UVSS fires Events and Communications Coordinator
After a brutal and divisive electoral campaign, the new directors of the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS) took office on May 1st. The new directors, formerly the Encompass UVic electoral slate, have already begun making waves with the established order on campus. At the May 16th meeting, it was announced that Events and Communications Coordinator Seamus Wolfe had been terminated from his employment without discussion of the board of directors.
What time is it Mr. Wolfe?
Seamus Wolfe was hired on at the UVSS after a long history of involvement in student politics in Ontario. Having been the president of the students’ union at the University of Ottawa, Wolfe had a lot of experience worthy of the position. Wolfe had also been general manager of the graduate students’ union at the University of Ottawa, a staff position responsible for operations.
However, Wolfe’s previous students’ unions and the legacy of his time there stands in stark contrast to the political agenda of Encompass UVic and the new board of directors. While Wolfe was at the University of Ottawa, the students’ union was a very active political group that ran campaigns to drop tuition fees. When Wolfe was president, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa was very active in the Canadian Federation of Students.
This history shined through during Wolfe’s time at the University of Victoria Student Society. Over the last year, the board of directors became (and was criticized for being) involved with the Canadian Federation of Students. Ironically, UVSS director Kenya Rogers, a vocal advocate of Wolfe’s at the May 16th meeting, was herself criticized for getting close the CFS when they stand accused of anti-union activities.
Over the history of students’ unions, it is common for staff employees to get fired when a new board of directors get elected. It is also common for elected students to entirely botch staffing changes, whether they are malicious “constructive termination” (bad) or good intention and legitimate layoffs (less bad). The University of Victoria Student Society is a union employer, most of its employees are members of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, meaning Seamus Wolfe will likely have some sort of recourse to get his job back or a settlement.
It is impossible for outsiders to know the intentions of the UVSS board of directors, particularly the portfolio holding executives responsible for terminating Wolfe. At this point, the other members of the UVSS board don’t have the know-how or mettle to challenge the executives, but it is possible. After not ratifying a club (another story, though important for another time) and terminating an employee without consulting the board, the UVSS is opening itself to multiple forms of litigation. More importantly though, any member can petition to hold a general meeting and impeach the board of directors. If they continue as they are, the UVSS will be in for a tumultuous year.