The Engineering Students’ Society (ESS) aims to remain impartial when addressing University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) affairs. However, as an entity committed to improving the lives of students at UVic, we feel it is important to address the issues with the upcoming motion at the Annual General Meeting (AGM). The motion looking to lower the referenda quorum (the minimum number of students required to vote on a referendum) from 15% to 5% is undemocratic and does not address the issues behind low voter turnout.
The ESS would first like to point out that this change is undemocratic as it removes consultation with a large demographic of students. The UVSS has not sent out an official notice (by email to the entire student body) of the AGM. While notice is posted through the UVSS social media and website, not being officially advertised results in only a small demographic of students being aware of the general meeting. A consequence of decreasing quorum for referenda based on the small demographic of students who attend AGM would be ignoring receiving opinions on future referenda from a wide range of students. Moreover, should this motion pass, an individual undergraduate student looking to enact a change in the UVSS would need to solicit signatures from 10% of undergraduate students before having their change put up for consideration at a referendum. The UVSS BoD can put a change up for consideration at any time (with no solicitor signatures required). Also, a minimum of 50% of voters must vote “for” the referendum for it to pass. This means that if the quorum is reduced to 5%, 2.5% of students must vote “for” the referendum to have it pass. Therefore, if the UVSS BoD is looking to make a change, only 2.5% of the entire UVic student body would need to be in support of the change (while a student making a change must still have 10% in support).
Moreover, this motion fails to address the real issue: how will the UVSS rebuild student engagement, and therefore voter turnout on referenda coming out of COVID? The UVSS, like the ESS, should be an entity committed to improving the lives of students at UVic, based on what changes the students would like to see. As the Martlet has reported, lower voter turnout has only been a problem since 2020. One can conclude that fewer people have been engaged with the UVSS since the COVID-19 pandemic as the pressure of being a student in an online environment can disconnect the student body from their governing organizations. Jumping immediately to lowering the quorum by 10% would be ignoring the idea of rebuilding student participation and hearing what students need as we return to an in-person environment.
The online environment caused frustration in engaging with students for all of the UVic students’ societies. Coming out of the pandemic, the main goal of the ESS has been to push to rebuild our engineering student community, and we would be happy to share strategies for engagement. This Fall 2021 the ESS received the highest voter turn-out on the First Year Representative elections in 3 years, despite having been disconnected from engineering students for 2 years. The ESS encourages the UVSS to shift their goal to focusing on building student engagement, beginning with withdrawing this motion from the AGM agenda.
The University of Victoria Engineering Students’ Society