Wednesday, April 3, 2013

One Invalid Election Deserves Another

An explanation of the University's attempt to hold a partial election after the end of classes, and my resignation over it:

On March 8, I wrote a election complaint to the University against the Board of Governors candidates Emily Rogers and Lucia Orser (associated with the Edge slate.) I was then the campaign manager of the Ignite slate. My complaint was due to Edge campaigning for the Board of Governors election during the voting period. University policy does not allow campaigning for Senate and Board of Governors after voting opens. This policy, adopted in January 2012, states that candidates violating it may be disqualified, and the Senate Committee on Agenda and Governance (of which the President of UVic is a member) is responsible for deciding on complaints. The campaigning for BoG during the election period included a number of Facebook posts by Edge candidates, one of which was "liked" by Lucia Orser, who was also the campaign manager of Edge. Orser had run successfully for BoG the previous year under the current rules, so she was certainly aware of them.

Since the election was held online, social media campaigning had the potential to considerably impact the results; students could transfer directly from Facebook to their ballot via the Webvote link. This created an unfair disadvantage against the Ignite candidates, Sam Hagen and Taylor Verrall, both of whom followed the rules which I enforced on my slate. I requested that the Senate Committee on Agenda and Governance disqualify Rogers and Orser. As a result of my complaint, the BoG election results were not released.

The Senate Committee decided not to disqualify Rogers and Orser, but they did acknowledge the rules had been broken. As an alternative, the committee chose to annul the election completely. The committee's ruling states that the University will "conduct a new election," but then states that this supposedly "new election" will take place on April 8, 9 and 10, with a campaign period of only one week prior to the vote. No new nominations will be accepted, with only candidates nominated in the previous election eligible to run (including the two candidates who broke the rules.) Exactly zero hours of notice was given to students in advance of the campaign period, which began this morning.

I have no issue with the decision to annul the election, but I am very disturbed by this bizarre partial election rather than a second proper election. A campaign period of only one week at the beginning of exams, without sufficient notice to students, is not conducive of a fair and democratic process. The most serious issue though, is that only candidates nominated in the previous election are being allowed to run in this partial election. This is a violation of the rights of all students at UVic under the University Act of BC to run in elections for these positions. The University should have instead held a new set of nominations in September with the election in October. I know people who would have wanted to run in the by-election if there was one, who have now been denied the opportunity. As a result I believe this partial election is illegitimate and legally invalid. I have considered attempting to challenge it in court, but I do not have the funds to do so. It is a shame to see the University running roughshod over the rights of students especially when they are doing it with our money.

As a result of these actions by the University I have resigned from my position as a Student Senator. I have been on Senate for three years and the University had done things I didn't like, but nothing this bad. Here is my resignation letter, which was sent to all student, faculty, staff and alumni members of senate:

The Senate Committee on Agenda and Governance (including the President of UVic) has decided to hold a partial election campaign and revote for the student positions on the Board of Governors after annulment of the election results. This revote is being held held without sufficient notice, with only one week of campaigning, and without giving all students the opportunity to run for the positions, as is our right under the University Act of BC. As a result of this highly improper election going forward, rather than a by-election being held in the fall semester using normal procedures, I believe that the University of Victoria administration, the Senate of the University of Victoria and its committees have demonstrated an inability to act properly and in good faith. As a result I no longer wish to be associated with this body. 

Since I believe this "election" to be illegitimate, I will not be participating in it in any way and will not be voting in it. I encourage students to write to President David Turpin ( and demand that it be cancelled. The University seems to think that one invalid election deserves another.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

UVic Hires Jamie Cassels as Next President

In a press conference this morning at the University Centre attended by a large crowd of faculty, staff, media and politicians (including Victoria MP Murray Rankin and Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming), Susan Mehinagic, chair of the UVic Board of Governors, announced that Jamie Cassels has been hired as the university's new president. Dave Turpin, who has been been UVic's president since 2000, announced his resignation earlier this year. He will be leaving office at the end of June 2013.

Mehinagic said that while the presidential search committee, which included UVic Students' Society Chairperson Emily Rogers as the sole undergraduate student representative, "cast its net as wide as possible," in the end the committee unanimously chose "one of its own." Cassels, a UVic law professor, was UVic's vice-president academic from 2001 until 2010, when he stepped down and was replaced by Reeta Tremblay in January 2011. Mehinagic said Cassel's experience shows he will be good at the always difficult process of trying to create consensus among UVic's students, faculty, staff and governing bodies.

Cassels' acceptance speech was full of admiration for President Turpin, with whom he had worked closely as VP academic. Among his priorities for UVic Cassels listed co-operative and experiential learning, student-focused education and indigenous education.

Turpin congratulated Cassels on his appointment and said, "In my 30 years as a university professor I have never known anyone better."

For me, the appointment of an internal candidate was a definite surprise, given the abundance of external possibilities. I imagined that most of the candidates would be either vice-presidents from medium sized or larger universities, or presidents from smaller universities.

Turpin's appointment for a third five year term in 2009 was unprecedented, and no-one really expected him to continue for a fourth term. Perhaps Cassels' resignation as VP academic was motivated by a desire not to appear to unduly influence the presidential hiring process, since he planned to be an applicant. Tremblay, the current VP academic, was a member of the presidential search committee.

