University of Victoria Students' Society

University of Victoria Students' Society

Infobox Canadian Student Association
name = University of Victoria Students' Society

motto =
established = 1963
institution = University of Victoria
location = Victoria, British Columbia
members = 18,000
affiliated = CFS
homepage =
The University of Victoria Students' Society (UVSS), founded in 1963 is the student society that represents the 18 000 undergraduate students at the University of Victoriacite web
year = 2007
url =
title = UVic Calendar: University of Victoria Students' Society
publisher = University of Victoria
accessdate = 2007-09-12
] . The UVSS advocates on behalf of students on important issues such as increasing accessibility to education, racism, affordable public transportation and environmental sustainability. In addition, UVSS also provides services like the Universal Bus Pass (UPass), administers clubs and course unions, organises on campus events, and operates many of the services and businesses in the Student Union Building (SUB).


Collectively, the Board is the decision making body for the Students’ Society and directs all work of the Society. The board is composed of student representatives elected from the student body and contains 4 executives, 11 directors at large and 5 advocacy group representatives. Board members are elected annually in March.cite web
year = 2007
url =
title = Student Representation
publisher = University of Victoria Students' Society
accessdate = 2007-09-13

Notable Past Chairs

Rob Fleming - Current member of the legislative assembly for British Columbia cite web
year = 2007
url =
title = Rob Fleming - Member of Legislative Assembly
publisher = Legislative Assembly Of British Columbia
accessdate = 2007-09-13


The UVSS is currently part of the Canadian Federation of Students.


The Students' Society was first incorporated in 1964, just one year after the creation of the University of Victoria (UVic) itself, as the Alma Mater Society of the University of Victoria (AMS).Ministry of Finance and Corporate Relations. Registrar of Companies. Society Act Certificate. David W. Boyd. (Number S-6839). Victoria: Province of British Columbia, 1989.] The AMS took its name from student associations like the University of British Columbia and McGill University, to which Victoria College (UVic's predecessor) was affiliated. The name was changed in 1989 to make clearer what the organization actually is, a student union.

Students at the newly founded UVic already had their own building and a ready-made students' society, as students at Victoria College (now the home of Camosun College) were organized well before the UVic campus opened. As early as 1957, students at Victoria College began levying a building fee in anticipation of their new home at UVic. [1956/57 Victoria College Student Handbook. Page 33. Victoria, BC: Victoria College, 1956.] Consequently, the Student Union Building (SUB) was one of the first buildings built on campus. The SUB opened in 1963, built with matching funds made available by the provincial government's building fund program. [Neering, Rosemary. The Story of the University of Victoria and its Origin in Victoria College. Page 41. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria, 1988.] The building itself only consisted of the SUB Upper Lounge, the wing where the General Office is now located, and a downstairs section which housed the original Felicita's Pub.

Between 1963 and 1970, membership in the Society was around two thousand students. [Neering, Rosemary. The Story of the University of Victoria and its Origin in Victoria College. Page 21. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria, 1988.] There were only four buildings on campus and in 1967, when the residence buildings went up, only 300 students lived on campus. The Society at that time was mostly operated by volunteers and a very small staff. However, towards the end of the sixties, the Society began to grow more sophisticated. By the seventies, the cafeteria (previously more of a kiosk) began operating regularly, the Society got a liquor license, and the pub increased its hours. ["Subpub open Saturday soon." The Martlet [Victoria] 21 Nov. 1974: 2.] What is now Cinecenta got its start with students, working out of an office in the SUB, showing movies using a 16mm projector in the MacLaurin and Elliot buildings. [ [ The Ring: September 20, 2001 ] ]

In 1976 the building expanded, again financed through students. This time, however, the fee referendum to finance the additional 30 000 square feet failed. The Society's operating budget could only finance a smaller addition of 13 000 square feet, which meant that many of the architectural features originally designed for the expansion were lost. ["$1 M SUB addition opened." The Martlet [Victoria] 15 Jan. 1976: 2] The 1976 addition saw the wing where Cinecenta and the Munchie Bar, Medicine Centre Pharmacy, Back in Line Chiropractor, and On the Fringe are now located. Also the third floor was added as the home of CFUV (now located in the SUB's lower level).

