Board of Governors discuss provincial lobbying, potential tuition increases


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At the inaugural 2015-16 UVic Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 29, members were briefed on the university’s response to a recent sexual assault as well as August’s employee harassment situation and President Jamie Cassels’ presentation to provincial MLAs on post-secondary funding, which includes proposed tuition increases to professional programs like law.


Michael Kennedy brought up the sexual assault that occurred on campus on Sept. 26, and said that the “first concern is for the individuals involved, and the university’s providing every support needed.” He thanked the Saanich Police for their involvement. In a later part of the meeting, Cassels brought up allegations that surfaced in August about a UVic employee sexually harassing co-workers, saying that the situation had “been dealt with,” and that it was an opportunity to improve existing policies and reaffirm UVic as a safe inclusive workplace.


Cassels summarized his presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on Sept. 15. [link] [Hansard transcript] According to Cassels, UVic responded to provincial requests for austerity in the wake of the 2008 recession by deferring maintenance (an estimated $489 million worth as of 2014), enlarging classes, and reducing staffing levels. He then outlined six ways that the B.C. government could improve support to universities:

  1. Increasing government grants with inflation

Currently, the province provides 51 per cent of UVic’s yearly budget (tuition makes up 36 per cent). The government reduced UVic’s provincial operating grant by 2.5 per cent from pre-2010 levels to meet its austerity goals, and in the meeting transcript, Cassels said to committee members that “universities clearly did their part in trying to reduce the pressure on the public purse, and we’re happy to have been able to contribute that way. However, it is absolutely critical that we not make more tradeoffs against quality.” Cassels thanked the government for alleviating one burden by agreeing to fund union-negotiated salary increases, but said that with increasing enrolment and inflation, stagnant operating grants would not be enough to maintain a high quality of education.

  1. Stable funding to the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF)

The BCKDF provides research funding for public post-secondary institutions, research hospitals, and other non-profit agencies. Cassels said that stable, predictable funding for this program would help the university plan for the long term.

  1. Restoring a graduate student scholarship program

B.C. had a graduate student fellowship program “about 10 years ago,” but it came to an end five years ago, so he said that “our province is at a competitive disadvantage.” Cassels acknowledged the talent and strength of UVic’s graduate students, but said that other provinces have more funding to attract top graduate students.

  1. Possible tuition increases for professional programs

Cassels asked for “some limited flexibility on tuition in professional programs” where students can expect more lucrative careers. Such programs, which include Law, Engineering, and Business, cost more to administer than typical arts and sciences programs, but due to caps, he said that UVic would either have to cross-subsidize those programs with funds from less-costly programs, which he said was not fair to other students, or reduce quality. He did not specify what the proposed fee increases might look like or what faculties would be affected.

During the BoG meeting, elected student member and UVSS chairperson Brontë Renwick-Shields asked Cassels how such increases would affect access to low-income students. Cassels said that UVic was in the process of increasing law school tuition some years ago before the province decided to cap tuition to inflation, but had that tuition increase been fully implemented, 25 per cent of revenue would go into a needs-based bursary program. Due to that tuition cap, such a bursary program was never implemented.

  1. Borrowing funds for residences

UVic wants to take on debt to fund building projects, but the province does not currently allow it, even if it does not borrow taxpayer money. Cassels said he understood the rationale because if a university takes on debt from any source, it is reflected on the provincial balance sheet, but reiterated that UVic has a critical residence shortage and wanted this borrowing restriction lifted. In the meeting transcript, Cassels said that “We could have the cranes swinging tomorrow at no cost to the taxpayer. But it’s considered provincial debt, and we therefore need some assistance in getting a green light to finance those projects.”

MLA John Yap asked if the university had considered “a creative way to do it off-book” to meet provincial requirements on debt, and Cassels responded that alternatives such as various public/private partnerships were evaluated and deemed inappropriate. In his verbal summary to UVic’s board of governors, Cassels said that solutions like arms-length corporations were appropriate for universities with complex real estate holdings like UBC (which builds luxury condominiums), but not for UVic.

