Candidates talk platforms and promises
After extending the nomination period due to low turnout, the UVSS board of directors elections are up and running. Representing all UVic undergraduate students, the UVSS board is made up of five lead director positions, 11 director at large positions, a Director of International Student Relations, and five representatives from the five advocacy groups. The advocacy representatives are not voted on in the elections.
This year, the Director of International Student Relations and the Director of Events candidates are running unopposed, and all other positions have at least two candidates to choose from.
The Martlet caught up with each of the lead director candidates to talk about their platforms and campaign promises.
Director of Outreach and University Relations
The Director of Outreach and University Relations works as the main point of communication between students and the university administration. They chair the UVSS meetings, plan outreach initiatives, work with volunteers, and are the Board’s main media contact. This year two candidates are running for the position.
Ton Tran is a first-year education student living in residence. Tran wasn’t originally planning to run for a board position, but after discussing with friends he thought it would be a good way to meet people, get out of his comfort zone, and gain experience.
“A lot of where my platform stands is coming from a first-year perspective, living on residence right after COVID,” said Tran, who was an active participant in his high school’s student council and started his own non-profit organization in his hometown in northern B.C.
Tran has a few platform pillars in his bid for Director of Outreach and University Relations: student relationships, equity, sustainability, and affordability and finance. He also said that an important part of his campaign is transparency as he believes in holding the UVSS board accountable to their actions.
“I just really enjoy … collaborating with people,” said Tran, who also works with the Vikes running youth birthday parties.
Evalyn Braybrook is a second-year student in linguistics who is running for Director of Outreach and University Relations. Her campaign platform revolves around a pillar of transparency while working closely with the advocacy groups and ensuring that the UVSS has a strong future.
“There’s just a lot of people who don’t know what’s going on because it’s not very well-shared, I would say, between UVic, the UVSS, and students,” said Braybrook, who originally didn’t put her name forward because she thought more people would be interested in the position.
The candidate commented that she believes the board needs to be reformed and that she plans to bring about change if elected. Drawing from her previous experience in leadership groups and clubs, Braybrook said that she isn’t afraid of talking in front of groups or taking charge.
“I plan on having a few more cat cams at board meetings if elected,” added Braybrook, whose cat Walter was something of a star at this year’s UVSS Semi Annual General Meeting.
Director of Student Affairs
The Director of Student Affairs is the person responsible for assisting the UVSS clubs and course unions. They also work closely with the five advocacy groups on campus and chair the Advocacy Relations Committee. There are two candidates running for this spot.
No stranger to the UVSS board, Deborah Berman has worked previously as a director at large and recently stepped up as the interim co-director of campaigns and community relations after the previous director resigned. The fourth-year political science and environmental studies student says her campaign is focussing on decolonization, inclusivity, and transparency.
“UVic is a colonial institution and we have to hold them accountable,” said Berman. “I fully support the decolonial practices the UVSS is trying to implement.”
Berman said she plans on being transparent with the student body if elected and would hold office hours, submit detailed board reports, and openly update on her activities at board meetings. The co-director commented that this previous year’s board could have communicated with students more effectively and that accessible communication is something that she wants to focus on going forward. Another top priority for Berman is working to ensure students have equitable access to education.
“I feel like my work isn’t done,” she said. “I want to continue my advocacy and continue working on the connections that I’ve made with students.”
Third-year psychology and political science student Lilly Riley is focussing her campaign for Director of Student Affairs on advertising, inclusivity, and change. As a student, Riley has felt the call for transparency and change within the UVSS and wants to ensure that the UVSS rebuilds trust with the student body.
“I know a lot of the students at UVic, especially this year, are really frustrated and have said some things about the UVSS,” said Riley. “I’m really hearing that and would really love to incorporate what the students are wanting to change.”
With the increase in anti-trans graffiti on campus this year, Riley also believes that now is the time to be focussing on inclusivity and what that can look like at UVic. Drawing from her volunteer work at Our Place and from work on her high school’s student council, Riley feels she has a solid base of experience she can bring to the position.
“The one thing that I really am trying to go for is boosting the advertisement for our current clubs and unions,” said Riley. “We have some amazing clubs and things to offer … but [students] just don’t have that information or resources it seems.”
Director of Events
The Director of Events is a self-explanatory position. They handle all of the UVSS events, with the September Campus Kick Off as the crown jewel. Due to COVID, most events have been taking place virtually over the past two years.
Amber Powell is an upper-level biology student. She is particularly interested in entomology, and wants to study killer bees in Arizona. She is running uncontested.
“I would like to help build some more community on campus, doing it in a safe way, and hopefully we can have some fun events.”
Some of the events Powell would like to explore are a Dunk-a-Director, a Haunted House, campus art projects, and movie nights during final exam season.
Powell told the Martlet about an idea to use orientation programs as a formal platform to introduce the UVSS to students. “I feel like a lot of students on campus have no idea what [the UVSS is] doing or that it exists. I would like to help change that.
“I’m an outspoken person, and I feel that as someone who has been here for a while, and has seen it go from joyful and stressful over and over again, that I’m in a position where I can speak up and help.”
Director of Finance and Operations
The Director of Finance and Operations creates the budget and manages the finances, services, marketing, and strategic planning of the UVSS. One of their responsibilities is to coordinate the UVSS Health and Dental Plan, as well as the U-Pass program. This year, there are three candidates vying for the role.
Charles Lithgow is a third-year philosophy major with a gender studies minor. Formerly an executive in the Philosophy Student Union, Lithgow told the Martlet they also have work experience handling finances.
