UVSS elections: Meet the candidates vying for lead director positions

News UVSS election 2021

All but two candidates are running unopposed 

This year’s UVSS election will be like no other. Because of a recent change to the UVSS electoral policy, campaigns will be virtual, cooperatives and slates are prohibited, and there will be no chalk on campus.  

The UVSS has a budget of $15.5 million and is primarily funded by undergraduate student fees. The board oversees this budget and controls the U-Pass program, student health care coverage, clubs, campus events, and advocacy activities.

The lead director roles are often the most coveted. Each of the five positions is a full-time salary role with a different portfolio — campaigns and community relations, events, finance and operations, student affairs, or outreach and university relations. 

As part of our election coverage, the Martlet delved into the platforms of every candidate in this year’s UVSS election. Although most of the candidates are running unopposed and require only a majority of “yes” votes to be elected, there are still two contested positions. 

Director of Campaigns and Community Relations

The director of campaigns and community relations spends the majority of their time working on the UVSS’s various campaigns. These campaigns include Divest UVic, Rent with Rights, and Let’s Get Consensual, among others.The campaigns director is also in charge of how much of their budget each campaign receives. They may also bring a proposal to the board to add or get rid of certain campaigns. 

Izzy Adachi 

Current director-at-large (DaL) Izzy Adachi is a student in the social work program at UVic. As a DaL, Adachi was involved in supporting mental health initiatives, such as the Peer Support Centre. If elected, they will continue to support campaigns such as Divest UVic, Make Transit Work, and Rent with Rights. 

Adachi hopes to bring this experience to the position of campaigns and community relations through which, if elected, they would lobby for increased mental health support and affordability for students.

Adachi sees collective action as necessary for bringing about real change. They aim to mobilize student support for a strike calling for free tuition, full divestment, and an end to unpaid practicums. They say that the expectation that social work or nursing students will work for free is unfair and represents the gendered bias that pervades the Canadian medical system.

“I’m not saying if I get elected, then there will be a tuition strike,” Adachi told the Martlet. “I think that we do need to have a discussion as a society and as students about where we want to see post-secondary education going in the future.”

If collective action is not possible, then Adachi says they will use lobbying and campaigning. 

Robin Pollard | Photo supplied

Robin Pollard 

Third-year Indigenous studies and environmental studies student Robin Pollard is also running to be the next director of campaigns and community relations. Pollard was an executive member of the Jane Goodall Youth Advisory Council, which works to promote the voices of youth battling the climate crisis.

If elected, Pollard says she would work with student organizations across Canada to develop a unified strategy for tackling the climate crisis and racial injustice at post-secondary institutions. She says that this would include lobbying for full divestment from fossil fuels and working in alignment with the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People Act (DRIPA). 

“On campus, [DRIPA] will be the most meaningful approach to creating climate justice through more of a human rights lens,” Pollard said.

Another issue that Pollard says she would work on addressing is the lack of accessible mental health and addiction supports on campus. She hopes to work with the Native Students Union (NSU) and other advocacy groups to implement culturally safe counselling services and provide different mental health programs based on what she calls “holistic mental health.” Additionally, Pollard says she would work to place naloxone kits in key spots around campus and offer consistent training sessions on how to use the kits. 

Pollard says she would also continue the work currently being done on already established campaigns such as the Rent with Rights and Make Transit Work Campaigns. She is a big proponent of the creation of more open educational resources (OERs).

Director of Finance and Operations

The Director of Finance and Operations position is pretty self explanatory — they handle the UVSS’s finances and their operations. This means that they are in charge of the society’s budget, chairing the finance committee, and overseeing the businesses in the SUB. 

Dipayan Nag | Photo supplied

Dipayan Nag

Dipayan Nag, the current director of international student relations, is running unopposed for the position of director of finance and operations. Nag’s platform has three main points: advocacy, sustainability, and affordability.

