VIPIRG Statement on the UVSS Referendum

We did it!

The past two weeks of the elections across campus has been exhilarating. We’ve met students from all walks of life who share one goal - the pursuit of affordable, enriching and meaningful higher education.

For instance, at our annual tenancy rights workshop a few days ago, one student attendee told us about facing a 25% rent increase which they discovered was illegal at the workshop. And, a VIPIRG supporter who’s also a part-time student and BC Transit bus driver talked to our staff about the importance of referendums and free speech. We’ve had so many students tell us about the value of our services like free textbooks and scholarships which can help ease their burden.

We agree that students should be able to have a say about what their fees are spent on. However, we lament such a costly referendum process. Referendums cost thousands of dollars in student fees, spent on labour, advertising, material costs and more. We don’t think putting VIPIRG’s fee levy to referendum was a good use of student fees.

Despite years of reaching out to the UVSS Board in the spirit of good will and collaboration, the UVSS did not reciprocate and instead put forward a motion to potentially defund our organization. This was done with almost no consultation with us or the student body, putting student jobs, grants, research, and scholarships at risk had we lost. We met hundreds of students who asked us why the referendum question was worded quite negatively, creating an uphill battle for VIPIRG.  

In addition, the current UVSS board passed a motion earlier in the year that effectively paralyzes fee-levied groups in the event of a referendum regarding their funding. This includes groups such as your independent news and media outlets, The Martlet and CFUV. This was not a coincidence. This motion is intended to ensure that these groups, including VIPIRG, cannot campaign, advertise, promote, or advocate for their organizations, services, values, or jobs. Quite literally, staff and volunteers in these groups cannot fight for their livelihoods based on this motion. Such a motion is reminiscent of the global resurgence in draconian exercises of power and, so, it is particularly disappointing that it comes from a student governance body which, historically, have been bastions of progressive politics.

On Friday, March 8, the UVSS Elections Office chose to delay the results of the VIPIRG referendum, when all other referendum and candidates’ results were released. We did not receive any update from the Elections Office on the reasons for the delay, until the report was released on Monday, March 11. Students, staff and faculty waited to receive word on why the Elections Office was carrying out such an unprecedented action. In addition, the unofficial results contained multiple errors, such as incorrectly stating that a candidate won. This further cemented our lack of faith in the UVSS and its approach to due process.

While this referendum was ongoing, our small but mighty team finalized all the details of our conference next week, and continued to move forward with our research project on sexualized violence, despite attempts at interference from the UVSS.

We are glad that 30 years of research, services, and advocacy at UVic and in the Greater Victoria community did not go unnoticed. Thank you to every student who voted! Thank you to the dozens of faculty members and community members who wrote letters of support and encouraged us throughout the process. Thank you to the Martlet for always providing accurate and timely reporting.  Finally, thank you to the campaign organizers and their team who organized a brilliant, humorous, and inspiring campaign.

We look forward to the next 30 years of VIPIRG.

- VIPIRG Staff & Board of Directors.