January Campaigns Update

Happy new year! I know, a little late. The start of 2017 has been awesome for UVSS campaigns, and we are excited to let you know what we have been up to!

TextbookBroke Semester 2!

This year we ran the #TextbookBroke campaign for the second time, and although we got less entries, the reach was still amazing. The campaign reached over 40,000 people on social media with over 2000 likes on posts and over 300 shares! Our efforts were featured on the front page of the Saanich News receiving widespread community awareness – even UVic showed us some love with a share on their Facebook page!

The winner of this year’s contest was Cayra Tansey who spent $500 towards her textbooks. Cayra received 231 likes and 80 shares on her entry.

For those hearing about the TextbookBroke campaign for the first time, the campaigns purpose is to bring awareness to the problems in the publishing industry, where students are captive consumers and there is little correlation between product value and price. In addition, the campaign promotes innovative alternatives to expensive publishing resources, such as Open Educational Resources. OER’s, which are produced with government grant funding and open for students online, are set to save students over $100,000 at UVic alone in 2017!

The 3rd Annual Mental Health Awareness Event ft. Kevin Breel

This week the UVSS partnered with Student Life to make the Annual Mental Health Awareness Event the biggest to date! Over 450 students, faculty, staff and community members came out to engage with community groups, hear from the amazing keynote Kevin Breel, and engage is discussion. My favorite part of the event was the student story performance; before Kevin spoke five students got up on stage to bravely share their story, their hardship, and their continued struggle with mental health. This event left me energized to continue our work with the ReThink Mental Health campaign, spreading positive messages and raising awareness of campus resources.

What’s Next?

In addition to continued outreach for ReThink Mental Health and Let’s Get Consensual,, the UVSS is gearing up to run an exciting new campaign “Count on Our Vote.” This campaign’s purpose is to encourage informed student voting. We are excited to be working in partnership with the Alliance of BC Students, a provincial organization representing over 60,000 post-secondary students. Stay tuned for more info!

Lobbying, Speeches and Sponsors!

Director of Campaigns and Community Relations, Maxwell Nicholson and Director of Student Affairs, Emma Kinakin meet with Minister Wilkinson to lobby on provincial student issues.

Director of Campaigns and Community Relations, Maxwell Nicholson and Director of Student Affairs, Emma Kinakin meet with Minister Wilkinson to lobby on provincial student issues.

What a wonderful last couple weeks it has been at the UVSS! Definitely some exciting updates from the campaigns department and much more in store for next semester.

Lobbying on Housing

First, we have continued to meet with Saanich city councilor Fred Haynes and the University of Victoria to discuss a viable solution to the housing crisis in Victoria: allowing universities to build more student housing. Currently the government restricts universities from self-supported capital projects, which restricts their ability to respond to a growing demand.  The problem is complex, but we now have the support of the Union of BC Municipalities (all the mayors in BC), the Alliance of BC Students, the Simon Fraser Student Society, the UBC Alma Mater Society, the UVic administration, and the Camosun administration, and are continuing to put pressure on the government to fix this problem. On the 29th I had the pleasure of saying a few kind words about Fred’s leadership on this issue to a room of Saanich community leaders at the Victoria Caledonian Brewery & Distillery (lovely craft beer!).

Meeting with the Minister

On the first of December we continued the conversation about student housing, lobbying the Minister of Advanced Education about the housing problem and four other issues, recommending they:

  1. Increase funding for BCcampus’ Open Textbook Project by $500,000 a year for the next 3 years to expand the number of open textbooks available to BC students. (See the UVSS TextbookBroke Campaign)
  2. Provide targeted funding to post-secondary institutions for mental health support services for students (See the UVSS ReThink Mental Health campaign)
  3. Establish a needs-based student grant program that addresses student needs and provides incentives for completion and conduct a review of the current B.C. student loan eligibility requirements and interest charged on B.C. student loans.
  4. Provide resources to institutions implementing Sexual Misconduct policies, expand the scope of Bill 23, and create a dedicated provincial task force to create a comprehensive provincial wide plan to address sexual violence. (See the Let’s Get Consensual Campaign)

Our pragmatic approach was well received, and we will continue to be pushing for these important student issues!

Bell Sponsors Mental Health Event!

Finally, exciting news on the mental health front – Bell Let’s Talk is partnering with us with a $3,500 for our Mental Health Awareness Week, which will feature keynote speaker Kevin Breel on January 18th, a renown speaker with a TED talk boosting almost 3 million views! Stay tuned for more event details.

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I am truly honored to represent students on these issues, and my door is always open to hear what you want to see from the campaigns department! In the meantime, good luck on exams, and have a wonderful holiday season!