Growth of Activism

UVic students have been active and vocal on the UVic campus for as long as the University has existed. However, the autonomy of the Alma Mater Society (and later the Students' Society) from the University from time to time has been a challenge to assert. UVic Administration has tended to view the UVSS as simply another university department. In fact, until 1989 the Student Union Building was run by a general manager who was employed by and reported to UVic administration and not the student-elected Board of Directors.Wilkins, Michael. "BOD picks up tab." The Martlet [Victoria] 12 Jan. 1989: 1.]

The eighties saw increased activism by the Board. In 1984, students voted to pay executive directors a full-time salary and created a number of standing committees to better facilitate the increased work of the Board. [Rooney, Dan. "AMS constitution changed." The Martlet [Victoria] 1 Mar. 1984: 22.] In 1985, students voted to join the Canadian Federation of Students which enabled the Board to implement many more educational and awareness-raising campaign initiatives. [Langford, Lisa. "CFS in, Carling out." The Martlet [Victoria] 7 Nov. 1985: 1]

Growth & Change: the 80’s and 90’s

The Society’s organizational structure changed significantly in 1989. At this point, the Society began employing its own general manager. The staff in the building unionized under the United Steelworkers (presently local 2952). [Games, Rebecca. "Cinecenta Unionizes." The Martlet [Victoria] 27 Jul. 1989: 1.] In the fall of 1989, the entire structure of the Society was reorganized into the divisional structure, which exists with some modifications today. [Langford, Lisa, and Siobhan Murphy. "Society employees' jobs restructured." The Martlet [Victoria] 18 Jan. 1990: 1.]

The Student Initiatives Project, approved by referendum in 1991, consisted of a significant fee increase to finance the expansion and renovation of the SUB, to build a campus Day Care building, and to finance an Emergency Student Aid Fund. [MacKinnon, James. "Student initiative funds tied up disagreements." The Martlet [Victoria] 5 Sept. 1991:3.] The completion of the expansion and renovation of the SUB in 1996 was another significant marker in the history of the Society. [Mercer, Adrenne, and Miko Ross. "Stress level high in coffee bean debate." The Martlet [Victoria] 9 Nov. 1995:1.] The SUB as it is known today is a product of that expansion.

Recent History

The growth and change of the 90’s led to a worsening financial situation which reached a crisis point in 2001. The Society had been running deficits every year for about 10 years until the cumulative deficit had reached the 100’s of thousands. [Groves, Kevin. "Anatomy of a crisis." Martlet [Victoria] 25 Oct. 2001: 3.] As if this unsustainable trend wasn’t enough, the Society rang up an over $400,000 deficit in just one year in 2000-2001.Thompson, John. "Student society reacts to year's dismal finances." The Martlet [Victoria] 10 Jan. 2002: 3.] The huge deficit was only discovered during the Society’s annual audit in fall 2001, as the corrupt Business & Operations Manager, Vivek Sharma, had been falsifying statements and stealing from the Society. [Thompson, John. "Former SUB business manager guilty of fraud." The Martlet [Victoria] 8 Jan. 2004: 2.] The Board responded swiftly and decisively by pressing charges against the since resigned Sharma, terminating the General Manager, and conducting a forensic audit. [Steward, Darren. "Society fires general manager." The Martlet [Victoria] 25 Oct. 2001: 3.] [Groves, Kevin. "UVSS starts to pick up pieces after fiscal shock." Martlet [Victoria] 25 Oct. 2001: 3.]

After this crisis unfolded, the Board of Directors embarked on a plan to tighten controls in the SUB’s business operations by such methods as reducing labour costs and food wastage, controlling liquor, and putting locks on freezers and coolers to prevent theft. [Thompson, John. "UVSS licks financial wounds and looks ahead." The Martlet [Victoria] 8 Nov. 2001: 3.] The Society also secured a half-million dollar loan from UVic against the SUB, which was instrumental in ensuring that the Society was able to meet its financial obligations without interruption. As the 2001-2002 financial year was already half over when the financial crisis was uncovered, the Society could not escape another deficit in the 100’s of thousands. However, beginning in 2002-2003 the Society ran surpluses every year until the Society’s debt of approximately $1 million was repaid in full in 2006-2007.

