A statement regarding TERFs

It has come to the attention of the UVSS Board of Directors that in recent weeks, trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) have been targeting and harassing members of our community. Such behaviors must not be tolerated on our campus, and in society as a whole.

The Board of Directors condemns the horrid actions of the TERFs. Discrimination toward members of traditionally marginalized groups and harassment, in general, are never acceptable. It is important that we stand behind our members, and that we do our best to ensure that the Student Union Building and our Campus as a whole are safe for our members and for all members of the University community.

We hope that those negatively affected by the actions of TERFs benefit from the knowledge that the UVSS completely supports them and that we will do all that we can to ensure their safety and comfort.

Sincerely,

The UVSS Executive Team

UVic students commend BC Government for lowering interest rates on student loans

Victoria – Students across BC celebrated a huge win yesterday when Finance Minister Michael de Jong announced in the budget speech that the BC Government will lower the interest rate on student loans. Effective August 1, 2017, the interest rate on student loans will be reduced from prime plus 2.5% to prime only. Years of coordinated lobbying efforts by BC’s post-secondary students has resulted in a win that improves affordability for students.

“UVic students applaud the BC Government for reducing student loan interest and the burden of student debt,” said UVSS Director of Campaigns and Community Relations Maxwell Nicholson. “Working with other student unions across BC to make the student voice heard can pay huge dividends.”

A recent survey of students at 10 post-secondary institutions across BC conducted by Insights West in collaboration with the Alma Mater Society shows that 38% of students have taken out student loans. These students leave school with an average student loan burden of just over $27,000. Reducing the interest rate on these loans makes it easier for students to transition from university to their careers, allowing graduates to save and invest without the burden of high interest rates.

“While students at UVic are excited by the reduction in interest rates, there are still many student issues that were not addressed in the 2017 BC Budget,” said Nicholson. “There is a pressing need for access to affordable on-campus housing, core-funding increases for essential support services, and a comprehensive needs-based grants program.”

In the run up to the May 2017 provincial election, the UVSS will continue to work with other student unions in BC to advocate for post-secondary issues and to encourage youth voter participation. The UVSS will be launching the Count On Our Vote campaign in the coming weeks.

The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) was established in 1964 and represents the 18,000 undergraduate students at the University of Victoria.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

Maxwell Nicholson
UVSS Director of Campaigns & Community Relations
campaigns@uvss.ca, 250-721-8366

Media Advisory – September 26, 2016

farrah_digital_screen_ad

UVic students set to host counsellor, educator, and artist Farrah Khan as a part of Sexualized Violence Awareness Month

Victoria – This Wednesday, the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS), Anti-Violence Project (AVP), and UVic will be co-hosting “We Begin By Listening” – a keynote presentation by Farrah Khan. Khan is nationally recognized counsellor, educator and artist with over 16 years of experience addressing gender-based violence.

Who:    Farrah Khan, Ann-Bernice Thomas, and Jeremy Loveday

What:   “We Begin By Listening” keynote presentation on sexualized violence

When:  Wednesday September 28, 2016. 6:30pm.

Where: UVic Farquhar Auditorium

This keynote presentation is a part of Sexualized Violence Awareness Month and the Let’s Get Consensualcampaign. Join us as we work towards making our campus free of harm and shifting our culture to one of consent.

More info:

Web:
https://www.antiviolenceproject.org/svaw/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/events/690871104412689/
https://www.facebook.com/getconsent

The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) was established in 1964 and represents the 17,000 undergraduate students at the University of Victoria. Let’s Get Consensual is a campaign against the prevalence of rape culture and sexualized violence on campuses organized by AVP, UVSS, UVic, and partner organizations across British Columbia.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

Maxwell Nicholson
UVSS Director of Campaigns & Community Relations
campaigns@uvss.ca, 250-721-8366

Free textbook adopted by Earth & Ocean Sciences course at UVic

Free textbook adopted by Earth & Ocean Sciences course at UVic
Students continue to advocate for more open educational resources

Victoria – As the UVic Students’ Society gets set to launch its textbook affordability campaign ‘TextbookBroke’ in September, some faculty at UVic are already moving forward to adopt free textbooks for their courses. Earth and Ocean Sciences 120 recently switched from a printed textbook worth $123.50 to a free online textbook offered through BCcampus’ Open Textbook Project.

