UVSS All Candidates Forum faces low attendance and limited disagreement

News UVSS election 2021

With most candidates acclaimed or running unopposed, contestation was low as referenda proponents push for quorum

Screen capture from the forum.

The All Candidates Forum is a staple of UVSS elections. Each year, prospective candidates and referendum proponents gather to debate their opponents and make their case for why they should be elected or their referenda passed. With only one contested board seat and general agreement between candidates on what the UVSS’s priorities should be, this year’s online forum saw sparse attendance and limited debate. Key issues raised by candidates included the need for a smooth transition back to in-person classes in the fall and maintained student activism regarding divestment and anti-racism.

This year was always going to be a little different. With the pandemic precluding in-person events, the UVSS Electoral Office was forced to hold the event online. This meant that candidates would be unable to participate in the usual rite of passage that is staring down their opponent on the Vertigo stage. 

However, this year’s election faced further challenges due to the low number of contested positions. All 11 director-at-large (DaL) positions have been acclaimed and all but one lead director positions are uncontested. Lead directors are still required to receive a majority of “yes” votes in the election. 

In the end, when the forum took place on March 19, student attendance numbered less than 20 and several prospective board members, including the director of events candidate and six DaLs, were absent.

Nevertheless, the event carried on as planned with candidates speaking to their platforms, how they would be accountable to students, and their view of the UVSS’s values.

The 1.5-hour forum had four 15-minute sections. The first featured a debate between Izzy Adachi and Robin Pollard, the candidates for director of campaigns and community relations, the only contested position. The second and third sections featured popcorn-style responses to moderator questions, first from lead director candidates and then from DaLs. The final section featured responses to moderator questions by proponents of the referendum questions. The forum was moderated by Martlet Editor-in-Chief Kate Korte and CFUV Station Manager Glen Swarnadhipathi.

Both Pollard and Adachi were asked how they would spend the $30 800 portion of the UVSS budget allocated for campaigns. Current campaigns include Divest, which lobbies the university to fully divest from fossil fuels, and Rent with Rights, which pushes for renters’ rights in Victoria.

While both agreed that Divest was a key campaign for the UVSS, they differed on what the second-biggest priority should be, although both Adachi and Pollard stated that they would continue to support already existing campaigns. 

Adachi said that if elected they would work to initiate a campaign pushing for fairer practicums in disciplines like social work and that they would also aim for a tuition strike in order to end paid tuition. They say that the tuition strike would also include divestment as a key demand.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>When asked about their campaign platform point of looking to undertake a tuition strike, Adachi says that bringing real change around Divest, equitable practicums, and tuition require actions such as a student strike.</p>&mdash; The Martlet (@TheMartlet) <a href=”https://twitter.com/TheMartlet/status/1373005127619997698?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>March 19, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

“If we want the radical change, that we’re kind of wanting to pursue, then we’re going to need radical action,” said Adachi. 

Pollard, meanwhile, says she would push for an expansion of anti-racism initiatives and climate justice through the creation of a unified approach between Canadian student organizations. She stated that while she doesn’t have any lobbying experience at the national level, she has experience with grassroots organizing and at learning new things.

“Universities have a lot of leverage,” said Pollard. “So I think a unified lobbying approach

could have great effects on climate justice and anti-racism.”

The second and third sections provided very little in the way of contention as most candidates agreed that the UVSS values including sustainability and decolonization are important guidelines for how board members should conduct their work. Additionally, the vast majority of candidates emphasized the importance of centring anti-racism.

One of the key goals for those vying to be lead directors is remaining accountable to students.

Meanwhile, many of the DaLs stated that the main goal for their term was to foster collaboration with the rest of the board while also retaining their own values. For many DaLs, accessibility, affordability, equity, and sustainability posed the underlying framework of their platforms.

Lastly, proponents of the referendum questions were given a chance to make their pitches. With many of the referenda carried over from the fall, the proponents aimed to make the case for why students should care about the motions they are putting forward.

Current UVSS Director of Finance and Operations Caleb Burd, the proponent for three referendum questions including two on the public interest research group (PIRG) fee, blamed past failures on social media political ad bans associated with the American election and said that he hasn’t encountered any students who oppose his referenda. 

The first PIRG referendum would cancel the semesterly fee of $3 for full-time students and $1.50 for part-time students that pays for a non-existent PIRG on campus. The second question would divide the almost $230 000 being held in trust from the fee’s past collection between the UVSS Operating Fund and a new bursary for BIPOC students.

Burd’s third referendum would add $2.50 for full-time students and $1.25 for part-time students to UVSS fees from 2021-22 to 2025-26 in order to help pay for sustainability upgrades to the SUB.

Meanwhile, former UVSS board member Jonathan Granirer is retabling his referendum for adding a $1.50 fee, $0.75 for part-time students, to fund open-educational resources. Despite failing to meet quorum twice before, Granirer says he is hopeful and is busy conducting classroom talks to promote the motion.

Lastly, UVSS Director of Campaigns and Community Relations Emily Lowan is the proponent for a referendum that aims to tie UVSS fees to inflation beginning in 2022 at a maximum of two per cent per year. She said that this would help the UVSS continue to provide the same level of services over the coming years.

With the referendum questions discussed, the forum came to a close. and candidates will now begin campaigning in earnest leading up to the opening of the polls on March 24.

UVic undergraduate students can vote in UVSS elections for lead directors and on the referendum questions between 9 a.m. on March 24 and 12 p.m. on March 26 at webvote.uvic.ca. All of the directors-at-large were acclaimed.