Last Thursday, the UVSS Elections Office announced an all-Involve Board, effective May 1. This year’s student elections also yielded a two per cent increase in voter turnout, and a yes vote on all four referendum questions, including the much-debated issue of fossil fuel divestment.
“We were all very sad to imagine that some of us weren’t going to be elected,” said Chairperson-elect Brontë Renwick-Shields. “I don’t think any of us thought that [this] was going to happen.”
Though it is unusual to have a single slate elected into student government, Renwick-Shields has confidence in her team’s ability to operate in a positive and constructive way when they take office, and hopes that the diversity of the group will effectively replicate the multiplicity of a mixed-slate Board.
“We have students from all different faculties, from sociology to astrophysics, so it’s a diverse group of people to begin with,” she said. “We all have a really good working relationship and we’re all keen on attaining the same goals. There’s a potential for more progress to happen on the Board next year.”
In the weeks leading up to the election, Involve created strong consensus-building practices and shared equally in the planning and development of their campaign. “For me, it’s actually quite awkward to talk for the slate because I think that what we’ve really stressed is not having a hierarchy within the Board members,” Renwick-Shields said.
With the current UVSS Board still working on important issues like needs-based grants for students with B.C. integrated student loans, Renwick-Shields suspects that the new Board’s first actions will be greatly influenced by the results of current advocacy efforts. “First we have to learn our roles,” she said. “We have to get trained, of course, and figure out what our next step is going to be and what is most pressing at the time for students.”
That being said, issues like divestment, affordable student housing, needs-based grants, and greater support for students with learning disabilities are significant priorities for Involve moving forward. “Something that I’m really excited about right now is the fact [that] all the referendum questions passed,” Renwick-Shields said. “I think that gives us a lot of opportunity—especially with divestment.”
Newly-elected Director of Finance and Operations Tristan Ryan, who has worked closely with Divest UVic, stated in an email interview that “Divest UVic organizers have big plans for fulfilling the mandate for fossil fuel divestment.” Using resources from the UVSS, such as the graphics and marketing departments, Divest UVic plans to “foster engagement and amplify the voices of students calling on UVic for climate change [action],” according to Ryan.
“As Finance and Operations, I’ll be advocating for comprehensive, unbiased research into the financial merits and complexities of fossil fuel divestment,” he said. Ryan is confident that divestment is compatible with UVic’s financial well-being, and intends to use his new role to help engage stakeholders in a similar level of confidence.
Involve also intends to continue the positive initiatives that UVic’s current UVSS Board worked on this year, in particular their mental health strategies and food bank programs. “Of course, with campaigns the idea is to evolve and expand them,” said Renwick-Shields.