In the upcoming 2019 UVSS election, students will have the choice of voting whether $3.00 of their annual student fees (or $1.50 for part-time students) continues to support the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG).
VIPIRG is a non-profit organization that supports students in conducting independent research projects in the public interest and assisting with research-based coursework and practicums.The organization also offers financial support through small and large community grants as well as scholarships for domestic and international UVic students. VIPIRG runs a free textbook program and a reference library with a collection of varied books. VIPIRG hires seven UVic students each year.
The UVSS board voted to bring VIPIRG’s funding into question in the referendum due to a recent financial audit that allegedly shows fiscally irresponsible activity.
“[The audit] revealed a number of concerning internal control deficiencies as quoted from the audit, which can be seen in full on VIPIRG’s public documents,” says Eric Jakubowski, a Director-at-Large on the UVSS board of directors, and the official proponent of the referendum.
“Any single one of these by itself is not especially bad but the combination of them was, to many members of the board.”
Jakubowksi adds that withdrawing VIPIRG’s funding will have little effect for students.
“On a broader scale, the UVSS’s most recent annual survey showed that 58 per cent of the 2 000 respondents had never even heard of VIPIRG,” he says. “I doubt students will feel any of the consequences other than lower student fees.”
Kadi Diallo, a research assistant with VIPIRG and the official opponent of the referendum, says that students will feel the consequences in reduced financial support, research and internship opportunities, and networking.
“Students often tell us about the connections they’ve made through VIPIRG,” she says. “There are very few opportunities, if any, to learn about and gain hands-on research experience, especially at the undergraduate level … [These opportunities] help prepare students for the job market or further education at the graduate level.”
“Students ought to have the right to decide if they feel that VIPIRG is spending their money appropriately,” says Jakubowski.
Of the four referendums on students’ ballots this year, this is the only one that is not being officially endorsed by the UVSS.