Lithgow wants to bolster UVSS support for affordable housing projects, support student-led initiatives for mental health, and expand the UVSS health and dental coverage to allow for more flexible student fees.
However, Lithgow also said they don’t want to take too much spotlight away from existing UVSS services. “I think too often we get really wrapped up in big goals and campaigns we’d like to launch, and it can distract from organizations and campaigns we already have going that could really use some extra backing and support.”
Finally, Lithgow says they want the UVSS board to be more transparent and to be accountable to students. “I think that as an organization, [the UVSS] has a lot of potential to do more for students than it currently is.”
Lithgow said they would like to survey students about the fees they pay to the UVSS, not only as a way of information-gathering, but also to better advertise the UVSS services.
Leo Prosalendis is a second-year economics student, also undergoing a language certification in Russian.
If elected Director of Finance, Prosalendis’ main priority would be better transparency with the UVSS budget and administrative decision-making. Prosalendis suggested an increase in town halls and more transcripts of board budgets and decision-making.
Prosalendis said this would largely be a response to the allocation of PIRG funds last year. “Ultimately, the money was allocated somewhere to some good advocacy groups, but the thing is that people did not have a say in why it went to those.”
Prosalendis said the UVSS should establish a “simple protocol” for what happens to abandoned funds in the future, for the sake of good faith within the UVSS.
Finally, Prosalendis suggested an automatic system that would tie UVSS fees to inflation, never passing a yearly increase of two per cent. “At the end of the day, UVSS needs to remain solvent, and the people here have to be paid.”
Liam Peta is a third-year economics student. In the past, Peta has worked in various public sector positions, including a local legislative office.
Peta’s chief concern is affordability. If elected, the candidate told the Martlet he would encourage on-campus development to ensure greater student satisfaction and affordability. Peta would also like to see a budgetary expansion of the UVSS Food Bank and Free Store.
“We, as a union, need to emphasize greater support systems for those in need. No student should be denied access to food because they cannot afford it.”
A good balance between accessibility and affordability is something Peta believes he can achieve. “While our university is already pretty awesome, we can always do more as individuals and as a collective union, to achieve an extraordinary learning experience for everyone.”
Director of Campaigns and Community Relations
The Director of Campaigns and Community Relations is primarily responsible for coordinating campaigns and representing the UVSS on all projects put together by the Campaigns Committee. These campaigns include Rent with Rights, Let’s Get Consensual, and Safer Use. They also communicate with government institutions as well as other organizations to advocate for issues that affect students. This position has two candidates.
David Wu is a third-year visual arts student and was recently elected as a representative for the Faculty of Fine Arts on the UVic senate.
If elected, Wu hopes to make education and living more affordable and accessible for students.
These goals involve lowering tuition and making hybrid learning mandatory.
Wu also plans to create a new campaign to provide free textbooks through a donation service similar to a food bank.
“People can drop off their used textbooks,” explained Wu. “Whoever needs a textbook for their class can have that book for one semester and then hopefully return [it] so the textbook will be reused and there’s no cost.”
Wu aims to work with the university and the municipal government on student housing, which he believes is the biggest issue that UVic students are facing.
He hopes to tackle the issue by expanding the Rent with Rights campaign and harnessing the voting power of the UVSS membership. This would include encouraging students to support pro-housing candidates in municipal elections and lobbying UVic to increase on and off-campus housing.
According to Wu, the UVSS could have a lot of influence if used effectively. “The UVSS is actually a very powerful organization,” said Wu.
Izzy Adachi is a political science student at UVic with previous experience serving on the UVSS board and working for a local non-profit.
If elected, Adachi hopes to expand the current Rent with Rights campaign to help students living off-campus. This would include organizing a tenants union within the Capital Regional District (CRD).
“Students make up a large percentage of the renters on south Vancouver Island,” said Adachi. “So having an organization that can attend to the material issue of the rising cost of rent and rental security is really important.”
Adachi also hopes to start a new campaign to end the unpaid practicum system, which places added financial burden on those entering fields such as social work, nursing, and child care.
“It’s one of the only times where unpaid labour is accepted within our legal system,” said Adachi.
Changes within the UVSS are also in Adachi’s plans. These include reducing the quorum for referenda and the signatures needed to petition for a referendum.
According to Adachi, the online voting system also needs to be updated to allow more surveys and votes to “better understand the experience of students who are less represented in the UVSS.”
Director of International Student Relations
The Director of International Student Relations acts as a representative of international students at UVic. They advocate for international student interests to university administration and the UVSS Board of Directors. The Director of International Student Relations is also the chair of the International Student Relations Committee and participates in organizing events. These include fundraisers, holidays, and other celebrations.
Adam Choi is a biology student at UVic and was part of the Hong Kong Student Association Executive Committee. Choi is running unopposed for the Director of International Student Relations position.
If elected, Choi will prioritize helping international students feel a sense of belonging at UVic. He hopes they can feel at home rather than like visitors in Victoria.
“I would like to encourage and facilitate international students to actively engage in the local community,” said Choi.
In the past, Choi has organized events including fishing and boating activities as well as hot pot and Korean barbecue meals. If elected, he hopes to organize more events and activities for international students, such as attending hockey and lacrosse games.
Choi will also focus on addressing issues of financial security, discrimination, mental health, and sexual violence that impact international students.
“I would like to create a platform where international students [can] take a leadership role in creating solutions to issues that affect all UVic students,” said Choi.
Voting begins March 23 at 9 a.m. and goes until March 25 at 12 p.m.