The Anti-Violence Project (AVP) would like to address the actions of the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) board at the December 5, 2016 board meeting. At this meeting a motion was brought forward proposing a referendum question to cut funding to the Vancouver Island Research Group (VIPIRG), which has existed as a part of our Student Union Building Community, and the larger Victoria community, for 33 years.
AVP would like to publicly name that we do not support this motion, or the process that was used. The process that happened was, as Kevin Tupper admitted, “deeply flawed and problematic”. While we at AVP appreciate Kevin’s apology, we also believe the referendum question itself is deeply flawed and problematic. Here are some of the reasons we believe this:
- The amount of student fees that is being talked about is $3 a semester. For a 4-year degree undergrad student this equates to $6/year for 4 years and a grand total of $24. The funding cut proposed totals $12 a student. We believe that for almost all students this is not a significant cost but would make a huge impact on VIPIRG’s ability to operate. If the UVSS truly wants to make the student experience more affordable, we believe they should be spending their energy lobbying for lower tuition rates and no interest on student loans, rather than cutting funding to social justice non-profits.
- Any student can already opt out of VIPIRG fees http://www.vipirg.ca/structure/ but no students did so this past semester. How can VIPIRG be so highly contested as an organization if even the person(s) who asked for a referendum didn’t even opt out?
- VIPIRG hires 7 students each year http://www.vipirg.ca/staff/ and gives them experiences which enrich their resumes – employing students and is part of the UVSS purpose.
- This is a dangerous referendum question because it could lead to any advocacy or affiliate group, including the Anti-Violence Project, to have funding cut. Advocacy groups help make the UVSS and UVic safer places to be for folks who hold less power. The referendum question posed was done a by white, cisgendered, heterosexual male – someone who does not need to rely on advocacy groups for events/spaces where his identity and/or experiences are centered. Most advocacy groups have to fight hard for funding and it was only last year that the Students of Color Collective got dedicated funding.
- The UVSS states that it is a “social justice based non-profit” and many of VIPIRG’s research topics align directly with this description. VIPIRG has been researching and engaging in harm reduction for many years now and the UVSS is about to put in a harm reduction supply closet in the basement of the SUB. VIPIRG has long supported affordable bus rates and appropriate minimum wage rates Why is the UVSS attempting to cut funding to an organization who has been supporting the same fronts as the UVSS?
VIPIRG is an important part of our SUB community, and we see these actions by the board as a manifestation of violence against an integral group in this community. We encourage students and community members (meetings are open to the public) to join us in solidarity with VIPIRG on December 12th at the next UVSS board meeting, 6 pm, Student Union Building, Upper Lounge. (Please let us know if you need bus tickets to attend the meeting). You can also sign VIPIRG’s petition, and get more info and keep updated via the Facebook event VIPIRG created.
The AVP team