“The adoption of Open Education Resources (OER) is a great step forward for students at UVic,” said UVSS Director of Campaigns Maxwell Nicholson.  “If more colleges and universities throw their weight behind the BC Open Textbook Project and we see wider adoption, this has the potential to make education more affordable for students who are burdened by high debt, expensive course materials, and an extremely tight rental market.“

Textbook affordability has reached a crisis point. Prices have risen three times the rate of inflation since 1970. Textbooks can be up to 50% of the total cost of a university course. For students in EOS 120, the BC Open textbook could collectively save them up to $12,473.50 a year. Students at SImon Fraser and UBC have already seen many open textbook adoptions at their campuses and they are actively pushing for more.

“I’ve heard stories of first year students choosing courses based on how expensive the textbook is, or whether they will really need it for the course,” said UVic Earth and Ocean Sciences professor Lucinda Leonard. “We’d like to remove any obstacle to students being introduced to earth, ocean & atmospheric sciences.”

Over the coming year, the UVSS will continue to advocate for the adoption of more free open textbooks at UVic through ‘TextbookBroke’, a campaign run in partnership with the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) and the Alma Mater Society of UBC (AMS).

The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) was established in 1964 and represents the 17,000 undergraduate students at the University of Victoria.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

Maxwell Nicholson
UVSS Director of Campaigns & Community Relations
campaigns@uvss.ca, 250-721-8366

JOINT PUBLIC STATEMENT TO UVSS MEMBERS

Last week, a matter came to the attention of the UVSS Elections Office and the University of Victoria Students’ Society (“UVSS”) that we would like to address in the following joint statement.

An unknown individual, likely through the use of an online simulator, fabricated a conversation on Facebook. The forged conversation purported to be between an unnamed student and a UVSS board member candidate. The Martlet reports that an unnamed student provided the Martlet with the screenshots on February 29 at 2:31am.

A professional graphic designer has conducted an analysis of the screenshots and has stated with full confidence that the screenshots were faked. According to the Martlet, the individual was unable and/or refused to provide proof that the screenshots were authentic and has also since deleted the Facebook account they used to correspond with the Martlet.

The UVSS and the UVSS Elections Office are concerned for the integrity of the elections process. Forged communications go beyond any definition of acceptable conduct during student elections, and elections in general. Such an act goes against the Electoral Policy Manual, specifically 5.8.4 Defamation, and 5.8.5 Libel, which are both listed as disqualifiable offences.

Statements by UVSS Directors and Officers, in some circumstances, may create liability for the UVSS. Misstatements wrongly attributed to a candidate can have a detrimental and long-lasting effect on a candidate’s future career opportunities and reputation.

UVSS elections are structured to be a positive experience for all candidates and to provide an opportunity to participate in our campus community. No candidate’s future career should be placed in jeopardy because of their involvement with the elections process. The UVSS Elections Office and the University of Victoria Students’ Society strongly condemns fraudulent attacks on any candidate made on a demonstrably fraudulent premise.

We hope that no further acts of this kind are perpetrated against any candidate during future elections, and we will continue to stand for fair, open, impartial, inclusive, and democratic student elections at the University of Victoria.

Sincerely,

Emma Hamill – Chief Electoral Officer, UVSS Elections
Solenn Madevon – Electoral Committee Chair, UVSS Board of Directors

UVic and Camosun students deliver thousands of postcards to VRTC and BC Transit asking for expanded late-night bus service

Victoria – Today UVic and Camosun students delivered 2,200 postcards to the Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC) calling on the Commission and BC Transit to expand late-night bus service.

“Since the Transit Commission launched a limited late-night bus service six years ago, this program has seen enormous success and has experienced a large spike in ridership,” said UVSS Director of External Relations Kenya Rogers. “Although public transit users are very positive about this service, it doesn’t go far enough and the time has come to expand the service to meet demand. That’s why students are asking for one more day and one more hour.”

Late-night bus service is an affordable mode of transportation that increases safety, especially for women, and it decreases instances of drunk driving. Programs like this are good not only for those who want to enjoy an evening downtown, but are also good for those who work downtown and need to get home after a long night at work. Students are asking for asking for late-night transit to start on Thursdays and have the last buses leave at 2:30am.

“With the consistent government funding cuts to post-secondary education, almost all students will have to find part-time employment in order to pay tuition and basic living costs at some point during their program. But many of the industries student find part-time work in have shifts that end after the last available bus service, like serving and bartending,” said CCSS External Executive Andrea Eggenberger. “When students have to put two or more hours of paid work towards a taxi, they require several more shifts a week just to make ends meet. At this point, students have little or no time to study, and education has simply become unaffordable.”

Students are major stakeholders in Greater Victoria’s public transit system. The UVic and Camosun student societies represent over 36,000 student members – the largest ridership demographic and stakeholder in the Capital Region. Through the U-PASS (Universal Bus Pass), UVic and Camosun students contribute $5.4 million to public transit annually, which brings millions of stable, dedicated dollars every year to BC Transit’s budget.