By appointing an internal candidate associated closely with the current president, UVic has signaled that there will be no major shifts in the university's philosophy or approach; no real changing of the guard. "Keep calm and carry on" appears to be the motto. Those who are satisfied with the university's current direction should be happy with this appointment; those who were hoping for change, reform or a fresh approach may be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

UVSS Board Censors Catholic Students

The UVic Students' Society Board of Directors passed a motion at their Monday, December 10 Board Meeting telling the Catholic Students' Association to stop distributing booklets which had led to complaints.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

CFS-BC is Back

A two day hearing of the case for the UVic Students' Society's membership in the Canadian Federation of Students-BC Component resulted in a ruling that the UVSS did not leave CFS-BC automatically when it left CFS National* in a March 2011 referendum. After the referendum, many students believed that they had left all components of the CFS–national, provincial and CFS-Services. Some CFS representatives maintained during the referendum campaign that the referendum was only about the national component of the organization. However, the CFS' "Yes" side campaign materials include references to CFS-BC campaigns (such as "Education Shouldn't Be a Debt Sentence" and "We Ride") and victories (such as free adult basic education,) and at least two CFS-BC staff members, with no formal relationship to CFS-National, campaigned for the "Yes" side.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Series of Fortunate Events

Events Director Lewis Rhodes plans to take the SUB party out of the SUB.

Lewis Rhodes, the UVic Students' Society's new Director of Events, is set to shake things up with some ambitious plans for the upcoming school year.

Since a referendum passed in November 2010, the UVSS has collected a dedicated fee for putting on events of $1 per student per year, which works out to a yearly budget of around $16,000. This is more than was typically budgeted for events in the past, allowing the UVSS to expand its repertoire of events.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

UVSS Supports Quebec Protests, Contributes $750

UVSS Board Meeting, Monday, May 28 – The UVic Students' Society Board has once again waded into controversial politics, passing a motion in favour of Quebec's student protest movement.

Previously, the Board has passed resolutions on such things as support for the BC Teachers' Federation strike and the Canada Postal Workers' strike, as well as more relevant issues such as rapid transit in Victoria (which unlike some of the other political stances, could actually benefit students by making it easier for them to get to school on time.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gender Neutral Washrooms Spark Union Concerns

These washrooms could be redesignated as gender neutral.

UVSS Board Meeting, Monday, March 26  The UVic Students' Society Board tabled a motion to make the multi-stall washrooms in the main hall of the Student Union Building "gender neutral" after concerns were expressed by the SUB workers' union.

The motion, asking for $5000 from building and capital funding to convert the two washrooms, had been passed by the Finance Committee on March 23.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

UVSS Wades into BC Teachers' Federation Dispute

Another year, another off-campus labour dispute which the UVic Students' Society Board thinks it should be involved in.

Directors-at-Large Lucia Orser and Ariel Tseng have introduced a motion to Monday's Board meeting to take a stance on the current BC teachers' strike. Orser is the incoming Director of External Relations and Tseng is the incoming Director of Finance and Operations.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

For the Record

In view of blatantly false statements by UVic Students' Society Chairperson Tara Paterson in today's Martlet article on my resignation from the Board of Directors, I am compelled to post the evidence refuting her claims.

Paterson would have you believe that I did not bring my concerns with how the Board has been allocating dedicated students fees established by referendum to any UVSS executives before launching my court petition against the Board. She is quoted as saying, "Mr Foster had not discussed the issued with any of the executives or made it known to us that he was preparing a lawsuit...he did this without discussing the matter with [the] UVSS."

This is simply not true. I did discuss the issue of fee allocation under the bylaws, which forms the basis of my court petition, extensively with a UVSS executive–Paterson herself. Since the conversation occurred via email I have a record of it. In fact, Tara's apparent inability to remember this discussion is all the more perplexing, since I even included a copy of the emails in the documents I filed with the petition! 

In the interest of setting the record straight, I have reproduced a full unedited copy of our email correspondence below. As you can see, the emails are date-stamped from September 10 to September 15, 2011–long before I began the legal process of petitioning the court. In fact, it was my dissatisfaction with the answers provided by Paterson which led me to believe that legal action was the only option for forcing the Board to comply with UVSS bylaws.

Another false statement is made by Paterson in the same Martlet article which also needs to be corrected. "We believe it is not acting within the best interest of the Society to use a position as a director to garner information to sue the Society, which could cost the Society tens of thousands of dollars of students' money," she stated.

In fact, I have never had the opportunity to do this, because whenever issues arose surrounding the fees in question, which are dedicated by referendum to Access UVic, the Board always discussed them in camera or closed sessions, from which, as a member of Access, I always recused myself. Paterson acknowledges this herself in the emails below. I can only consider her accusation to be defamatory, since it is entirely without factual basis.

In addition to the emil chain with the current UVSS Chairperson, I also had a number of discussion regarding the allocation of Access UVic fees with Paterson's predecessor, James Coccola. As with Paterson, I was never able to get a satisfactory explanation from Coccola on why the Board has not complied with its bylaws.

Monday, February 6, 2012

UVSS Slams Pro-Life Club, Again

BREAKING–Tonight's UVic Students' Society Board meeting was a bit confusing with many amendments, but it appears that the Board censured pro-life club Youth Protecting Youth twice, denied them the ability to book public space and denied them the ability to put up any more posters until the UVSS has passed a policy restricting the content of posters (ie. censorship.) This comes after YPY held a "choice chain" demonstration in the Quad which received numerous complaints by students who were offended by the images used. 

This is a very brief update on what happened at tonight's meeting. I have two exams this week so will probably not be able to write much more before the Martlet comes out with their coverage on Thursday.