Several positions are running unopposed, and affordability is a top focus
Voting for this year’s UVSS election starts March 23, and the campaign period is already in full swing.
A total of 19 students are hoping to join the Board for the upcoming year, and seven candidates are vying for lead director positions.
There are five lead director spots up for grabs. These are full-time positions, which are each responsible for overseeing a specific aspect of UVSS governance. This year the candidates for Director of Finance and Operations, Director of Student Affairs, and Director of Events are all running unopposed. The Director of Campaigns and Community Relations and Director of Outreach and University Relations positions, however, each have two candidates.
The Martlet spoke with each of the lead director candidates about their visions for the UVSS and what they hope to accomplish if elected.
Director of Campaigns and Community Relations
The Director of Campaigns and Community Relations is the person to look to when it comes to student issues. They are responsible for coordinating UVSS campaigns and media relations and for working with different levels of government on key student issues. This position also represents the UVSS for external organizations, committees, and coalitions.
Cleo James Philp
Cleo James Philp is a fourth-year political science student who has been involved with the UVSS for several years and works as a communications officer for the Gender Empowerment Centre.
If elected, Philp will work toward achieving three goals: affordability, accountability, and safety.
She hopes to help students with affordability by lobbying the municipal government to tie rent increase limits to units instead of leases, and by addressing food insecurity with improved funding for the Food Bank.
“People are struggling to eat, I think priorities need to be set,” said Philp.
Philp hopes to increase accountability by opening up more opportunities for students to give feedback, and to actually listen to that feedback.
She also hopes to improve the support that UVic gives to sexualized violence survivors. “It’s really unfortunate that UVic specifically has been so reliably disappointing for students who have experienced sexualized violence.”
UVic’s Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy is being reviewed in 2024, and Philp hopes to be able to expand and clarify its scope.
“I think [UVic] knows that there is a lot that needs to be done, and I want to work with them.”
Kirti Rath is a third-year computer science and statistics student who is stepping into the world of politics for the first time. For her, “university is all about new experiences.”
Rath did not plan on running, but when the deadline for candidates was extended, she was urged to get out and share her ideas.
If elected, one of Rath’s main focuses will be on tenancy rights. “The lease that we sign gives us certain rights, and that’s something not a lot of people know, myself included up until a certain point of time,” she said.
She hopes to help educate renters on the rights that they have and make the pertaining information easier to access.
Another priority will be affordability. “As an international student, affordability is something that is necessary for me.” She also hopes to help make it easier for international students to apply for and receive financial aid.
Rath believes that there should be more opportunities for students to have on-campus jobs. “Students can be here, [and] they can enjoy that life that they wanted to — that dream campus life.”
Director of Finance and Operations
The Director of Finance and Operations, nicknamed the “budget, services and biz whiz” by the Electoral Office, is responsible for the UVSS budget. This includes maintaining financial transparency with members, overseeing the student health and dental plan, and coordinating marketing strategies. This director is also tasked with improving the sustainability of operations in the SUB.
Khushi Wadhwa is a fourth-year economics and French student who has been involved in numerous clubs at UVic, including the UVic chapter of Young Women in Business. She is running unopposed for Director of Finance and Operations.
“I want to increase our revenue as much as possible and give back to the students and the student clubs to encourage them in getting more involved,” said Wadhwa.
If elected, Wadhwa’s first priority will be to work on increasing pay for workers, and the profitability of businesses, in the SUB. She plans to do this by working directly with these businesses to understand their individual circumstances and needs as well as by focusing on marketing.
“I would also like to bring in more revenue by promoting our services as much as I can through social media,” said Wadhwa.
Students clubs are another top priority for Wadhwa, who has experienced the value of clubs first-hand. In addition to allocating more funding to clubs, Wadhwa hopes to make space in the SUB more accessible in order to help clubs host more events.
Director of Outreach and University Relations
The Director of Outreach and University Relations is responsible for lobbying and working with the university to meet student needs. The position also involves liaising between the UVSS and students through outreach campaigns and volunteer opportunities as well as acting as the Board’s media spokesperson. This director is also the chair during Board meetings.
