Eight DaLs elected from a competitive race, focusing on transparency, food security, and housing
On Oct. 26, the UVSS electoral office announced preliminary results for the director at large (DaL) by-election. In a competitive race of 15 candidates, eight were selected by undergraduate voters and are stepping into a voting role on the UVSS Board after being ratified on Oct. 30.
The elected DaLs are Prym Goodacre, Gabrielle Miller, Shaan Brar, Andrew Loe, Aidan Dias, Eric Liu, Mackenzie McNiven, and Lauren Aimoe.
The election comes after significant changes to the electoral policy and disappointing voter turnout during the pandemic years. In March 2023, the UVSS election reached just under 10 per cent turnout, up from four per cent the previous spring.
This time, just over 1 000 students cast their ballots, representing six per cent of UVic’s eligible undergraduates.
The UVSS also introduced a new platform for this election, Simply Voting. In an email to the Martlet, electoral officer John Morrison said the UVSS had responded to voter feedback to remove multi-factor authentication requirements from this system, hoping to reduce barriers.
This election also used the Single Transferable Voting system (STV), requiring voters to rank candidates according to their preferences. A multi-step system is used to allocate seats, Morrison said. “This way, more voters end up supporting a candidate they like, making the election more representative.”
Despite voting numbers dropping over three per cent compared to March, Morrison said this aligns with expectations for by-elections, which only fill open seats on the UVSS Board and attract less voters.
Morrison said he was “pleased with the switch” to Simply Voting. “I expect a higher level of voter turnout in the upcoming spring general election, when all board positions are available,” he said.
Successful candidate and third-year commerce student, Shaan Brar, said the UVSS made “an extremely strong effort” to encourage voting. However, he said he also wants to raise more awareness, calling it a question of “how we can explain to students that their vote can produce change.”
Part of the DaL role is to attend the monthly meetings and hold lead directors accountable for their decisions. Brar hopes to improve transparency, communicating the promises of the executive team and the work being done to achieve them. He also hopes to propose policies to alleviate financial burdens on students, lobbying for “a reduction in parking fees around campus.” He said this would lighten the load for those struggling with the rising cost of living.
Brar is not the only candidate focused on financial issues. DaLs play a role in executing UVSS’ advocacy campaigns and events, including efforts to lobby the government. Lead candidate and fourth-year in religion, culture and society, Prym Goodacre, plans to collaborate with the campaigns committee to address provincial housing policy.
In an interview with the Martlet, Goodacre said, “I want to look into greater rental controls and advocate for that. This year we’re seeing landlords have the largest ability to raise rents in 2024 than they have in the last five years.” In 2024, B.C. landlords will be allowed to raise rent by 3.5 per cent annually, the highest increase since pre-pandemic.
At the university, she hopes to keep “heat” on UVic’s administration to build more affordable accommodations for students. “It is a student union, and we are united on this front that we need better housing solutions.”
Directors at large also assist with events and support the advocacy groups and services run by the UVSS. Goodacre said that she hopes the recent decision to reduce quorum will make it easier to push referendums and increase funding for services such as the UVSS Food Bank and the SUB’s free lunch program. At the UVSS AGM on Oct. 28, the board passed a revision that lowered the quorum (the number of voting members that have to be present) for referendums from 15 per cent to eight per cent.
Student health and wellbeing was also a key area in this election. Shan Brar plans to prioritize fitness and wellness. He is proposing free drop-in sessions throughout the semester at CARSA, to reduce intimidation for non-gym-goers.
Another elected official, Andrew Loe, said, “I campaigned on the idea of mental health accessibility and awareness.” He said, of the Student Wellness Centre, “students find that it’s underfunded or under-managed.”
Loe is advocating for an online booking system for counselling appointments, to make services more accessible. In the UVSS, he wants to raise awareness of which health services are covered through the Health and Dental plan.
Others want to amplify the needs of student clubs across campus. Fourth-year psychology and biology student, Mackenzie McNiven, told the Martlet, “We have some really, really incredible clubs on campus who are directly addressing issues that we have.” Examples include Women in STEM and LGBTQ2S+ advocacy groups.
“A lot of the discussion that’s happening in those clubs isn’t making it to the UVSS, so it’s not possible to actually implement some of those changes,” McNiven said. She wants to bridge communications and bring student groups’ opinions to board meetings, using her board vote with these groups’ values in mind.
In an email, a representative from the UVSS said, “The UVSS Board of Directors is excited to welcome and onboard our new directors at large. With our Board at full capacity, we’re ready to go above and beyond what we’ve already been able to accomplish on behalf of students this year.”