What is the UVSS’ History with PIRGs?

A PIRG, or public interest research group, is an organization dedicated to conducting research on issues of public interest. Historically, the UVSS has had a dedicated fee established in 1983 to support PIRGs, namely the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG). This funding relationship began in 1983 via a student referendum, with an increase of 50 cents in 1993 (also passed via referendum). Currently, the fee collected to fund a PIRG is $3 per semester for full time students and $1.50 for part time students.

After VIPIRG failed to meet the UVSS’ financial oversight standards during an audit of the 2016-2017 year, the Board passed a motion to run a referendum to end their fee levy. As a result of the PIRG proponent’s actions during that referendum, the referendum was considered invalid and so the fee levy was upheld. In August 2019, VIPIRG severed their relationship to the UVSS. The UVSS had to continue collecting the PIRG fee levy despite there being no organization to fulfill that mandate. The UVSS was unable to find a suitable replacement to fulfill the mandate, therefore the fees collected for that purpose have been held in trust since the termination of the relationship with VIPIRG.

As of September 28th, $130,979.78 of student fees are being held in trust. The UVSS is unable to use these fees for any other purpose other than the mandate of a PIRG. As such, the decision on how to handle these funds is being put to a referendum that will be happening in early November.

UVSS’ relationship to PIRGs Timeline:

  • 1983: A fee is established to fund BCPIRG (later VIPIRG)
  • 1993: The UVSS membership votes to enhance their PIRG with a fee increase.
  • 2016-2017: VIPIRG fails to uphold financial accountability standards during an audit, which demonstrated a lack of transparency and proper bookkeeping
  • 2019: The Board passes a motion to hold a referendum on whether or not to continue funding VIPIRG through the fee levy established in 1983/1993. The referendum fails after the VIPIRG proponent fails to submit financial documents to the Electoral Office on time, leading to the Chief Electoral Office to advise the referendum be run again. Shortly after this, VIPIRG severed their relationship with the UVSS, moved off-campus, and rebranded as the Coastal Research and Education Network (CREAN).
  • 2019-2020: The UVSS received no suitable nominations for a replacement to VIPIRG, and decides to hold another referendum to end the PIRG Fee Levy

Referendum

From November 4th, 9:00am PST to November 6th, 12:00 PST (noon), students can vote Yes or No on the following two referendum questions:

  • Question 1: Are you in favour of ending the collection of the fee, which is $3.00 for full time students per semester, and $1.50 for part time students per semester, that goes towards a Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)?
  • Question 2: Are you in favour of reallocating the fees currently held in trust for the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), to be split evenly between a student bursary/award and the UVSS Operating Fund?

You are voting for this question under the following circumstances:

      1. The fees held in trust are $128,848.17 as of August 10, 2020; and,
      2. If this question is defeated, the UVSS Board of Directors will administer all PIRG fees currently held in trust in the best interests of students at the University of Victoria until such time as a service provider is identified to fulfill the purpose of a PIRG, or the collection of the PIRG fee is ended.

Voting will take place using the UVic webvote system at webvote.uvic.ca from November 4th, 9:00am PST to November 6th, 12:00 PST (noon).