UVSS Elections Results: Referendums fail, Pollard elected in only contested seat

News UVSS election 2021

Voter turnout was 6.6 per cent, all uncontested candidates confirmed

Voting has ended, and the results are in: with low voting turnout, current board members won big, and all the referendums failed to meet quorum. 

With 18 676 eligible voters, and 1 233 casting a ballot, there was an overall election turnout of 6.6 per cent. In the 2020 spring elections, voter turnout was at 14.8 per cent. The 2020 fall electoral event had a turn out of 5.9 per cent. 

Only one lead director seat — Campaigns and Community Relations — was contested in this election, after director of student affairs candidate Hazam Nasir was disqualified on March 18. Robin Pollard won the campaigns and community relations seat by 137 votes.

“[I’m] very honored, and very excited,” said Pollard. Pollard She says she’s looking forward to getting acquainted with the role and is excited to bring a new UVSS campaign on anti-racism. She’s also looking forward to learning more from the previous board to learn how to lobby effectively on issues such as climate justice. 

Q Roxas, who was the last lead director candidate in submitting their candidacy nomination form, was confirmed as the incoming director of events with 843 votes for and 146 votes against. 

In a statement to the Martlet, Roxas congratulated the other candidates and reaffirmed their commitment to the role. “My role was uncontested but this does not mean I will take the role for granted,” said Roxas. “I want to do everything I can to keep events fun, engaging, and welcoming for everyone.”

With the exception of the contested race for the Director of Campaigns and Community Relations, all of the other lead candidates were elected with over 85 per cent of the votes cast in their favour.

Current board members win big on new board

Four candidates that ran in this election were associated with the current UVSS board, with three elected to lead positions. 

Marran Dodds, who was previously elected as a director-at-large (DaL) in the 2020 UVSS election and is currently the director of events, was confirmed to the office of outreach and university relations by 987 votes for and 107 against. 

Dodds says that people can expect that the energy brought by last year’s board to be sustained and continued in person next year. Dodds is expecting a lot of collaboration on the board to expand UVSS values, emphasizing social justice, equity, sustainability, anti-racism, and divestment.

The incoming Director of Finance and Operations is also a current board member. Dipayan Nag is the current director of international student relations. Nag was confirmed to his seat with 915 votes for and 77 against.

Nag seems unperturbed by his win [“it’s been great”], and is already thinking ahead about what needs to be done next year. He’s disappointed that the referendum questions didn’t meet quorum. 

“You can expect a full review of what the UVSS finances are. I do believe that the next few years are going to be crucial,” said Nag. He’s thinking of future competitors: UVic is building a big 600-bed student residence next door — which will come with brand new amenities— and he wants the UVSS to be in good financial shape to prepare for the changes on campus. 

The third current board member to be elected to next year’s board is Mariel Hernández. Hernández, who was acclaimed as a DaL in October, will be our next director of student affairs. She was confirmed to her seat with 902 votes and 104 against.

“It has been wonderful and humbling to feel so supported by so many individuals and groups of our diverse student community,” said Hernández. in a statement to the Martlet.  “I am so glad that the values of inclusivity, social justice, decolonization, and good governance are upheld, protected, and renewed today.” 

The rest of the candidates, including Joshua Fassnacht for director of International Relations and all the DaL candidates were acclaimed to the board, as there were no competing candidates for their positions.

Referendums fail to meet quorum for the second year in a row

This is the second year where all proposed referendum questions had majority support but failed to reach quorum. Due to low voter turnout, none of the referendums met the 15 per cent turnout requirement for them to pass, as per the UVSS constitution.

The two PIRG-related referendum questions, proposed by the current director of finance and operations Caleb Burd, one which proposed eliminating the fee, the other to distribute the currently collected fees between the UVSS operating fund and a bursary, failed. 

Both referendums had a majority, with 900 for and 256 against in regards to ending the fee collection, and 987 for and 189 against the reallocation of the collected fees.

There is currently no group on campus utilizing the PIRG fee. VIPIRG, who terminated their relationship with the UVSS after the UVSS attempted to defund them in 2019, was the previous provider.

Burd also proposed a 5 year term-limited fee to make sustainability upgrades to the SUB. It would have cost full-time students $2.50 and part-time students $1.25. 

“It’s a mixed feeling,” said Burd when asked about the outcome, but he says he’s certainly disappointed about the outcome. 

“The vast majority of students who bothered to vote were in favour of what we were proposing,” said Burd. “It’s an indication that we were on the right track. Ultimately, it doesn’t do much if it doesn’t meet quorum.” He’s hopeful that next year’s board will consider re-running some of his referendum questions. 

In a previous interview with the Martlet, Burd said that if the referenda did not meet quorum or receive a majority of votes, the board would seek a legal opinion on whether there are other ways to carry out their plan for distributing the funds and ending the fee. He’s looking to present a plan to board on April 12 in regards to the next steps. 

The Open Educational Resources (OER) referendum did not pass on its third attempt on the ballot. It has also previously failed to reach quorum the previous two times. Proponent Jonathan Granirer could not be reached at the time of publication for comment. 

The referendum to tie UVSS fees to inflation had the most votes against it, with 444 voting against and 709 for. This referendum would have tied UVSS fees to inflation starting in September 2022. 

Proponent Emily Lowan, the current director of campaigns and community relations is disappointed but not surprised about the referendum results. “I had a feeling that it would be like this but I think it just really shows how hard it is to run an online campaign,” said Lowan. 

She said that UVSS requests to use Brightspace notifications as a campaign platform were denied — but other than that, broadcast emails, online social advertising, and hot sauce videos were all utilized towards enticing the student vote. 

She says that a contributing factor may have been students are feeling disenfranchised and removed from life at UVic due to online school. She still strongly believes in tying fees to inflation, and is recommending that the next board consider rerunning this question next year.

“We seriously did everything we could, aside from looking up names and addresses and knocking on doors,” said Lowan.