One specific project that Nag would like to work on during his time as the director of finance and operations is making the SUB carbon neutral. Nag wants to continue implementing a 10-year program, worth between one and 2.5 million dollars, and focus on smaller, more attainable goals, like changing window panels rather than trying to pay for every renovation all at once. 

Nag believes that the UVSS needs to rethink their methods of doing business in the SUB, and that the UVSS needs, “new innovative methods, because we cannot, as an institution, be stuck in one way of working.”

One of the innovative business methods that Nag wants to implement is greater technological upgrades in some SUB businesses, such as an online inventory for the books available to buy at SUBtext. Nag also said the UVSS needs to individually re-evaluate which services exist in the SUB and determine if they are necessary. When asked about the deficit of some food services in the SUB, and how he plans on managing those, Nag declined to comment.

Director of Outreach and University Relations 

The director of outreach and university relations is usually the person on the UVSS board that sits on the most UVic committees. This director is the main liaison between the UVSS and UVic. They also chair various UVSS committees and all UVSS meetings. 

Marran Dodds

Marran Dodds, an anthropology and Indigenous studies student, is running unopposed for the position of director of outreach and university relations. Dodds was previously elected as a DaL in 2020 and was elected director of events in early February 2021. If elected as the director of outreach, Dodds hopes to push for equity and accessibility. 

Dodds is passionate about anti-racist policy and research as well as narrative-changing initiatives. She plans to focus on advocating for OERs, encouraging UVic to fully divest, and advocating for anti-racist and anti-colonial policies within the UVSS and UVic. Multi-session counselling services for students is also an important focus for her. 

If elected, Dodds hopes to table on campus when restrictions loosen up but will focus her efforts on outreach through social media with Instagram lives, videos, and surveys. 

Director of Student Affairs

The Director of Student Affairs (DoSA) oversees the over 200 UVSS clubs and course unions. Their portfolio is mainly administrative. They also may wish to make changes to policy relevant to clubs. The current DoSA, Dalal Tubeishat, added mandatory sexualized violence prevention training for club and course union executives. 

Mariel Hernandez | Photo Supplied

Mariel Hernández

Mariel Hernández is a fourth-year political science student minoring in Pacific and Asian studies. Hernandez was acclaimed as a DaL in October and is looking to continue her UVSS involvement in the position of DoSA. Hernández is passionate about anti-oppressive work in the areas of anti-racism, gender equity, and affordability. She is also currently advocating for student housing needs on the Gordon Head Resident Association board. 

“I only expected to [be in the UVSS] from October to April, but I found that I actually really enjoyed the work and I didn’t want to stop,” said Hernandez about her decision to run for student affairs.  

Hernandez considers the main responsibility of the position to create a space for students to connect with each other and build relationships. For Hernandez, this means making the university more welcoming and inclusive. She aims to improve on the sexualized violence training policy for clubs and continue to lobby the B.C. government to create a cohesive provincial policy regarding sexualized violence at universities.

She aims to collaborate with the NSU and the Students of Colour Collective in ensuring BIPOC voices are heard and supported.

Other points on her campaign platform, which consists mainly of advocacy positions on issues such as divestment, student affordability, decolonization, and lowering barriers to education overlap with the portfolio of campaigns. 

Hernández acknowledges this discrepancy between her platform and the role. She stresses that these initiatives can’t just be relegated to a portion of the board or specific organizations such as the UVSS food bank. With everyone’s capacity stretched thin by the pandemic, she hopes to bring more collaboration between different parts of the UVSS. 

“If we’re all contributing to [the initiatives], then we’re better able to make substantial change,” said Hernandez. “I think something that I’ve really enjoyed about the UVSS is that there’s a lot of teamwork.”

Hazam Nasir | Photo supplied

Hazam Nasir

Hazam Nasir is a second-year geography student that runs the UVic Tip Instagram account. He also previously volunteered with the UVSS to help draft a transit survey.

One of Nasir’s campaign promises involves changing the fee structure for clubs and course unions.