Renwick-Shields asked Cassels if lifting this borrowing restriction would eliminate the need for increasing residence fees over 10 years, but Cassels said that the province would not allow such a reallocation.

  1. Additional funding for deferred maintenance

In a 2014 re-evaluation, external contractor VFA Canada valued UVic’s deferred maintenance costs at $489 million. This estimate, which includes both academic and residence buildings, would cover projects like seismic upgrading, safety features like improved ventilation for the science buildings, and retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency.


Cassels praised the UVSS’s partnership with Elections Canada in a pilot project to allow advance voting on campus for students regardless of riding. He also went over UVic’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis and its involvement with the United Way.

VP Academic and Provost Valerie Kuehne discussed a recent City of Victoria report that recommended building a post-secondary campus downtown. UVic is preparing a response to this report, but Kuehne said that expanding its presence beyond existing properties like the Maltwood Gallery is not currently being explored.

VP Research David Castle reported that UVic did not receive funding from the first round of the Canada First Excellence Research Fund (CFERF), even though UVic’s proposal was deemed to meet the requirements. Castle said the feedback was useful and would be applied to UVic’s application for the second round of funding.

The next Board of Governors meeting will take place on Nov. 24 at 11 a.m. in the Senate and Board Chambers.


Elections FAQ

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It’s no secret that few students participate in student government as a whole. Just 17 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots last year. With the polls opening Wednesday, March 4 at 9 a.m., we’ve done our best to present the information necessary to make an informed decision at the polls. Inside, you’ll find the official UVSS election supplement, which will contain election biographies, photos, and platform points, as well as how to vote. Here’s the abbreviated version, which includes concrete examples of how each organization affects you as a student.


They do more than offer free pizza at general meetings. They manage the SUB’s businesses, and serve as a lobby group for students for issues like late-night transit, pass-ups, and tuition increases at the local, provincial, and federal levels (in addition to UVic itself). They organize events for students, approve and fund clubs and course unions, and co-operate in certain university-wide campaigns on issues like mental health and sexualized violence. Look over the supplement to evaluate what priorities are right for you.

While the Directors-at-Large are unpaid, executive directors will make $15.31 per hour (including vacation pay) for 35 hours per week as of May 1, 2015. In the UVSS bylaws, executive salaries are tied to the “student supervisor” rate in the USW 2009 collective agreement, which is the same as student supervisors at SUB food outlets and cooks at the International Grill and Main Kitchen, but executives are not members of that union.


What body approved the funding for CARSA, or any other building for that matter? That’d be the UVic Board of Governors. Composed of appointed members who are recognized in the public and private sectors, as well as elected faculty, staff, and student representatives, they discuss and approve the university’s direction and its budget. Meetings cover topics like the UVic Difference Project (a marketing campaign to appeal to domestic and international students), approve academic recommendations from the UVic Senate regarding scholarships, whether classes and programs run, and much more. Seven candidates are vying for two student spots. All positions on the board are unpaid.

UVic Senate

Need a class that isn’t running this year due to low enrolment? Think your entrance scholarship should be higher? It’s an academic matter, and it’s handled by the Senate. Composed of appointed members and elected representatives from the faculties, their 12 standing committees approve scholarships, bursaries, curriculums, degrees, admissions standards, and more. They also have final say over matters surrounding academic misconduct and student appeals. There are 16 elected student members, but each faculty must have one student representative, and as some faculties only have one candidate, they have been acclaimed. The remaining seats are filled by graduate students and at-large student members. All positions on the Senate are unpaid.

Referendum questions

This year, four questions are being put forth on fossil fuel divestment, establishing a student levy for the Students of Colour Collective, re-allocating money from the Elections Fund to the Food Bank, and increasing the student fee for the Campus Community Garden. More detailed information can be found in the election supplement and on, where you can find relevant links to articles and resources to help you make an informed decision.

Voting procedures

If you pay UVSS fees, you can vote online after logging in with your Netlink ID. Polls will open at 9 a.m. PST on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. Polls close at 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 5 for the UVSS elections, and Friday, March 6 at 4:30 p.m. PST for Board of Governors and Senate elections.

