UVSS ELECTIONS | Meet the candidates from Our UVic

Campus News
Photo by Joshua Ngenda

The Our UVic cooperative is campaigning four candidates for Lead Director (LD) positions this spring in the 2020 UVSS elections: Sarina de Havelyn is running for Director of Outreach and University Relations, Caleb Burd for Director of Finance and Operations, Emily Lowan is campaigning for Director of Campaigns and Community, and Tommy Lay running for Director of Events. 

Also with this cooperative, Emily Hiser, Isaiah Adachi, Marran Dodds, Nick Gaina, Paarth Mittal are running for Director-at-Large positions with Our UVic, and Dipayan Nag is also campaigning for Director of International Student Relations. 

Burd and de Havelyn currently serve as Directors-at-Large on the 2019-20 UVSS board. Four of the Our UVic LD candidates spoke with the Martlet about the most important aspects of their campaign, what compelled them to run, and how they would address the biggest issues facing students on campus. 

What are the three most important aspects of your campaign? 

de Havelyn: The three guiding principles of my campaign are sustainability, advocacy, and affordability. In terms of sustainability, I will work to hold the university accountable to complete divestment by 2025 and reduce the UVSS’s ecological footprint through sustainable infrastructure in the SUB. I will consult with and advocate for students on issues they care about, such as improving the accessibility of mental health resources. I will also continue to support the creation of free open-source textbooks, as well as fight against restrictive housing bylaws that disproportionately discriminate against students’ typical living arrangements.

Burd: The most important aspects of my campaign are sustainability, decolonization and financial transparency. I will work to integrate locally-sourced and organic produce into SUB menu options, which will support more sustainable agriculture practices in our community while improving the quality of SUB food for students. To help make the SUB a more comfortable space, I plan on funding Indigenous art installations. Along this vein, reforming some of the rules that govern board meetings can make the bureaucratic process less colonial and more of a welcoming environment. To improve UVic’s financial transparency and accountability, I will lobby the UVic administration to release their financial investment information so it is more accessible to students. 

What did last year’s board do well and what did they do poorly? 

de Havelyn: I served as a Director-at-Large on last year’s board, and we took some good steps towards making the lives of students more affordable and accessible. We successfully lobbied for online consent training for first-year resident students and increased the number of open-source textbooks. These were powerful changes, but it could have gone much further. Honestly, in many ways the previous board played it safe, so naturally students did not see systemic shifts towards carbon neutrality or wide-spread awareness of existing services in the SUB. I feel like the last board laid a good foundation from which we can make larger changes to the operations of the UVSS. 

Lay: [The current board has] done a great job of hosting a diverse range of events, though I believe more can be done in regard to spreading awareness about upcoming events, as attendance for workshops and community-led events can be improved. 

How do you plan to improve upon, or do differently, what you feel the previous board has done poorly?

Lowan: I believe that mental health workshops and resources should be promoted more consistently throughout the year. The Let’s Get Consensual campaign also needs to extend its reach beyond promotional materials and establish more concrete programs, such as hosting a mandatory, in-person sexual assault and consent training session for all first-year students. Currently, the consent training is online for first-year resident students, but can be easily avoided. As well, I’m really looking forward to building on the great momentum of this year’s Make Transit Work and Divest UVic campaigns.

Burd: Creating simple graphics or videos that could be shared widely on all social media platforms about the electoral process will provide information through a more accessible medium. This content could include deadlines for nomination forms, dates for all candidate forums, what co-operatives are, and tips on campaigning from past directors. I feel like this will reduce some of the barriers and initial concerns for students who are not in the UVSS bubble.

What compelled you to run in this election? 

de Havelyn: After talking to students about the services provided by the UVSS, I became aware of a glaring problem: most students are unaware of the basic services created for them, such as the Food Bank & Free Store in the basement of the SUB, peer counselling, and several advocacy groups that provide community and assistance to minority groups. As Director of Outreach and University Relations, it would be my priority to engage with students to create a mental health support system that meets their needs. I plan to consult students through tabling, canvassing, social media boosts, increased online surveys, educational UVSS information on the screens in the SUB, and large, outdoor maps of available services (similar to building directories throughout UVic). 

Burd: The reason I decided to run in this election was because I wanted to continue doing the environmental and advocacy work that I have started as a Director-at-Large. The results of the sustainability audit I initiated may only be compiled in the final weeks of this board term, which is simply not enough time to make infrastructure investment improvements. If elected, I plan to reduce the energy consumption and carbon emission of the SUB by making these investments.

What is the biggest issue facing students on campus, and how would you address it if elected? 

Lowan: If I had to name just one, I would have to say affordability. Students are feeling real financial pressures in just meeting their basic needs. To address affordability, I will work to increase the number of open-source textbooks, press Saanich to change their rental bylaw that punishes typical student living situations, as well as work to remove financial barriers to mental health services and offer several free wellness workshops with a focus on effective, inclusive, and long-term solutions.

Typically, only about 15 per cent of the student population vote in UVSS elections. How do you intend to raise student participation in student politics, or events you would run on campus if elected? 

Burd, de Havelyn, Lay, Lowan: Part of the reason that students don’t vote is that they feel disconnected from their student government. We have to show students that the UVSS is relevant, simply by spending more time tackling the issues that impact students’ everyday lives. This can be achieved through improving the board’s outreach and information flow to students. 

What do you think is important for students to know about your campaign and the upcoming elections?

de Havelyn: The UVSS is our largest advocate for making real changes to our community, and it’s important that our students feel central in the process. Please reach out sdehavelyn@uvic.ca with questions or comments at any point in the election process.

Do you think it’s the UVSS’s responsibility to focus on issues outside of just the University of Victoria campus? If not, why? If so, what issues?

Lay: Yes. We are here to both support students on and off the campus. I believe that it is our responsibility to help cultivate a welcoming community for students, both on- and off-campus. 

Lowan: Absolutely, we need to address student life as a whole. The main campaigns I plan to focus on, such as Divest UVic, Make Transit Work and Let’s Get Consensual, are all related to student life as a whole. These are issues that students feel passionately about, primarily because they impact their lives both on- and off-campus.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Voting for the UVSS elections will take place from March 4 to 6. The Martlet and CFUV are co-hosting two election events, the All Candidates and Referenda Forum on March 2 and the Lead Directors Debate on March 3, both at 2:30 in the Vertigo lounge.