Nasir is intending to lower base funding for all clubs by $10 to create an additional operating fund for clubs, in addition to the existing special projects grants fund. Applications to access this extra fund would require two months of membership lists. 

Beyond this, Nasir hopes to improve communication between the UVSS and the student body. He is proposing to produce five-minute announcement videos starring himself and other board members to be somehow posted on the notification bars for every student in Brightspace. 

“It’s logistically going to be a bit of a mess,” said Nasir, “[but] everybody calls it impossible until it happens.” 

He also plans to hold regular events on campus and wants to provide opportunities for students to engage in debates. He did not elaborate on the logistics of these events, and Nasir added that he would have to ensure debate topics were in line with the UVSS Issues Policy. 

Through his formerly anonymous Instagram page, Nasir has expressed distaste towards UVSS advocacy groups having voting rights on the board and the existence of anti-sexualized violence workshops on campus. When questioned about this, he clarified in a follow up email that he “retains reservation” but promises to work with advocacy groups.

“I welcome the challenge and will do my best to maintain dialogue with sexualized violence groups on campus to help the fight against sexual violence,” said Nasir.

Director of Events 

The director of events role is pretty self explanatory. The big event for this portfolio is typically the Campus Kick Off at the start of the year but, due to COVID-19, the events portfolio has centered around virtual games nights recently. 

Q Roxas | Photo supplied

Q Roxas

Q Roxas is hoping to bring the UVic community back together after the pandemic in a role on the UVSS board. Roxas is a political science and gender studies student at UVic. Roxas’ top priorities for their term will be to expand events for BIPOC students, increase support for the Food Bank and UVSS advocacy groups, and assist with decolonization and anti-racism initiatives. 

They bring event-planning experience from working for the Student’s Open Forum Against Racism (SOFAR). 

“I hope that I could bring some elements of community-focussed work, community-level work, and not co-opting work from other groups,” they said. 

“I know that the board and student politics is pretty inherently pretty hierarchical,” adding that they would like to bring a less hierarchical approach to the board.

Roxas also hopes to bring in a ‘Call for Proposals’ to their portfolio. In the past, directors have had trouble spending the entire events budget and coming up with innovative ideas. Roxas says that this call for proposals would allow for students to bring forward their event ideas for funding, and focus on support events led by BIPOC students.

Roxas recognizes that students are feeling Zoom burnout so they are hoping to bring forward some informal online or in-person events in the coming year, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.

Director of International Student Relations  

The director of international student relations is tasked with advocating on behalf of international students at the UVSS board. They also lead a UVSS committee for International Students and may sit on various UVic committees. This position is not a full-time lead director role but differs from a DaL position in that it has a specific portfolio. 

Joshua Fassnact | Photo Supplied

Joshua Fassnacht (acclaimed)

Joshua Fassnacht is jumping into his acclaimed role as director of international student relations Director of International Student Relations (DISR). Fassnacht is a first-year student in environmental studies and psychology. Originally from Indiana, Fassnacht was encouraged to run for the UVSS by his engage leader. Although Fassnacht won’t get the chance to campaign, his planned slogan was “it isn’t my campaign, but our campaign.” 

Most of Fassnacht priorities seem to be based on profiles beyond his role as DISR that would involve collaboration with other directors. His primary aims are to expand mental health support for students, reduce tuition fees, increase transparency surrounding international student fee increases, and advocate for sexualized violence prevention and anti-discrimination policy on campus. 

Fassnacht aims to utilise the current structures in place to benefit international students while maintaining a level of communication and transparency by engaging with Global Community and the Peer Support Center. Fassnacht also expressed interest in moving away from simple Zoom calls but declined to elaborate further on what these communication lines would be. 

He encourages students to reach out and share their issue with him so he can continue to align his efforts with those of other international students. 

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.

The original version of this article listed the Director of Events as Q (Kisha) Roxa. The correct spelling of their name is Roxas. There was also one instance where this candidate was misgendered, which has since been corrected. The Martlet sincerely regrets the errors.