Get to know the candidates

On Monday, March 2, there will be an all-candidates forum at 3 p.m. in the SUB Upper Lounge so you can meet the candidates personally. On Tuesday, March 3 at 3 p.m., there will be a chairperson debate in the Upper Lounge hosted by CFUV and the Martlet, where the audience can ask questions in person or through Twitter. Both CFUV and the Martlet will be live-streaming the debate, and Martlet’s video interviews with executive candidates will be on YouTube and Facebook before the end of February.

Who’s on your UVic Board of Governors?

The UVic BoG is currently chaired by Erich Mohr, a former professor of medicine and a biotech entrepreneur. He is the founder of MedGenesis Therapeutix Inc., a biotech company that develops treatments for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Mohr, along with his wife Shelley, donated $2.25 million to UVic to establish a research program on aging. Other appointed members include former BC Hydro executive Beverly Van Ruyven, former MLA Ida Chong, entrepreneur and philanthropist Peter Gustavson, and former Coast Capital president and CEO Tracy Redies.

The Ripple Effect: how one species shows a food web under strain

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FEA_Drop Cap_webhen a whale dies, it usually slips quietly away from view. Some sink to the bottom of the ocean, to be slowly consumed by species lower on the food chain. Others might float for a while as gas builds up in their distended bellies from decomposition. Their bodies are hardly ever recovered, but in early December, a dead orca called J-32, carrying a near full-term fetus, was towed ashore.

Today, J-32’s bones are on Saltspring Island, buried in compost and soil. Her remains are being cleaned of remaining soft tissue so they can be displayed some day at the Royal BC Museum. Her calf’s remains are in a freezer at the museum, waiting to be examined. Scientists have been able to analyze every part of the whale and her calf, all except for four missing teeth in her jaw, the result of looters seeking personal souvenirs or trinkets to sell.

On Bates Beach that morning, the orca looked out of place. A body meant for swimming sat on its side instead, perfectly still on a wrinkled blue tarp. Her tongue lolled out of her mouth, bloody gaps where teeth should have been. A flipper pointed towards an overcast sky. Though J-32, known as Rhapsody, wasn’t the biggest killer whale (she measured a fairly average 18 feet long), the 40-odd people who watched the necropsy looked like Lilliputians beside her.

The remains of the whale have been shipped off to eight laboratories in Canada and the US to determine its condition, but Peter Ross, a toxicologist with the Vancouver Aquarium, doesn’t expect to be surprised by the results. Past studies already confirm that our southern resident orcas are highly contaminated with hormone-like PCBs and other toxins that suppress their immune system. Noise pollution from ships and sonar interfere with their calls, disorienting them in the already murky depths. Chinook salmon stocks threatened by overfishing, climate change, or pollutants force the residents to swim farther to feed themselves.

“These animals are long-lived, top of the food chain, and if they’re not doing well, they are potentially reminding us that we’ve got work to do,” says Ross.

In February 2014, Ross was hired by the Vancouver Aquarium as director of its Ocean Pollution Research Program. He was given samples of J-32 and her fetus that his lab will test for contaminants. It will take 4–6 months to complete the analysis, but a preliminary report from Stephen Raverty, the DFO pathologist who performed the necropsy,  attributed J-32’s death to a systemic infection from the calf’s death in utero. Prior studies done by Ross and other scientists showed that PCBs can change the expression of five genes that affect growth and development, adversely affecting an orca’s immune and reproductive systems, which may have weakened J-32’s ability to fight off pathogens, bacteria, or other environmental stresses.

Ross worked for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) as a toxicologist until 2012, when the DFO scaled back its research into marine contaminants due to budget cuts by the federal government. Opting instead to offload such research to universities and independent facilities, the DFO closed its Sidney, B.C. lab along with others across the country. In a Times Colonist interview that year, Ross expressed his concern, saying, “It is with apprehension that I ponder a Canada without any research or monitoring capacity for pollution in our three oceans, or any ability to manage its impacts on commercial fish stocks, traditional foods to over 300 000 aboriginal people, and marine wildlife.” To continue the research that the DFO has scaled back, the Aquarium built a new lab for Ross and his new team, and is partly funding research along with other grants that Ross seeks. He said that “It’s hard to lose a job and lose a laboratory,” but he was happy that the Aquarium provided the support necessary to continue his work.

