> Kailey Willetts
Every year, candidates for the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) Board of Directors campaign on a slew of ideas, plans and goals for the upcoming board term. Usually they sound pretty good — most people like things like sustainability and better bus service. But what are candidates actually promising? And how realistic are these promises? The Martlet has researched some of each slate’s more impressive promises to give you the breakdown on what the candidates are actually saying.
While some platform points on ERTW’s platform are (hopefully) facetious, there are some promises that they seem pretty serious about. So let’s discuss: a mini-doughnut machine, faculty representation, abolishing the issues manual, requiring SUB businesses to turn a profit and not collecting fees from students on co-op.
This campaign promise has come up several times. And, I’ve got to admit, it seems like a good idea (an even better idea if you can make vegan mini-doughnuts!) So, if it seems like a good idea, why bring it up for analysis? Because there’s just one problem with it — mini-doughnut machines are BIG and involve hot oil. Funnily enough, when former Chairperson James Coccola and former Director of Academics Rajpreet Sall took office during the 2010/2011 term, they looked at putting a mini-doughnut machine in the SUB and determined it wasn’t really feasible.
All hope of mini-doughnuts is not gone, however. One idea that I’ve heard was to get a mini-doughnut cart and sell them outside in the summer and the nicer parts of spring and fall. Food carts outside the SUB? Maybe not a bad idea. Someone should look into it. I’m a fan of veggie dogs.
“Implement faculty representation”
Faculty representation seems to be an idea that people are pretty into. Some people are into the bylaw package that Vision candidate David Foster brought to the fall Annual General Meeting (AGM). Others say they like the idea of faculty representation, but haven’t seen a proposal they support yet. It’s unclear whether or not ERTW plans to re-introduce Foster’s package or come up with a new one. Regardless, this is clearly a possible platform point to implement — if you can get a quorate AGM and students vote to change the bylaws.
When faculty representation came up at this year’s fall AGM the meeting didn’t reach quorum. One solution to AGM attendance that’s been floated around, especially by ERTW, is free food. This is a good idea, but no guarantee. The spring AGM offered up free pizza and still didn’t make quorum. For more on faculty representation, click here.
“Mandate political neutrality for the UVSS by abolishing the issues manual”
The issues manual is a UVSS document that contains position statements and commitments on a variety of issues. One of these is a commitment to a non-partisan UVSS. ERTW acknowledged in a post on their slate website that they don’t disagree with all the positions in the issues policy: “Now, there isn’t much point to having a student society if you can’t lobby about issues that directly affect students such as transit, unreasonable tuition hikes, and basic human rights. In this regard, having a document like the issues policy makes sense — you can quite clearly define the realistic goals of the organization in regards to lobbying and to human rights.”
Then they list several points they feel are beyond the scope of the UVSS and/or politically divisive. Luckily for ERTW, as they mention, a lot of the policies they want to get rid of were introduced by the Board of Directors, which means next year’s board can scrap them with a 2/3 vote at a board meeting. Other policies were put in at an AGM, which means they would have to go back to an AGM to be scrapped.
I don’t think getting quorum would be a challenge here, especially if they bring the entire issues policy to the chopping block. The largest AGM in UVSS history was centred on the issues policy, where an overwhelming number of students showed up to support the UVSS’ pro-choice mandate. So basically, it’s totally feasible to scrap the issues introduced at the board level and equally feasible to get a quorate AGM over many of the issues in the policy. But whether or not some of those issues stay or go is ultimately up to students and I think you’d be hard pressed to find enough students to scrap the entire policy without having a seriously well thought-out document to replace it.
“Require SUB businesses to turn a profit”
Most SUB businesses do turn a profit. In fact, there seems to be a steady upward trend in the profitability of SUB businesses that indicates a recovery from the impact of the SUB strike in fall 2008.
The UVSS is also working on a strategic plan, which includes a long-term financial plan for the first time. One of the biggest money-makers for the SUB is Meetings and Catering. Coincidentally, the majority of its revenue is likely made from non-students who rent out spaces in the building for various purposes.
Last year, SUBtext cleared $85,000 and ZAP! made more than $115,000. The two businesses that lost money were Food Services (including Bean There, International Grill and Health Food Bar) and Cinenceta.
