cheapest ticket was $95.
Part of the difficulty the UVSS faces is general disconnect. With a meagre 16 per cent of students voting, 58 per cent said no to the $2 increase. If you were actively against the concept, fair enough. Perhaps you would prefer other methods of fundraising, or feel you don’t attend enough campus events to make it worthwhile; however, not voting at all makes it incredibly difficult for the UVSS to understand what students want. Without participation, it is vexing to determine what types of acts you would like to see, how and where you want to see them, and even what type of budget the true majority supports. The apathy of young people stretches far beyond Ring Road—you need only to look at the last federal or provincial election to see that. The UVSS cannot be entirely blamed for low turnouts or lack of connection. Although there are certainly further steps that they could take to engage; it is a two-way street—involvement relies on the students as well.
We have the opportunity to let the UVSS work for us. We can realize a greater cultural connectivity through events catered directly to students. But it won’t happen without our participation. So how can we engage? There are weekly Events Committee meetings that any student is welcome to join. You can attend shows at Felicita’s, Vertigo, and elsewhere on campus, or send the Director of Events your suggestions and hopes for future acts. The UVSS is also open to partnerships in event organization, should your club or union like to create your own. For their part, the student union could make an effort to seek out and utilize suggestions. They could also work to make the expertise and resources of the UVSS more available to those seeking to put on events.
Even without the extra $2 per person, we have resources and options at our fingertips. It is time to put them to use—our campus will be more vibrant as a result.