Since 2001 the SUB itself has also seen significant improvements. Five successful businesses now operate in leased spaces in the building and offer valuable services for students that the Society would be unable to offer on its own: a pharmacy and post office, hair salon, dentist, chiropractor and travel agency. In 2006 Felicita’s Pub was renovated to improve bar service and special event space. Significant extra seating has been added to almost every hallway, and is used at full capacity by students eating lunch and studying almost everyday. Also, the special event space known as Vertigo will undergo renovations in summer 2008.

Politically the Board of Directors has been extremely active in recent years. In 2002 the Campbell government deregulated tuition fees, which more than doubled at UVic over three years. [ Petrescu, Sarah. "Budget burdens students." The Martlet [Victoria] 8 Apr. 2004:2.] In addition, the non-repayable grants program was completely scrapped by the Campbell government in 2004. [Petrescu, Sarah. "Student grants axed by B.C. government." The Martlet [Victoria] 26 Feb, 2004:2] Tuition fee increases were eventually capped at approximately 2.5% per year beginning in 2005, just in time for the provincial election. [ [ Canadian Federation of Students ] ] In response to these cuts and tuition fee increases, the Society held days of action in coordination with the Canadian Federation of Students in February of 2002, 2004 and 2007. While these days of action were never able to enact immediate change, they significantly increased the profile of post-secondary education issues in the media, and undoubtedly influenced politicians at all levels to take the concerns of students into consideration when developing election platforms and pre-election government announcements.

Since 2000 the political focus of the Board of Directors has shifted from year to year from globalism to skyrocketing tuition fees, to the US’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to sustainability and climate change.

ubsidiary Organisations

The Martlet

Prior to 1992 the Martlet was an extension of the Society and received its funding through a grant from the Board of Directors. In 1993 the Martlet gained status as an independent society and entered into an agreement with the UVSS for the use of space and equipment with their referendum funding commencing that same year at $1.00 per student. St.John, Cam. "UVSS says yes." The Martlet [Victoria] 21 Oct. 1993:1.] In 1999 the Martlet achieved referendum funding of an additional $1.00 and continues to be independent from the UVSS. [Harrison, Rolf. "'Unofficial' left slate in the house again." The Martlet [Victoria] 11 mar. 1999:1.] The Martlet currently receives $3.75 in referendum funding.

Advocacy Groups

Constituency Groups and their representatives on the Board of Directors were established at the October 1995 Annual General Meeting of the Society. [Kirk, Jeffs. "UVSS BoD adds LGBA and Women's Centre reps." The Martlet [Victoria] 2 Nov. 1995:1.] The purpose was to establish advocacy organizations within the Society to represent traditionally marginalized persons on campus and within the society. Currently the Women’s Centre, Students of Colour Collective, ACCESS UVic (formerly the Society for Students with a Disability), and UVIC Pride (formerly the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Alliance) are constituency groups as per the bylaws of the society. Constituency groups operated by means of a grant from the UVSS from their conception until gaining referendum funding of $2.00 per student in March 2001. [Isitt, Ben. "Constituency groups given green light in referendum." The Martlet [Victoria] 15 Mar. 2001: 2] The Women’s Centre had referendum funding of $0.95 per student as per a 1993 referendum and now operates based on those two funding allocations combined. In March 2005, ACCESS UVic gained referendum funding of $1.00 per student in additional to their constituency group funding. [Karp, David. "Chairperson race too close to call." The Martlet [Victoria] 10 Mar. 2005: 3.] The Native Students Union also has had representation on the Board of Directors since a February 1996 Semi-Annual General Meeting. In March of 2002 the NSU gained referendum funding of $1.00 per student to maintain operations. ["Election Results." The Martlet [Victoria] 14 Mar. 2002:4.] Prior to this the NSU relied upon a grant from the Board of Directors.

Crisis Services

In March 1998 the Anti-Violence Project (formerly the Open University Resource Sexual Assault Centre, or OURSAC) gained referendum funding of $2.00 per student for its operations. [Cruikshank, Alexandra. "Eight per cent of students turn out to vote." The Martlet [Victoria] 12 Mar. 1998: 2.] Rising tuition costs and debt loads signaled an increase in the needs of the membership and in September 2000 the Board of Directors began funding and operating an emergency food bank in the SUB. [Rudisill, Carey. "Students to benefit from UVSS food bank." The Martlet [Victoria] 5 Oct. 2000:3.] By 2003 the need increased substantially and the society gained a $0.50 per student levy by referendum for the food bank. [Smith, Briony, and John Thompson. "Putting Students First sweeps election." The Martlet [Victoria] 13 Mar. 2003: 5.] It continues to provide much needed food and clothing to members and their families.



