UVSS struggles to reach a consensus on their values ahead of Annual General Meeting

Campus News

The board debated a motion about their values for over an hour at their last meeting

File graphic by Niusha Derakhshan.

At the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) annual general meeting (AGM) on Oct. 29, UVic students will be able to offer their input on the UVSS’s values and, if they meet quorum, vote on the proposed values change. But during a discussion about those values at their last meeting, tensions escalated between board members.

Currently, the UVSS has five values: good governance, “FUN!”, excellence, service, and social justice. The motion proposed at the meeting hoped to add environmental sustainability and decolonization to the agenda for the AGM, where they could be ratified and officially added to the list. 

Director-at-Large Paarth Mittal and Director of Finance Caleb Burd brought forward a motion that asked the board to add a motion to the AGM agenda that would allow students to vote on the two new values. After a lengthy one-hour debate, an amended version of the motion was approved. 

Although none of the board members specifically spoke out against adding environmental sustainability or decolonization to the UVSS’s list of values, the wording in the motion that defined these values was called into question. 

Director-at-Large Reeve Henderson drew the board’s attention to the value of environmental sustainability, which affirmed that certain communities are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. Henderson said he wanted to see a citation behind this statement, “rather than making a statement without foundation [in our policy].”

Mittal responded to Henderson’s question by indicating that this statement is already well-established. 

“Those groups are more likely to be affected by the environmental impacts of climate change,” Mittal said. “I don’t think that the experiences of marginalized groups need a citation to prove it.”

Society for Students with a Disability Representative Natalie Blecha joined Henderson in requesting a citation, arguing that environmental racism isn’t a widely understood phenomenon among UVic students.

At this point, Burd moved to strike the sentence from the motion entirely. Although the value of environmental sustainability would stay, Burd proposed removing the sentence about the disproportionate effects of climate change on BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+, and working-class communities. 

Director-at-Large Victoria Ritchie said the debate made her and others emotional. After a heated interaction with Director-at-Large Abdul Abuelazm  — where he called Ritchie’s passionate language “not germaine”  — Director of Outreach and University Relations Sarina de Havelyn quickly moved the board to a recess. 

Afterwards, the board voted and approved the amended motion with the new sentence from Muir. 

The AGM is Oct. 29 at 2:30 p.m.. At the meeting, the board will ask for students’ votes on the topics on their agenda — which includes the motion about their values. Students will also have the opportunity to ask the board questions. 

At February’s semi-annual general meeting (SAGM), the UVSS also tried to change their values. They sought to add environmental sustainability and decolonization and remove “FUN” from the list. The motion was not voted on because they failed to meet quorum. 

Other motions on the agenda include policy changes to align their bylaws with the B.C. Societies Act and a motion to have board meetings use Democratic Rules of Order instead of the more complicated Robert’s Rules. 

Students that decide to attend the AGM will be entered in a draw for one of the following prizes: a $525 gift card towards a bike, an iPad 7, a $200 pair of headphones, bike lights, or one of three $100 Indigo gift cards. 

There is a bit of a trend of the UVSS failing to meet the quorum requirement of 115 students. This means that they failed to get enough students to attend, and therefore couldn’t pass any of the motions on the agenda. 

In the last seven years of SAGMs, the UVSS has never been able to hold quorum for more than a half an hour. Last year, the UVSS AGM broke their record — they held quorum for the entire meeting for the first time since 2015.

With the online format and expensive prizes, the UVSS is hoping that this year will be different.