UVSS Elections: Will UVic undergraduates be Energize’d or get Connect’d?

by MrContentGenerator

On March 1, 2 and 3 undergraduate students at the University of Victoria will have the chance to elect a new board of directors for the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS). The choice is between Energize UVic, the successor slate to last year’s landslide winners, or Connect UVic, associated with the losing slate from last year’s vote. Voters will also consider two referendum questions on fees relating to the UVSS.

Only Energize UVic is running a full portfolio team

energize_group_banner_big_2Two slates, the student association equivalent of a political party, are running to take over the UVSS board of directors. Energize UVic is running a full portfolio slate, meaning they could fill every position, with the exception of one Director at-Large. Connect UVic is missing a candidate for Director of International Student Relations, meaning at least one portfolio has already been forfeited to their opponents.

Both slates have diverse groups running on their teams. In the five Executive positions, Energize UVic is running four women candidates. Many of Energize’s Executive candidates have experience in volunteer, charity, and not-for-profit groups that they claim will help them run the UVSS.

“At UVic, I have served as the Director of Charity for the Commerce Student’s Society, where I was able to help introduce a new system of philanthropy.” says the online profile of Anmol Swaich, Energize UVic candidate for Director of Campaigns, “We shifted the focus to building a greater perspective of the world for students through volunteering with local organizations.”

Connect UVic is a bit different from Energize. For the five positions on the Executive, Connect is running four men. The experience of this slate’s candidates is less focused on “philanthropy.”

One of Connect UVic’ candidates with a long list of previous affiliations is actually a first year student. Dakota McGovern is a first year geography major running for Campaigns and Community Relations. In his list of previous positions, he includes having worked with the British Columbia Student Alliance as Founder, Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group as Outreach Coordinator, and The Society of Geography Students as Director of Fundraising.

“On May 9th of this year, only nine days after the next UVSS board takes office a new provincial government will be elected.” says McGovern’s election biography. “My goal is to bring student issues such as Affordable Housing and Need-Based-Grants to the forefront of BC politics.”

Platforms highlight differences

12312351Energize UVic’s platform highlights that before it’s predecessor took over in last year’s elections, the UVSS ran a $260,000 deficit. This year the UVSS is budgeting a $50,000 surplus that the slate hopes to continue and use to fund new programs and services.

Apart from running a balanced budget, Energize includes the following in their platform:

  • “Work with the university and provincial government on tuition issues, to reduce the student financial burden, and increase scholarship options.”
  • “More accessible committee and Board of Directors’ meetings’ that utilize a townhall format to engage constituents on a monthly basis.”
  • “Bring concerts, drive in movies and food truck festivals to campus. UVic needs more on-campus activities, and university administration is ready to work with us.”

While it can’t be confirmed with total certainty, this slate may be the first in the history of student associations to offer money to attend AGMs (annual general meetings). Energize UVic is using #FeelTheSpark to spread awareness about their platform.

Raj Alamchandani of Energize UVic, the only candidate for the position of International Student Relations, says he will “Lobby the University to lower the co-op and tuition fees for international students or at the very least, freeze the tuition fee.”

The platform was previously only available in four points on their Facebook Page. The slate now has a full website with more information. Included in the Connect UVic platform are:

  • “Student financial issues and services: tuition; cost of housing; reducing student debt; lower CARSA fees; better transit; increased mental health resources and reduced wait times.”
  • “Environmental and Community issues: divesting UVic fully from fossil fuels; better waste management and food security on campus.”
  • “UVSS management: more student input on UVSS policies and budget; strong financial management that sees your fees used for you! Regular town halls will be held to get your feedback throughout the year!”
  • “Student events: interdisciplinary academic lectures and events; interactive social events during welcome weeks and throughout the year.”

Connect UVic has a high production value campaign video.

Established student association personalities supporting Connect UVic

Despite Energize UVic representing the incumbents, their opposition has some establishment student association personalities.

In a post on the Connect campaign Facebook page, former UVSS Director of Student Affairs Kaylee Szakacs says, “Exactly what the UVSS needs after this year of trying to take away funding from VIPIRG and not supporting advo groups and marginalized students. Best of luck!”

Kenya Rogers, a former UVSS Executive member who’s team lost in last year’s election, is supporting Connect UVic.

Jessica Lar-son, a former Kwantlen Student Association President and former Chair of the Alliance of British Columbia Students, is helping coordinate Connect UVic. UVSS Elections was sent a question asking if this sort of campaigning was allowed from outside student groups or alumni, but they only referred the Western Student to the UVSS electoral policy. While UVSS policy states that “Candidates may accept the endorsement of an on-campus group and refer to that endorsement in their campaign material, but must provide written proof of an endorsement to a DEO before referring to it in their campaign materials,” it is silent about outside groups or individuals, leaving the matter open to interpretation.

Unclear what complaints have been filed

The Western Student inquired about complaints in the electoral process but was told that only reports from previous elections were available.

“I cannot discuss complaints at this time but the website does contain an overview of historical complaints and findings from past elections,” said Lori Roter, the UVSS Chief Electoral Officer.

Referendums ask students to cough up more money

Two votes, called referendums, ask students if they would be willing to pay more money in their student fees.

The first referendum question is about the University of Victoria Food Bank:

Do you support an increase to the UVSS Food Bank Fund of 75 cents per full-time student and 37 cents per part-time student, per semester, for the purpose of addressing student food insecurity?

The UVSS Elections “Approved Proponent” for this referendum is Jasmine Robertson. Robertson is the UVSS Food Bank coordinator. The referendum is essentially asking is UVic students want to pool money so that low income (or just hungry) students can get food.

The second referendum question is about the University of Victoria Student Society fee:

Are you in favour of adjusting students’ society fees annually to match Canada’s inflation target, to a maximum 2% per year, beginning in January 2019?

This referendum was endorsed by the current board of directors of the UVSS. The University usually increases tuition rates by 2% each year, too, but they vote on it each year.

How to vote

Students can vote on March 1, 2 and 3. From the UVSS Elections website:

“All student election and referenda voting will take place using the online webvote system. Polling stations with computers will be still set up on campus to facilitate and enhance voting access, however eligible voters will be able to cast their ballot from home or wherever they are, using a personal computer, tablet, phone or internet accessible device.

More information will be emailed to all students closer to the voting days with a link to the voting website – webvote.uvic.ca. You will use your Netlink ID and password to log into the webvote system once polling opens.”

Students looking for more information can contact the UVSS Elections office at election2@uvss.ca.