UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) Director of Events Ariel Mishkin resigned in early December for personal reasons. Chairperson Kelsey Mech says Mishkin made the decision to step down before students had voted down a proposed increase to their student fees on Nov. 27 in a UVSS events funding referendum.
Events funding proposal fails
The proposal would have expanded the special events budget by increasing per-semester fees by $2 for full-time students and $1 for part-time students. Of the 16 per cent of eligible voters who turned out, over half rejected the proposal.
According to the UVSS Election Office’s official results, the referendum failed with 41.44 per cent in favour of the increase, needing a minimum of 50 per cent to pass.
Riley Strother, a third-year undergraduate student who voted in favour of the proposal, expressed ambivalence towards the referendum, citing a lack of outreach explaining its details and an already thriving campus life. He said he did not expect special events as a part of his campus experience and outlined events already hosted by different groups on campus and in the city.
“I only actually [voted] because there was a ballot box just inside the library, and when I walked in, they were like, ‘Oh, you can vote for us on our computer right here.’ So it saved me the time,” he said.
While referenda typically have lower voter turnout than elections, this referendum showed low results. Mech said, “I think a part of that was, unfortunately, at the time we didn’t have a huge amount of capacity to go out to talk to students as much as we would usually like to about these kinds of things— because of some other things that were going on at the time.”
Director of Events steps down, is replaced
Ariel Mishkin’s resignation comes after a proposal largely led by her suffered defeat. She was unavailable for comment, but leading up to the vote expressed the following in an opinion piece for the Martlet and on the UVSS website: “When I look at the types of events other student societies across the country are able to hold, I feel frustrated and embarrassed that I am unable to offer students more. For example, Kid Cudi performed at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and Passion Pit at Algonquin College.”
In response to Mishkin’s departure, Mech said, “She had decided that she was going to resign for personal reasons before the referendum took place, but decided that she would stay and work through the referendum because that was something she was really committed to and wanted to continue.”
The planned resignation cannot be found in any posted board meeting minutes. Mishkin was unavailable for comment about the situation.
UVSS Research and Communication Co-ordinator Ben Johnson said in an email that he cannot release minutes in draft form until the Board gives its approval. The Nov. 4 meeting minutes are the most recent minutes posted to the UVSS site.
During the Dec. 9 board meeting, Lisa-Jane Hayfron was approved as the interim executive director of Events by resolution of the board. She and Kayleigh Erickson nominated themselves for the position, and Hayfron was elected by secret ballot. Her election corresponds with the bylaws concerning vacant positions on the Board of Directors which state, in section 9.5b, that a director may be elected by the board to fill a vacant executive director position.
Conference was to benefit society
The UVSS sometimes sends directors on paid conference trips in order to improve the services the society is able to offer its students. Leading up to the fall term, Mishkin attended a conference hosted by the Canadian Organization of Campus Activities (COCA) as a UVSS delegate, for which the Board approved $2 500 in funding.
In regards to Mishkin’s attendance at the conference and now resignation, Mech said, “We did not know at the time that she had plans to leave the following semester. At this point in time, she also did not know that she would not be completing her full year term.”
Mishkin and all executive directors’ annual base salary includes $29 184 before any benefits. As of January, Hayfron is receiving the same pay that Mishkin was receiving.
The events committee is commissioned to bring comedians, musicians, famous speakers and all things encompassed under the phrase, “big-name acts” to the university. The COCA conference offered advice on how to do this, including teaming up with nearby campuses. In the past, UVic has hosted the likes of Metric and David Suzuki—neither event financed by the UVSS—with typical UVSS-financed events including the campus kick-off, winter formal and UVic idol.
Mech said UVic’s event budget is much smaller than other Canadian universities relative in size. “Many people come to university expecting some sort of larger-scale events-culture, with stadium concerts or bigger name headliners, and at some universities they get that. But we just really can’t provide that here at UVic.”
The current event’s budget is approximately $17 000 with 10 per cent allocated to the speaker series. This leaves about $15 000 for special events. The proposed increase had potential to raise the budget to about $80 000, said Mech.
For UVic students who voted “no,” and even some who voted “yes” like Strother, it seems big name acts are not a concern. The university experience of big-name headliners will, for now, be filled by heavyweight academic guest lecturers, like political scientist Wendy Brown, whose upcoming visit is on Jan. 15.
As for students’ money, UVSS-related fees including the SUB renovation remain at $74.41 for full-time students and $37.21 for part-time students, based on amounts collected from students, as opposed to numbers listed on the UVSS website.