Considering the Munchie Bar pulled in more than $59,000 and most movie theatres make a large majority of their profits off concession services, it seems to more than balance out Cinecenta’s loss of just over $3,000 (which is better than last year’s loss of just over $8000). Food services lost about $18,000 on paper last year. However, since the main kitchen makes food not just for Bean There, Health Food Bar and International Grill but also Felicita’s, it eats a lot of Felicita’s labour costs. Where you’re really losing money are places like the General Office that provide services to students and student groups such as room bookings and access to club and course union equipment. However, those are exactly the sorts of services the UVSS needs to be providing.
“Stop collecting UVSS fees from students on co-op”
While this is a significant campaign point, the fact co-op students pay UVSS fees is regulated by their definition by the university as full time students. Also, co-op students receive several benefits of membership, such as access to the UVSS Health and Dental Plan and the right to vote in elections. While the UVSS’ bylaws allow votes for co-op students, if they don’t pay fees they technically aren’t members of the society at that time. Not having membership would also prevent them from enrolling in the UVSS Health and Dental plan. Previous enrolment in the plan without paying any student fees was an oversight.
Each member of FUSE UVic has their own platform points. However, there seem to be some common themes that this slate is addressing. Importantly, there is a focus on bringing back the SUB party, one card systems for food and printing, local and sustainable food in the SUB, on-campus mental health services, increased transit services and affordable education. Also, we’ve heard wind of a planned “UVSS beer” which we obviously can’t leave out.
“Bringing back the SUB party”
Oh, the SUB party. Last seen in slightly less epic proportions in 2009, the SUB party is an event that takes up multiple spaces in the SUB and is accompanied by live music and DJs. The last full-size SUB party was in 2006, after which the UVSS received a $10,000 fine for violating its liquor license — the largest liquor fine in B.C. history (should we be proud? probably not). In 2009, a smaller version of the SUB party was brought in which involved Felicita’s, Vertigo and the main corridor outside the SUB’s food services. This time there was a capacity of 750 people and increased security. Felicita’s liquor license was expanded to cover the entire party. So it looks like maybe it ispossible to get a liquor license for a SUB party, considering the 2009 version resulted in no major incidents.
One card system
This is really two separate platform points, which I have decided to combine. Currently, there are two things students can buy with prepaid cards in the SUB and from UVic — food and printing. Sharing a print card with UVic has been a platform point for at least three years — and it hasn’t happened. Not only would it require the cooperation of the university, it would also require all print services to be on the same system. That’s expensive and I feel like the university isn’t super keen to cover those costs. Also UVic has recently switched systems. They don’t use a card, you add money to your netlink ID. That could cause problems for people using ZAP! without netlink IDs or for organizations on campus such as advocacy groups and clubs. In terms of food, the SUB has SUB gift cards that can be used at any SUB business. UVic Food Services adds food money to your student card. I suppose, again, the entire system could be switched over to allow student cards to also operate in the SUB but this is likely a costly process and then your parents can’t buy you SUB gift cards.
“Expand the availability of local, SPCA-certified and Oceanwise food products sold in the SUB”
This is an initiative that has already been started. UVic Food for Thought has been working closely with not only the UVSS but also UVic to bring SPCA-certified and Oceanwise food to campus. This has been a promise before, but it seems to be one FUSE UVic actually took initiative on this year. Considering FUSE UVic Director-at-Large candidate Kelsey Mech is the Projects Coordinator for UVic Food for Thought, it seems pretty safe to assume that if she’s elected, this campaign promise will actively be followed up on.As Food for Thought mentions on their website, SPCA-certified and Oceanwise products would probably cost a little bit more, which is why they’ve been actively seeking student support for the initiative. Cost increases would be the biggest barrier to this platform point and reliant on student support. However, UVic has switched to campus-wide, SPCA-certified eggs (check out the article in Thursday’s Martlet about UVic Food for Thought) and the UVSS and UVIC share the same food supplier.
“Develop mental health services within the SUB”
I’m not actually sure what this means. I do know there is a shortage on space in the SUB. I invite Emily Rogers or another member of the FUSE UVic team to expand on this platform point. What I do know is that UVic’s counselling services does not have sufficient capacity, something Rogers and Fuse are also lobbying to expand.
“Continue to lobby municipal and provincial governments for expanded transit services” FUSE expands on this one on their Facebook page. FUSE candidates have been meeting with B.C. Transit, local mayors and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC). One solution suggested is High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, which would allow buses priority particularly during peak traffic times. They are also pushing for Light Rail Transit, which they suggest would free-up more buses from West Shore to service busy routes. UVic and Camosun contribute around $5 million to Victoria transit, making them a huge stakeholder. If enough pressure both from students and the general public can be drummed up, the VRTC will likely take action, especially if municipalities are supportive (which many are).