Before the necropsy began, Harold Joe, a filmmaker and member of the Cowichan tribes, addressed the small crowd. He knelt down by the whale’s head, her heart, and the fetus, with an eagle  feather in his left hand and burning herbs in his right. Surrounded by smoke, he encouraged mother and calf into the spirit world, cleansing them after death. The crowd was invited to sprinkle crushed cedar to accompany their prayers and good wishes. When the smudging ceremony was finished, she was measured, and the necropsy began.

Michelle Rachel, a UVic student and volunteer with CETUS (an orca conservation and outreach organization) learned of J-32’s death when her Facebook news feed became populated with posts claiming a whale had been found ashore.

“My first thought was, ‘Well, it’s so far north that it has to be either a transient orca, which is the mammal-hunting one, and we have hundreds of those, or one of the northern residents, which are not nearly as endangered as the southern residents.’ So while you never want to hope that it’s a certain type, you definitely hope it’s not a southern resident.”

Thinking it would be a learning opportunity for the inevitable crowd, she emailed the CETUS director of communications and education, Leah Thorpe, asking if there was anyone from the group attending the necropsy. One member would try to make it, Thorpe replied, but Thorpe encouraged Rachel to go. After a three hour drive, Rachel arrived around 11 p.m. on Friday night.

“It was cold. It was a full moon, but there was a huge rainstorm so there was no light whatsoever, and it was almost hailing. The tide was out, so the rocks were really slippery as we were going over to the beach, and there were a couple of guys walking along the beach with a flashlight, ‘cause it was pitch black. And I said, ‘Do you know the whereabouts of this whale?’ And they pointed up there, and sure enough there was this big black mass, and it was unmistakable.”

FEA_J-32 Anatomy_webRachel’s interest began after a trip to Hawaii, where she frequently encountered humpback whales. After returning to Victoria, she felt compelled to try and help. She spent this past summer on an inflatable boat, talking to recreational boaters about the federal guidelines surrounding whale watching and reminding them to keep their distance and cut their engines if whales are present. The program, known as Straitwatch, has been run by CETUS since 2005, but according to Thorpe, its funding has been cut drastically by Environment Canada, with little explanation.

In the past, CETUS has relied on Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship program, which according to Environment Canada’s website, “allocates between $9 and $13-million a year to projects that conserve and protect species at risk and their habitats.” In 2011, the group got $320 000 from the program. Though they expected the same amount the following year, they only received $100 000. In an email, Thorpe said that she didn’t know about the funding reduction until the end of the summer, after the summer programs were complete and the funds were spent. In 2013, CETUS got nothing, and so the Straitwatch program did not run. Last year, it received $35 000, about a tenth of their previous funding. Currently, CETUS is piecing together smaller grants and donations from public and private entities to fund their programs, but for Thorpe, it is an imperfect solution.

“Getting that large chunk of funding from a single source definitely makes our lives easier in terms of how much time we’re spending administering the grant,” said Thorpe. She said that due to the reduced funding, CETUS has had to “piece together quite a few other grants, which of course drastically ups our admin time.” This year, they are requesting $180 000 from the federal government, hoping to continue its Straitwatch program in full, instead of the scaled-back program that ran in 2014.

The necropsy took the entire morning. Clad in yellow coveralls, the pathology team began by making cross-sections of the whale, peeling back blubber and skin and measuring for thickness. Her blubber layer was thin—according to Ross, a sick whale loses its appetite, relying on its blubber reserves to carry it to recovery. When the pathologists opened her abdomen, Rachel heard a high-pitched squeal as gas that built up during decomposition escaped. She said it reminded her of the sound an orca makes when it is in distress.

Marcie Callewaert, a Grade 6 teacher in the Ahousaht First Nation (north of Tofino), also learned of J-32’s death from a Facebook post. In her childhood, she was fascinated by orcas, re-enacting a scene from Free Willy by trucking her stuffed whale to a pretend ocean with Lego, but her interest grew after seeing them as a teenager.