-Maxwell Nicholson, Director of Campaigns and Community Relations

Mental Health Obstacle Course a Huge Success!

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Last Friday, on October 27th, a host of spooky, quirky and creative costume-attired runners joined the UVSS campaign team to participate in Run for your Brain, a Halloween themed obstacle course with the purpose of promoting mental health on campus. The course, which consisted of fun challenges such as hay bails, quidditch, a spoon race and more, took under a minute to complete with the winner, Hadem Chang, completing the race in 31.74 seconds. Thanks to the support of Original Joes, the participant with the fastest time as well as a few lucky entrants received gift cards ranging from $25 to $50. With over 50 people completing the course and many more stopping by the booths to speak to the fantastic partner organizations that came out to support the campaign, the event was a huge success and a lot of fun for everyone involved!

The goal of Run for your Brain was to promote ReThink Mental Health, the UVSS campaign to support student mental health on campus and promote the different resources available in the community. The obstacle course was designed to be fun but also to encourage students to think about stress. By requiring runners to follow quick instructions with no warning and think about things that caused them stress students were shown that, while pressure and stress are emotions that all students face, there are ways to deal with and manage them in safe, effective and even enjoyable ways. With the support of so many great groups such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, NEED2 Suicide Prevention Education & Support, and the BC Schizophrenia Society, the Run for your Brain event educated students about stress management and the different resources available to them.

Check out the ReThink Mental Health website for more information about resources and other cool events coming up throughout the year!

-Lorissa Corrie, Volunteer Leader

UVSS presents to BC Government’s Select Standing Committee on Finance

UVSS Director of Outreach, Alysha Flipse and Director of Campaigns, Maxwell Nicholson present student issues to the government on October 11th.

UVSS Director of Outreach, Alysha Flipse and Director of Campaigns, Maxwell Nicholson present student issues to the government on October 11th.

The University of Victoria Students’ Society is at it again! In addition to providing students with many fun events throughout the school year, your student-run non-profit also does municipal, provincial, and national advocacy to represent everyone in the UVic community. On October 11th, UVSS Director of Campaigns Maxwell Nicholson presented a series of student-focused recommendations to the BC Government’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. By doing this, the UVSS intends to raise awareness and seek solutions for the provincial issues that matter most to students. Our four requests were inspired by your responses to the annual survey sent out in June 2016.

Our first recommendation to the committee was for the government to increase funding for the “BC Open Textbook Project” founded in 2012. This government sponsored project works to replace standard, stagnant and costly textbooks with open-sourced options that are peer-reviewed, high quality and free of charge for students. Over the last ten years, textbook prices have risen four times the rate of inflation, presenting a serious affordability concern for students. The BC Campus’ Open Textbook Project has resulted in $2.5 million of cost saving for students and presents a viable solution to this pressing issue. So far this year, the UVSS has done a lot of advocacy on this issue including the “#Textbookbroke” campaign that was launched in September. This campaign reached over 35,000 students on social media and was featured on CBC and CFAX radio.

Our second recommendation was to remove the barriers that prevent post-secondary institutions from building more on-campus student housing.  Right now, 10,000+ students apply for just 2,700 on-campus units. Although certain individuals may get accommodation from their families, most of student off-campus housing is from market place rental, making low-income families compete with cash-strapped students. Building more on-campus housing would take students out of this competitive market, but currently there are many unnecessary road blocks that prevent the university from building. That is why the UVSS has been working with municipalities, the university administration and various student societies such as the Simon Fraser Students Society, or the UBC Alma Mater Society to push for progressive reforms to the housing of university students.

The third recommendation was for the government to provide targeted funding for mental health support services for students. Mental health is a growing problem on-campus and recent statistics paint a concerning picture. In Spring 2013, the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) released a report which stated that 9.1% of students seriously considered suicide over a 12-month period. Throughout the last few months the UVSS has been working with UVic Student Mental Health Initiative to provide resources and support for students, but budget constraints restrict our capacity.

The fourth recommendation we provided was based on the recent student aid reforms in Ontario that create an up-front, needs-based grants program for low-income students. In Ontario, full-time students whose parents make a combined household income of less than $50,000 per year can now receive non-repayable needs-based grants that enable them to access post-secondary education. This is a good stepping stone that our provincial government can make to transform British Columbia’s schools into one of Canada’s most equitable education systems.

These suggestions received positive responses, with the committee expressing its appreciation for the specific nature of the proposals as well as our coordination with the University of Victoria and other student groups. We are optimistic that these recommendations will make it into the Finance Committee’s proposal for the 2017/18 provincial government budget. In the coming year we will continue to represent the UVic students by working with the government, the University, and other student groups to bring student issues to the forefront.

-Dakota McGovern