MORE INFO:

Check out our videos of students reading out postcards at the UVic Transit Exchange!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA_HbSaV1Os

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0tZ2qaYHag

https://www.facebook.com/maketransitwork/?ref=hl

The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) and the Camosun College Student Society (CCSS) represent 36,000 undergraduate students in Victoria, BC. Together, along with Unifor 333 (Greater Victoria Bus Drivers Union), they are founding members of The Make Transit Work Coalition.

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PUBLIC STATEMENT TO UVSS MEMBERS – Financial Error: Course Union Council Funding

In regards to many questions and concerns that have been raised by our members about the overturn in funding for the Undergraduates of Political Science (UPS) and their upcoming conference “Discourses on Sovereignty: Land, Borders and Bodies” the Board of Directors would like to issue this statement to explain our actions.

On October 7, the UPS requested $6000 for their conference on Sovereignty: Land, Borders and Bodies through Course Union Council. According to Course Union Council Policy, any amount over $2000 must also get the approval of the Board of Directors. While this is explicit in our policy, the UVSS Director of Student Affairs issued a cheque prior to Board approval in order to allow UPS to meet their deadline. The UVSS General Manager signed an agreement with the hotel on behalf of the UPS after the approval from Course Union Council. 

When the Board of Directors asked for more information before approving the conference, a stop payment was issued on the cheque. But, the contract with the hotel had already been signed. We have since reimbursed the President of the UPS for the cost originally associated with the hotel booking.

The UVSS takes full responsibility for the mistakes we made in this process and for breaching our financial policy. The cheque should not have been issued until it was approved by the Board of Directors. While we did try to accommodate the UPS’ time sensitive request, policy was not followed and for that we must be accountable. We also want to let our members know what we plan to do in the future to ensure that mistakes like this do not happen again.

Moving forward, there are a number of actions that we are going to take. We are in the process of revisiting how we can accommodate event organizers on tight timelines while ensuring Board oversight. As a part of this, we will update our policy to require board minutes (draft or approved) to be attached to cheque requisitions for Academic Grants over $2,000. We will also conduct a thorough review and update of our Finance & Operations Policy, specifically our financial controls, and will complete this work by the end of the 2015-2016 board term.

We as a Board hold ourselves accountable for our actions. We apologize to the Undergraduates of Political Science and to our members for this financial error.

In community,
The UVSS Board of Directors.

If you have any questions or concerns please send them to UVSS Director of Student Affairs Kaylee Szakacs at affairs@uvss.ca

PUBLIC STATEMENT TO UVSS MEMBERS – Funding for the Undergraduates of Political Science Conference

At the October 26, 2015 meeting of the UVSS Board of Directors, the Undergraduates of Political Science (UPS) requested $6000 for their conference on Sovereignty: Land, Borders and Bodies, through Course Union Council. The Board tabled this motion as concerns were raised about the content of the conference and the lack of proper consultation with Indigenous communities. We invited the UPS to come and present to us on the conference at our next board meeting on November 2, 2015. When our concerns were not adequately addressed in the presentation, the Board voted unanimously not to support the conference at that time. Specifically, the Board was concerned that consultation with NSU or Esquimalt Nation had not occurred, and therefore could not support a conference about sovereignty where organizers did not appropriately include communities on whose unceded land we are situated.

As the Board of Directors of the UVic Students’ Society, we try to actively navigate our own privileges by making space for and listening to the voices of those who are traditionally silenced.

However, this isn’t to say that we are perfect. Unlearning behaviours and calling out oppression is a messy and complicated task – but rather than pushing back on each other when being called out, we have to come together as communities to try to face discomfort and learn from it.

The UVSS recognizes the value in bringing a conversation on sovereignty to Victoria, but remains committed to ensuring that this conversation is held with the consent of all stakeholders. Consultation with Indigenous folks on this topic should not have been an afterthought. We are talking about the use of student money and when students tell us that money will be spent in a way that causes harm – we have to hold each other accountable to preventing harm.

The UVSS Board of Directors places ourselves as complicit within a system that caused harm to students and we recognize that colonialism is an ongoing process within which we are embedded. Breaking down colonial structures is a complicated task, but without forming and tending to valuable relationships within our communities, we simply cannot tackle those structures in a good way. Preventing harm in the future means proactively building linkages between campus communities with many different experiences.

