UVSS CEO recommends second VIPIRG referendum

Campus News

Recommendation based on policy that prevents VIPIRG from advocating for itself due to third-party status

Photo accessed via vipirg.ca.

A week after the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) released the results of the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG) referendum, there’s been a call to redo the entire vote.

After conducting an investigation into the results of the referendum — a 57.3 to 42.7 per cent vote against ending the VIPIRG fee of $3.00 for full-time and $1.50 fee for part-time students — Gary Nason, Chief Electoral Officer of the UVSS, issued a ruling that found multiple violations occurred during the election process which warrant a revote.

Nason specifically points to a UVSS Electoral policy bylaw that forbids third-party on-campus groups — such as the Martlet, CFUV, and VIPIRG — from interfering in an Electoral Event.

In this case, because VIPIRG conducted a “no” campaign to advocate for the continuation of its student levy, and VIPIRG itself is considered a third-party on-campus group, then Nason found that VIPIRG, as a third-party on-campus group, interfered in the referendum through its various “no” campaign measures.

“I rule that Referendum No. 4 be declared invalid pursuant to Sections 5.9.4 (d), 5.9.6 and 6.1(n) of the Policy. Assuming that the Jan.14, 2019 motion of the UVSS Board to take the matter of the fee levy in question to a referendum has not otherwise been repealed or rescinded, it is my further view that the referendum should be conducted again, as soon as possible,” he said in the ruling.

Nason’s findings make reference to an amendment passed earlier in the year by the UVSS board which crippled the powers of some on-campus groups in the event of a referendum questioning their funding.

Section 5.9.5(d) of the Electoral Policy, which rules any interference that’s an “overt attempt to interfere with the administration of a free and fair Electoral Event” is a disqualifiable offence for the CEO to punish and call for a revote based off sections 5.9.6 and 6.1(n).

“The Chief Electoral Officer’s ruling that a new referendum be held is a logical conclusion given the findings of [the referendum’s] compromised integrity,” said Eric Jakubowski, UVSS Director-at-Large and the official proponent of the referendum, over email.  

“UVic’s students deserve a fair and equitable electoral process in all cases, and this clearly did not occur.”

VIPIRG, in an emailed statement to the Martlet, said Nason’s findings make reference to an amendment passed earlier in the year by the UVSS board which crippled the powers of some on-campus groups in the event of a referendum questioning their funding.

“The CEO makes reference to an amendment to the electoral policy which the current UVSS board passed earlier in the year which effectively paralyzes fee-levied groups in the event of a referendum regarding their funding,” said VIPIRG.

“This motion is intended to ensure that these groups, including VIPIRG, cannot campaign, advertise, promote, or advocate for their organizations, services, values, or jobs.”

“This includes groups such as independent news and media outlets [like] The Martlet and CFUV. This was not a coincidence. This motion is intended to ensure that these groups, including VIPIRG, cannot campaign, advertise, promote, or advocate for their organizations, services, values, or jobs.”

Specifically, in his report, Nason cites that the respondent’s use of a third party on-campus broke multiple sections of the UVSS Electoral Policy.

The third party, whos is referred to as “The respondent” in the document, is alleged to have broken 10 different sections of the policy during the election.

Nason says the respondent helped place posters in residences, distributed posters not certified and stamped by the Electoral Office, and worked with prohibited third party on-campus groups on a public relations and media strategy — all of which constitute violations of the UVSS Electoral Policy.

“Given that I have determined that a disqualifiable offence has been committed by the respondent relative to this referendum, I do not consider it necessary to decide on the allegations related to defamation and intentional misrepresentation of the facts.”

On Mar. 11 and 13, the respondent — VIPIRG — provided a response to Nason’s investigation, saying the complaints do not apply to them because they were neither the proponent or opponent of the referendum, candidate, or slate manager.

“The student body has spoken and we won the referendum. It is clear that UVSS members want to see VIPIRG around.”

The respondent said in the report they were external from the election, and didn’t place posters in any residences or work directly with on-campus groups for a media strategy.

Instead, if individual students placed posters in their dorm room, they said that is the jurisdiction of individuals and community leaders, and since they weren’t the official opponent of the referendum, they didn’t need their posters stamped by anyone else besides authorities in the specific buildings.

“VIPIRG is an independent incorporated non-profit organization. Any testimonials received from faculty or students or community members about our organization (which we always receive on an ongoing basis from anyone who would like to submit one), are within the purview of our rights as an independent organization to be posted online or anywhere else, as appropriate,” said VIPIRG.

“The student body has spoken and we won the referendum. It is clear that UVSS members want to see VIPIRG around. We are excited for the next 30 years of community based research and action in the Greater Victoria area.”

This article was updated on March 23 at 11:41 a.m. to reflect statements by VIPIRG were made by VIPIRG as a whole, rather than a sole individual.