“It was when I was 14 and I saw them way off in this bay when I was camping,” she said. “And they were tiny pinpricks for me, but it was amazing, and that was when it really clicked seeing them in the wild.”

On the car ride over, Callewaert tried to keep herself occupied, but the reason for her trip was in the back of her mind. She had seen Rhapsody in the past, alive and with her family members. While on the water, Rachel saw Rhapsody often as she was an exuberant whale, breaching frequently in view of human spectators.

Back at school, Callewaert’s students were naturally curious about the whale, given their proximity and the cultural significance of the animal. She told them about the necropsy and answered their questions, but elected not to show them  any photos.

During the dissection, chinook salmon bones were found in the whale’s stomach, as expected. While transient orcas eat a variety of marine mammals (seals, sea lions, etc.), southern residents are pickier eaters. A healthy southern resident orca consumes 100–150 kg of chinook salmon each day, which comprises over 90 per cent of its diet. The salmon are large and high in fat, which makes them an ideal choice, but since the southern residents live and feed near populated areas, they absorb chemicals through their prey, which bio-accumulate over their long lifetime (the oldest known orca, J-2, or Granny, is estimated to be 103). When mothers give birth, they pass toxins on to their calves through their fat-rich milk (orca milk is 35 per cent milk fat, whereas dairy cows produce milk with only 3.25 per cent fat content).

A 2009 journal article by DFO scientists and the Center for Whale Research indicated that the number of killer whales in the region were strongly correlated to the availability of chinook salmon. While the killer whale population grew between 1974 (the first year the whales were counted) and the mid-1990s, both northern and southern resident orcas “experienced a period of unusually high mortalities in the late 1990s,” two–three times the expected rate.

“The salmon on the BC coast has always been a problem,” says Josh McInnes, a UVic grad and member of the Transient Killer Whale Research Project, an independent research group. His research group, supported by private donors and organizations such as the Oak Bay Marine Group (which lets them use their boats for free), keeps an eye on the transient population, which he says has been spotted more and more, while resident sightings have decreased.

From a research perspective, McInnes says that while there are many active groups in Canada that research the southern resident orcas, more could be done. “It seems like the United States is doing most of the work, while in Canada there’s been a little bit of a slowdown.”

The Transient Killer Whale Research Project has attracted interest from individuals on the island, but also interest from as far as Sri Lanka. Their Facebook group is just one of many groups that are dedicated to orcas. The movement to “save the whales” has been prevalent since the environmental movement gained traction in the mid-1960s. Like elephants and dolphins, orcas are seen as intelligent, and even exhibit human characteristics like mourning (female orcas have been seen carrying dead calves on their heads for hours on end).

Gavin Hanke, the curator of vertebrate zoology at the Royal BC Museum, understands the public’s fascination with orcas, but warns that such a narrow focus can sometimes mask a greater environmental challenge.

“If we want southern resident killer whales to persist, we can’t just focus on the whales,” he said. “We’ve got to focus on habitat [and] food base.”

As Ross notes, actions that preserve the killer whale population have wider-ranging effects for coastal food webs.

“Flip it around. If we can help protect and nurture this population in a way that makes their future viable and healthy, then we are very likely to have done the same for hundreds of different species in the Salish Sea, from chinook salmon, to forage fish, to the near-shore vegetation.”

Orcas are a symbol of the west coast, and drive millions of dollars into the provincial economy, most directly through whale-watching tours. They are a crucial part of coastal First Nations cultures. Saving them requires securing their food and their habitat, but whales are not the only beneficiaries of such actions. In addition to feeding the southern resident orcas, securing chinook salmon stocks will support commercial fishers.

After months in soil, J-32’s bones will leave Saltspring Island smelling like a pine forest. They will be stored in the Royal B.C. Museum’s research tower until they can be displayed. Hanke hopes that the remains will be displayed in a new wing of the museum dedicated to the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants. After J-32’s death, there were 77 orcas left among the southern residents. Her calf, a female, would have provided a needed population boost. But just before the year ended, a new calf was spotted, its sex unknown. It may not survive infancy, but it won’t be for lack of trying. Teeth marks on the calf’s body suggest that it was pulled out of its mother by another whale acting as a midwife.


