One side does not fit all

Editorials Opinions

Lack of options in UVSS election means important issues go unmentioned

This year’s UVSS election is taking on a different appearance than years’ past. Generally the election has at least two full slates with a number of independent candidates. (Like political parties, slates give students the opportunity to work together on a cohesive platform.) But this year, there is just the one slate, Envision UVic, and only two independent candidates running in opposition for lead director positions.

Of the five lead director positions, only Director of Student Affairs and Director of Campaigns and Community Relations have more than one candidate running. All 11 Director-at-Large nominees are from the Envision UVic slate. Because they are running unopposed, they are “acclaimed” — as long as they’re not disqualified, they will all be on the board next year.

The three lead directors who are running unopposed will still need to garner a “yes” vote from the majority of the students who vote in order to be elected to the board. However, even in the event that the majority of students vote “no” for the lead director candidates who are running unopposed, those vacant positions will most likely be appointed from the existing pool of already-acclaimed Directors at Large.

Essentially, no matter what happens with the lead director positions, Envision UVic will have an overwhelming majority on the UVSS board of directors because of their 11 acclaimed Directors-at-Large.

For now, issues that deserve criticism and discussion—like the current board’s handling of the health care plan—have gone unmentioned

It is not the fault of the candidates that there are so few people interested in leading the UVSS, but it does present problems for the election — namely a lack of accountability, diversity, and dialogue.

Take health care, for example.

In May 2017, the 2016–2017 UVSS board voted to switch health care plans due to an increase that saw premiums spike significantly. The switch did not go over well. Studentcare, the third-party company in charge of administering the health plan, failed to properly notify students, and high-profile cases like that of Lilia Zaharieva, whose student health plan no longer covered her $250 000 a year Cystic Fibrosis medication, dominated headlines.

Despite relatively successful terms from a few lead directors, the health care snafu will most likely be what is remembered from this board’s tenure.

If there were two slates running this year, we would no doubt see plenty of discussion about the UVSS health care plan. Considering Envision UVic is, for all intents and purposes, a descendant of this year’s board — it carries the same “En” name and three of the Envision candidates served on the board last year — it would be easy for a second slate to effectively critique the board’s handling of health care and other situations.

Instead, we have a slate and two independents who don’t make any mention of health care at all.

The responsibility, then, falls onto the shoulders of voters

Envision’s choice to disregard the mistakes of last year’s board does not suggest that they are dedicated to fixing the mistakes made and holding themselves to a higher standard.

And while the positions the independent candidates are running for don’t directly deal with the health plan, their seeming reluctance to critique last year’s board does not bode well for holding next year’s board accountable should they be elected.

As it stands now, the two non-Envision candidates are in an impossible situation, and the election is the worse for it. Even in a best case scenario where they win, they’ll still be a small minority amongst a sweep of Envision board members. So rather than being able to focus on winning their own race at any cost, they’re having to balance saying enough to defeat a specific Envision member while holding back to alienate the inevitable Envision board.

For now, issues that deserve criticism and discussion—like the current board’s handling of the health care plan—have gone unmentioned, and that undermines an electoral process that should be about vetting future candidates as thoroughly as possible.

The responsibility, then, falls onto the shoulders of voters. If politicians can’t or won’t engage with each other, then we must ask the difficult questions ourselves and hold them accountable to the promises they make or the issues they fail to mention.

All sides’ electoral campaigns are still in their infancy, and we hope that we see more serious debate and discussion in the Lead Directors and All Candidates debate on Tuesday, Feb. 27. But if these initial platforms are anything to go off, it looks like we are in for another year without debate or accountability at the board level — no matter who is elected.