Undergrads head to ballot box for Pride referendum

Illustration by Niusha Derakhshan, Design Director
Illustration by Niusha Derakhshan, Design Director

On Thursday, Nov. 26, UVic students will have the opportunity to vote in a UVSS Referendum deciding whether or not they support a fee increase for UVic Pride. The purpose of the increase is to expand Pride’s accessible resource initiatives, such as safer sex, harm reduction, and gender resources.

The referendum proposes a student fee increase of 74 cents per full-time student per semester and 37 cents per part-time student per semester. Pride currently receives 95 cents per full-time student.

Selina Beltran is the official proponent of the referendum. In an interview with the Martlet, Beltran was joined by Pride’s office coordinator, Tri Nguyen, and the UVSS board represen-tative for Pride, Sara Maya.

“[We have] a total annual budget of around $50 000 . . . It changes every year because the number of students changes every year,” says Nguyen. “[That money] pays for absolutely everything in our centre, as the UVSS doesn’t subsidize anything.”

This budget covers payment for two part-time coordinators, as well as all of Pride’s events, books, harm reduction supplies, safer sex supplies, and gender-affirming resources like binders, packers, and breast forms.

“So many people access all of the resources,” said Beltran. “They’re all really important.”

Kevin Tupper, a third-year economics student at UVic, had been ratified as the official opposition to the referendum, but has since withdrawn his name.

“My opposition was never to what UVic Pride does,” said Tupper. “I think they’re an integral part of campus and they’re a really important organization at UVic . . . I think they’ve done great work and will continue to do great work. My opposition to this referendum was completely, a hundred per cent derived from the questionable financial practices of the UVSS.”

Tupper noted that the UVSS has been relying more and more on student fees over the past few years to run their operations.

“If you look at student fees as a ratio of the total revenue that the UVSS brings in, back in 2012 . . . 42 per cent of all their revenue came from students; right now it’s over 50 per cent . . . So my opposition to the referendum is because there are glaring holes to the UVSS’ finances, and meanwhile they’re asking students for more money again.”

While the UVSS continues to run deficits, organizations such as Pride depend on student fees to survive.

“The reason I’ve withdrawn,” said Tupper, “is because UVic Pride has made it very clear that in order to continue operating, they need this money . . . If striking down this referendum would really hurt UVic Pride to the degree that they said it would, that’s not something I wanted to see happen.”

In the event of the referendum failing to pass, the Pride collective would risk having to choose who accesses crucial resources, which they claim contradicts their values of equality and inclusivity. Pride also faces cutting staff responsible for administering programming and resource distribution.

Sara Maya further added that many non-LGTBQ students use Pride’s services, especially their harm reduction supplies, their safe sex supplies, and their free menstrual products.

“We’ve gone through 5 000 condoms so far already this one semester, so that’s really well used,” said Nguyen, stressing that, “nobody else does this. Nobody else provides these resources, except for us.”

Despite having once been on opposite sides of the referendum, both Tupper and Pride agree that voting in the referendum is vital.

“I think it’s really important that students get engaged [and] vote in the referendum,” said Tupper. “We want to see a referendum that reflects the will of all students, not just the 15–20 per cent that traditionally votes . . . It doesn’t matter how they vote, as long as they vote.”

Students can vote online, or at one of nine polling stations around campus. The polls open at 9 a.m. on Nov. 26 and close at 9 a.m. on Nov. 27. More info is available at uvicpride.ca/referendum.