Fossil fuel divestment: an FAQ

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At its annual general meeting, scheduled for Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. at Cinecenta, the UVSS will ask undergraduates to choose whether or not to hold a referendum on the issue of fossil fuel divestment next year, an action meant to formalize the undergraduate population’s beliefs on the issue. More specifically, the following yes or no question will be posed at the UVSS Annual General Meeting:

[Be it resolved that] the membership approve the following question go to a referendum, to be scheduled for March 2–3, 2015 and held in conjunction with UVSS elections to the Board of Directors:

Do you support the UVSS lobbying the University of Victoria Foundation to withdraw (or “divest”) its direct investments in fossil fuel companies and re-invest the proceeds in the most financially and socially responsible alternative investments?

In response, the Martlet has created a handy FAQ to better inform students before they attend the AGM.

What is the UVic Foundation?

The UVic Foundation manages the university’s endowment, which is worth approximately $356 million. According to its 2014 annual report, it disburses $12.8 million annually for scholarships, bursaries, and other university purposes. It is separate from the university’s pension plans.


What’s the issue?

The UVic Foundation’s investment portfolio contains fossil fuel-related firms with a market value of $30.4 million as of March 31, 2014. These companies derive the majority of their revenue through the extraction, sale, or distribution of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas).

The $30.4 million figure includes oilfield service firms and oil pipeline manufacturers, but excludes companies like CN Rail, which transports fossil fuels along with other products. The figure also excludes fossil fuel investments within the Foundation’s pooled investment holdings, which are not the target of the potential referendum.

What is Divest UVic and what is their position?

Peter Gibbs, a member of Divest UVic, describes the organization as a “group of students allied with staff and facility who have a problem with [those investments].” They object on ethical and financial grounds, as outlined in a letter to the UVic Board of Governors.

Ethically, Divest UVic believes the Foundation’s fossil fuel investments are “inconsistent with UVic’s core values of sustainability, civic engagement, and innovation,” and that many people, especially First Nations communities, the Inuit, and those in the Global South, are negatively impacted by fossil fuel extraction.

Financially, they believe that fossil fuel holdings will decrease sharply in value over the long term due to their role in climate change, particularly as fossil fuel demand decreases due to tightening climate regulations. This belief, based on stranded asset theory, posits that much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves will have to remain underground if lawmakers wish to keep the anticipated average global temperature increase below 2°C this century, rendering them unexploitable and thus worthless.

Divest UVic, therefore, wants the Foundation to immediately halt all new investments in fossil fuels and divest their fossil fuel-related assets over the next three years. The grace period is intended to reduce or eliminate the short-term negative impact on the endowment.

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What’s happened so far?

In May 2014, Divest UVic sent a request to the UVic Foundation, outlining their views on the fossil fuel investment, as well as a petition with 1 850 signatures.

In their response, the Foundation said that while they already follow a responsible investment style as laid out by existing Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance practices (ESG), Divest UVic’s request goes beyond those practices. The foundation did ask their investment managers to examine the viability of excluding the top 200 fossil fuel companies from further investments, but ultimately, investment managers concluded that fossil fuel divestment would not be possible without negatively impacting the endowment, hampering the fund’s ability to meet its current investment benchmarks.

In a phone interview, treasurer Andrew Coward said the Foundation first examined divestment in 2012, but revisited the issue when Divest UVic submitted its proposal. He said the Foundation treated the request with “openness and consideration,” but in addition to lower returns, managers also informed him that divestment would preclude any engagement with companies about their environmental and social responsibilities.

Since Divest UVic’s proposal, Coward said the Foundation has revisited its ESG policies, and will request their fund managers to report annually on how they are engaging with companies regarding their ESG practices. UVic will also sign onto the UN’s Principles of Responsible Investing, becoming the third university in Canada to do so.

Would divestment actually make a difference?