“Ensure that affordable education is an issue in the 2013 Provincial Election”
UVSS lobbying work saw a pretty big change this year as students voted to leave the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) last spring. Since then, the students’ society has formed its own coalition for affordable education — the Where’s the Funding?! campaign. With the release of the provincial budget, it seems the current government just isn’t listening to students. At all. Luckily there’s an election coming up. The question is, will the UVSS actually be able to make affordable education an election issue given what seems to be youth voter apathy? It’s hard to say, but the only way it has a chance of working is through constant pressure and awareness. Polls have shown public support for more affordable education. The mainstream media has recognized a student debt crisis. Eventually, students are going to get pissed off by the complete indifference of the B.C. Liberals on this issue. If the UVSS and the “Where’s the Fuding?!” campaign can mobilize this, we may be in for a very interesting election.
And finally, at risk of sounding horribly biased, they want to get a fucking UVic brand beer. I love beer. We would seem really cool. Fuse has stated it’s a big priority for their marketing team. The plan is to get a local brewery to brew a beer, stick a UVic label on it, and get it in Felicitas as soon as possible. I have seen many breweries make beers that are branded to specific organizations, and given the good relationships between the UVSS and many local breweries this shouldn’t be a huge problem. In fact, when I tweeted about it, a brewery tweeted back at me to express their interest. I think the biggest problem would be deciding what kind of beer to go with. People are pretty particular about their beer preferences and you wouldn’t want to alienate any lager drinkers by bringing in an IPA.
Vision UVic seems to be all about saving you money. Or, at least pointing out what they don’t think the board should be spending money on. So let’s examine their platform points to hold a referendum on student fees every five years and cost-saving measures like separating the SUB from the UVSS and not holding an annual board “camping trip.”
“Require all student fees to be subject to referendum every five years”
It sounds like a good idea. Students want a say over where their money goes. However, it’s unclear which fees are going to be up for referendum. Vision Director-at-Large Gabrielle Sutherland has said she does not include dedicated fees for advocacy groups in this. However, a significant portion — 38.4 per cent — of UVSS fees go towards dedicated student groups and student-run initiatives that are not directly controlled by the UVSS board of directors. These include advocacy groups, clubs, course unions and sustainability groups like the UVic Sustainability Project. Approximately 8 per cent goes to services such as the food bank, the ombudsperson and a dedicated elections fund to ensure impartial elections. Just under 35 per cent — $24.60 — goes to UVSS operations, and another 12.8 per cent goes to building and capital. What is yet to be determined is whether or not Vision is proposing having simply the 47.7 per cent of fees that are directly associated with running the UVSS and SUB go up for referendum, or if they also want to put the dedicated fees that allow student groups to operate up for a vote every five years as well. To put things in perspective, UVSS members pay $76 in athletic fees to the university.
“Explore separating the SUB from the UVSS”
We are waiting for Vision to clarify this point and whether or not they are discussing privatization. However, the concept of privatizing the SUB has come up from various candidates during this election period, including ERTW’s Ryan Petty. While privatization may sound cool because there could be a Tim Horton’s, there are significant problems. I know a lot of people think having a Tim Horton’s in the SUB sounds great despite its shitty coffee, but there is one important factor people are forgetting — the SUB is unionized to provide students with good jobs at fair pay. You can’t just stop having unionized workers in your building. There’s this thing called inheritance rights. So either you convince the businesses to have union employees at union rates and convince union employees they actually want to work in these places (somehow I can’t imagine the Munchies serving up a Tim Horton’s “latte”) or you buy out the contract. It’s probably a good thing this platform point is just to explore the possibility, at which point they’ll likely realize it’s a bad idea.
“Stop wasting your student fees on items like the UVSS’ annual camping trip to Shawnigan Lake”
At the start of each board term, the new UVSS board of directors goes on a board retreat to learn things about things like budgets, post-secondary education, lobbying, committees and board meetings, Robert’s Rules and anti-oppressive practices. The board retreat for all 21 board members, necessary staff and guest presenters is around $2000. An idea has been to hold the retreat in the SUB, however catering the meals for the two-day training session for all involved has been estimated to run higher than $2000. In fact, the UVSS has tried to hold retreats in the SUB before, and to quote a former chairperson, they “have been a flop.”