Listening to the voices of those traditionally silenced and marginalized is not coddling. It is a process by which communities can come together to produce the culture shift needed to create a more inclusive society. Some folks may feel put out by this process, but perhaps this serves as an important reminder: change isn’t comfortable – if it was it would be called complacency.

For these reasons, the UVSS Board of Directors stands by our recent decision to overturn $6,000 in funding to the Undergraduates of Political Science conference on Sovereignty: Land, Borders and Bodies.  The UVSS will not be able to support this conference until we are confident that the Undergraduates of Political Science have engaged in meaningful consultation with NSU and other local indigenous groups to ensure this event is not harmful to our members and our community.

In community,
The UVSS Board of Directors.

Refugees resettled in the greater Victoria region to receive free one-year bus pass

Victoria – The Victoria Regional Transit Commission will provide every refugee resettled in the greater Victoria region with a free one-year bus pass. A motion to establish this program was brought forward by Kenya Rogers, Director of External Relations for the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) and member of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission. The motion passed unanimously at yesterday’s commission meeting.

“This initiative will ensure that those fleeing heart-wrenching circumstances are able to get around the city they now call home,” said UVSS Director of External Relations Kenya Rogers. “Providing a bus pass to refugees is just one way of supporting individuals who are faced with the difficulties of resettlement and integration into a new community. It will allow for newcomers to move freely around the city and to access the many services, community groups, and public spaces in the region.”

The bus passes will be available for refugees resettled in the region between December 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016 and the motion includes a provision that could see it become a permanent program. Although this initiative was a response to the unfolding crises in Syria and the Mediterranean, bus passes will be provided to any refugees resettled in the region, regardless of country of origin.

“We’re very proud that this motion was brought forward by the student representative on the Transit Commission,” said Andrea Eggenberger, Camosun College Student Society (CCSS) External Executive. “It’s exciting that the shared student seat on the Transit Commission is helping to make the Greater Victoria Region a supportive and welcoming place for refugees.”

Students are now challenging municipalities and transit authorities across the country to provide free transit access to refugees. If you support this initiative, tweet and tag your mayor, city councillors, transit chair, and any public official using the hashtag #WelcomeOnBoard.

The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) was established in 1964 and represents the 17,000 undergraduate students at the University of Victoria. The UVSS would like to recognize that the University of Victoria is built on the unceded unsurrendered territories of the Lekwungen and WSANEC Peoples and its presence on this land is in itself an act of violence.

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Kenya Rogers UVSS Director of External Relations – external@uvss.ca

Students oppose BC Government’s Bill 41 University Act Amendments

Victoria – As British Columbians were focussed on Canada’s 2015 Federal Election, the B.C. government quietly proposed amendments to the University Act that could result in funding cuts to vital programs and services for BC’s college and university students. Bill 41 – the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act – is set for a second reading today.

“If the proposed amendments to the University Act are adopted as is, it is possible we could see deep cuts to crucial support programs that students rely on – particularly for students from traditionally marginalized backgrounds,” said UVSS Director of External Relations Kenya Rogers. “We are hoping that the B.C. government will halt this legislation, give it the second thought that it deserves, and open it to broader consultation with student societies and university administrators.”

In May 2014, the B.C. government amended the Society Act, concluding a multi-year consultation with stakeholder groups across the province. The outcome was a series of fair and reasonable legislative changes that took into account many different viewpoints, including post-secondary students. The government is now amending the University Act to reflect changes made to the Society Act – particularly around which student fees will remain mandatory if a student has resigned as a member of the society.

“We’re definitely not assuming any ill intent on the part of the provincial government,” said Rogers. “We just think that in the government’s haste to amend the University Act and potentially make some student fees optional, we will face the unintended consequence of cuts to services that we provide to students. Services such as our food bank, sexual assault centre, support programs for students with disabilities, childcare assistance, student refugee program, and bursaries for low-income students.”

Under provincial law, all student society fees collected at post-secondary institutions must be democratically decided via a referendum put to all registered students. Unlike a tax that can be arbitrarily imposed by government, student society fees are the result of students coming together and democratically deciding to fund a service or program that provides direct and tangible benefits to all students on campus.

“The government has indicated that it intends to consult with student societies around fee collection,” said Rogers. “We’re just asking to have that conversation now rather than after the fact when these changes are set in stone.”

The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) was established in 1964 and represents the 17,000 undergraduate students at the University of Victoria. The UVSS would like to recognize that the University of Victoria is built on the unceded unsurrendered territories of the Lekwungen and WSANEC Peoples and its presence on this land is in itself an act of violence.

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Kenya Rogers UVSS Director of External Relations – external@uvss.ca