Perhaps. The Smith School at Oxford University studied the fossil fuel divestment movement, particularly the concept of stranded assets, and concluded that divestment would do little to directly impact the finances of oil and gas companies, as divested holdings would likely be acquired by neutral shareholders who do not share the same ethical qualms, but that the added stigma of a mass divestment campaign would harm firms in the longer term. The study did note that coal companies were more vulnerable to divestment than oil and gas companies, as there are fewer alternate investors to acquire the divested shares.

In addition, divestment could lead to changes in legislation, increasing regulatory burdens on fossil fuel companies. Finally, the report concluded that the stigma would “likely change market norms. For example, negative screens or passive funds that exclude fossil fuel companies will quickly emerge. Some banks, particularly multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, may stop lending to fossil fuel companies, particularly coal.”

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What have other universities and organizations done in response to divestment campaigns?

The fossil fuel divestment movement is active on many university campuses in North America. While many larger universities (most notably Harvard) have rebuffed divestment, believing that the fund should not be used to impel social or political change, others have compromised, and smaller universities have committed to divest their endowments from fossil fuels. Stanford has committed to divest from coal, and a slew of smaller liberal arts colleges have committed to divest. So far, no Canadian universities have committed to divestment, but a referendum at UBC showed that 77 per cent of undergraduates supported divestment, leading their endowment managers to consider environmental impact when investing. However, UBC stopped short of divesting from fossil fuels.

Is it a symbolic gesture?

The referendum in question will not ask the Foundation to divest, but will simply make a public statement on whether or not students want UVic to divest. “The referendum vote is designed to put the students position on record,” says Gibbs. “The UVSS doesn’t have official authority over the endowment fund, but no university has divested from fossil fuels without significant student pressure,” like in the case of the UBC referendum. “Student support for the referendum isn’t enough, but it is a prerequisite for change. That’s not the end of our campaign, but it is our next step.”

A version of this article was published on page 3 under the headline “Everything you need to know about divestment” on Oct. 9, 2014.

For more information on the UVic Foundation, including its direct investments, annual report, and policies, click here.

UVSS role debated before upcoming career fair

Original article:

Reservists from HMCS Malahat will attend UVic’s Co-op and Career Fair this September, the first time military personnel have recruited at the fair since at least 2010. The topic of military recruiters on campus has been a controversial issue, most notably in September 2007, when then-UVSS directors made national news for banning military recruiters from UVSS property, a ban that was later overturned by the student body at a general meeting in October that year.

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The above slideshow is a simulation of the original interactive timeline (built with Timeline.js) that can be viewed on the Martlet’s website.

Since the UVSS cannot overrule a student decision, a ban is no longer in question today—under UVSS policy, decisions made by the student body at general meetings cannot be overturned at a board meeting and such motions would be ruled out of order. However, the issue of the military’s presence was raised again at a UVSS board meeting this July, showing two different visions for the UVSS: one that limits itself to popular student issues like tuition costs and transit pass-ups, and one that occasionally takes unpopular stances in the hopes of changing perceptions around social issues.

On July 11, UVSS executives received an email exchange between UVic’s Co-op and Career Centre and UVSS Catering and Conferences (who are responsible for logistical concerns at SUB events) wondering if there was a ban in place. While UVSS Chairperson Kayleigh Erickson initially gave her approval for military recruiters to attend, as the issue had been decided by students in 2007, Director of External Relations Greg Atkinson raised the issue on July 15 during executive committee, a closed meeting between the five UVSS executives and SUB managers, to see if other directors or stakeholders like advocacy groups were interested in revisiting the issue. In response, Erickson sent an email to the entire UVSS board to see if someone wanted to make a motion or submit a letter of opposition at the next open meeting, scheduled for July 21.

While no formal motions were submitted for that meeting, UVic Pride submitted a letter of opposition to military recruiting in the SUB for the record, citing UVic Pride’s own commitment to dismantle colonial structures where possible. In part, the letter states that “As an organization committed to decolonization, we cannot support, however implicitly, an institution that exists as a historical and ongoing force of colonization within national borders, as well as to further the state’s imperialist ventures and occupations worldwide.”