Matthew Curtis is a second-year software engineering student and currently serves as the director of outreach for the Engineering Students’ Society.
“I have lots of ideas on small ways and big ways that the UVSS can change to be more accessible, more transparent, and increase communication,” said Curtis.
If elected, Curtis plans to adopt the recommendations outlined in the governance review released last month as well as make changes to UVSS general meetings so that more students can participate and are better informed before doing so.
In order to make the UVSS more accessible and encourage students to get involved, Curtis is also looking to implement short-term positions that would allow students to serve on the Board without the typical year-long commitment. He believes this would help lighten the workload for lead directors as well.
In terms of working with the university, Curtis hopes to improve UVic’s co-op programs by making them more “student-focused.”
“The feeling, at least in engineering and computer science, is that the co-op department is not here for the students, but for the employers,” said Curtis.
Lane O’Hara Cooke
Lane O’Hara Cooke is a political science and gender studies student with previous Board experience. Cooke started as the advocacy representative for the Gender Empowerment Centre and became the Director of Finance and Operations last September.
“I think it is imperative that the chair of the board is an experienced individual and who’s very, very knowledgeable about the UVSS,” said Cooke.
If elected, some priorities will be improving food insecurity and affordability issues for students.
“If Victoria is known as the most unaffordable city in the province, people will not want to come here … It’s about making investments right now.”
For Cooke, this will include advocating for increased wages for SUB workers and lobbying the university for support. With the help of UVic, this candidate also hopes to implement a hot lunch program that will provide students with five meals a week either on a sliding scale or at no cost to help lighten the burden of food costs.
Within the UVSS, Cooke is looking to make changes to improve the society’s work environment and “dismantle cycles of toxicity and bullying,” starting with making the election process less intimidating and competitive.
Director of Student Affairs
The Director of Student Affairs is a community builder and advocates for equity. The position is in charge of helping any new or established clubs and course unions, while acting as chair for the Advocacy Relations Committee. They are also responsible for acting as a liaison between student advocacy groups and affiliated organizations and the Board.
Emily Lam is a third-year nursing student who has experience as a campus representative at Camosun College.
She is stepping out of her comfort zone and is looking forward to meeting new people and building new connections across campus.
Lam, like many other students, found online schooling during the pandemic a difficult situation to build relations in. “I just want to rebuild a safe community for students and foster an inclusive environment and a safe campus to support physical and mental well-being,”Lam said.
She hopes to engage with students and board members through clubs and events, support students in community building and relationships, and better understand the perspectives and experiences of students.
Lam believes she is the right person for this position not only because of her people skills, but also because of her experience running clubs and communicating with others to organize events.
“I think it’s important for people to get their vote out and their voices heard through voting.”
Director of Events
The Director of Events is more than just a party planner. Their duties include planning and delivering UVSS events, and collaborating with diverse partners on and off campus. They also work closely with the UVSS communications and graphic design staff.
Sarah Buchanan is a sociology major who has previous experience working as a director at large for the UVSS.
As Director of Events, Buchanan hopes to bring some of her big ideas to fruition.
She believes that the smaller and more chill events on campus, like puppy playtimes and hot lunches, have been successful, and wants to continue those while also adding in some larger-scale events.
“I feel like since COVID, there just haven’t been a lot of big community building events in the SUB,” said Buchanan. Vertigo in the SUB now has a liquor license, and Buchanan hopes to make use of that.
Buchanan was impressed by the work that was put into the SEXPO, and hopes to use her power to help make it even more of a success in 2024.
As an avid Halloween lover, she also wants to help make some spooky events a reality. “We’ve got a pretty big surplus in the events budget that I’m hoping to spend.”
Now that you’ve met the students running for lead director positions, casy your vote starting at 9 a.m on March 23. You have until 5 p.m. on March 27 to have a say in who will represent students for the next year.