In an interview, Pride representative Cal Mitchell clarified that the collective did not seek a ban, but simply gave their opinion when asked.

“This was not just Pride going in to move for a ban,” said Mitchell. “It was us being asked, ‘Is there opposition? If there is, please bring it to the meeting.’ So, 100 per cent, this was an asked-for statement.”

Though Pride mainly focuses on queer and trans issues, Mitchell argues that different forms of exploitation and oppression are linked, and that “If we only advocate for [queer issues], we are opening doors, when we really should be taking down the house. Yes, we’re being given privileges and rights, but there’s other people still standing outside.” 

Mitchell says that Pride’s opposition to the military is rooted in a desire not to contradict its own constitution, which opposes colonization, and that allowing the military booking rights was not a neutral act, but an act of implicit support. 

If we only advocate for [queer issues], we are opening doors, when we really should be taking down the house.

In an interview with the Martlet, the UVSS chairperson said she was personally frustrated with the idea of preventing the military from attending the career fair, felt that the letter mischaracterized the role of military, and does not believe that allowing the military booking privileges constitutes a political statement.

“I think they have every right to be in this building and be at the career fair,” said Erickson. “I think people might have a problem with the military, being anti-war, and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not a legitimate career, and that doesn’t mean that we can ban them from being in the building and choose for students what we think is the best career path for them.” 

Both Erickson and Jamie Cook, a director-at-large, felt that students should be able to decide on a career path themselves, and said that they did not believe in dictating career paths to students.

When asked if allowing the military to book space was in itself a political statement, Cook said, “Not allowing them [to book space] would be an exponentially greater political statement.”

“By allowing them into the building, I don’t think we’re painting a big banner across the UVSS that says we’re pro-military. I don’t see it that way at all,” said Cook. Erickson added that she saw it as giving students a choice, noting that the UVSS does not ban clubs that they may disagree with.

In addition to viewing the military as a colonizing force, Mitchell explained that their opposition also stems from the ongoing issue of sexualized violence within the ranks, one that they believe has been overlooked. Their letter cites figures from a scathing article from Global News reporting that “nearly a quarter of women in the military felt subjected to personal harassment in the last 12 months, and eight per cent of women felt subjected to sexual harassment—for a total of about one-third.”

3. The Society is opposed to the militarization of Canadian Society, and is unsupportive of a Canadian military establishment that violates international law and human rights.

Adopted BoD: 2007/04/02 (Part 4: Anti-Violence, B., 3., p. 10)

Citing the UVSS’s campaigns to stop sexualized violence, Mitchell said, “If the UVSS wants to commit itself to fighting misogyny and violence, it seems inappropriate for them to lend institutional support [to organizations with notable rates of these problems].”

Erickson acknowledged problems of sexualized violence, and said the UVSS “absolutely does not” support or condone it, but that it would be “a slap in the face to people in the organization who do protect us and don’t do those things.”

More broadly, Erickson and Cook want to move the UVSS away from such controversial issues, aiming instead to focus on issues that, in Cook’s words, “directly affect students”. 

“I think the main thing is we need to pick our battles,” said Erickson. “Students have gotten upset because they’re saying, ‘You’re our student organization who’s supposed to plan events for us and provide opportunities for us and here you are making political decisions,’ which means, ‘if you don’t make the right political decision for me, then you don’t represent me anymore.’” 

She recalled an incident where a director-at-large was campaigning and a recent graduate told them that they didn’t want anything to do with the UVSS because they recalled the 2007 ban. “So, our re-focus is to say, ‘We do represent you; we’re not going to take super-controversial stances on things that don’t directly affect you; we’re going to stay out of that, and we’re going to instead focus on providing events and providing campaigns for you.”

Mitchell stresses that “a student union is a political organization. A lot of what a student union does is lobbying.” Students may disagree on policy, but “when you have certain stances, the options are to follow the stances that you have laid out as an organization, or to change those stances to suit the current membership.” 

When asked if it was a free speech issue, Cook agreed, but felt that students should have the “authority to make decisions for themselves, not be dictated to what they should and should not see by the UVSS.”