In 2002, a former University of Victoria Students' Society (UVSS) Business and Operations Manager was charged with fraud, theft, and causing a person to use a forged document by the Saanich police after an internal audit uncovered a $450,000 misappropriation of the society's funds. The UVSS was left with a $1,000,000 debt at the end of 2002. The University of Victoria loaned $500,000 to the UVSS in order to save it from bankruptcy [] .

Liquor License Suspensions

On September 23 2006, the UVSS hosted a welcome back party in the Student Union Building (SUB) for 2200 students (capacity). An undercover police constable and an inspector from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch were also in attendance.

The following are excerpts from the Decision of the General Manager, Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, in the matter of a hearing pursuant to Section 20 of The Liquor Control and Licensing Act RSBC c. 267

They described an environment rife with broken bottles and liquor containers scattered throughout the outdoor red lined areas and beyond the facility. They observed more than a hundred persons in line to get in to the facility, many of them intoxicated, boisterous and staggering. Some of the persons in line were consuming liquor while in the line. The inspector and police constable did not see any licensee staff members or security personnel monitoring the line-up. At the entry gate, nobody was checking for identification, containers or bags. A group of five obviously intoxicated patrons, one of them drinking from an open wine bottle, were provided with wristbands and permitted entry. …The inspector and police constable also observed three female patrons; two inside Felicitas and one just outside the window by their table, who were clearly intoxicated and either passed-out or wavering in and out of consciousness. One of the females inside Felicitas had as many as 25-30 liquor containers on the table in front of her, and she was seen to awake long enough to take a drink and then pass out again. The outside patron fell to the ground "like a limp dead body" on a couple of occasions and each time was picked up and supported by other patrons. The witnesses observed each of these patrons for a significant period of time, during which no staff or security personnel provided assistance or even approached the patrons.

…Outside the building, both inside and outside the licensed area, were piles of vomit, at least two unconscious males, and several sick or violently ill patrons - some of which were being tended to by ambulance attendants and uniformed police officers. The unconscious males were observed over a significant period of time. The ground was littered with broken glass and blood and at least one barefooted female was being treated for cuts to her feet. Some patrons were sitting on the ground or leaning against the patio fences, some were climbing the fences and the light standards, and some were on the roof of the building. Prior to the sounding of the fire alarm, the inspector and the police constable decided to retreat for reasons of their own safety. Bottles and glasses were being thrown, glass was smashing around them and the crowd was getting out of control. The contingent of uniformed police officers were advised by their superior officer to back away due to the danger. The undercover officer believed there was the potential for a riot. When the fire department arrived, there remained people on the roof of the building. One male jumped from the building. The witnesses did not know if the jumper was injured as a result.

…The constable testified that there were a number of arrests made and "a number of patrons were taken and lodged in police cells until sober, for their own safety."

The Business and Operations Manager of the SUB testified in the hearing that "We had clearance for 2,200 people. We started with 2,200 wristbands but we were running out so we handed out 200 more. 200 people got in who did not have tickets, so we handed out wristbands to another 200 people because they had tickets." []

The General Manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch ordered the suspension of the UVSS's liquor license for ten days and also ordered the UVSS to pay a $10,000 fine.

On March 16 2007, a Saanich police officer observed staff at Felicita's allowing an intoxicated person to remain in the pub. The officer observed the student drinking alone and exhibiting signs of drunkenness, such as his head hanging very low. “I watched as the male took a drink from the glass but then appeared to allow some of the drink to dribble back out of his mouth into the glass,” said the officer in his report.

The officer, who is also a former liquor inspector, observed a server clearing the customer’s table without addressing the student or alerting security staff. The student told the officer that he had just consumed six pints of beer in the last 75 minutes at Felicita's.

As a result of this incident, the UVSS received a second 10 day liquor license suspension. [ [ The Martlet Online ] ]

Canadian Forces Issue

At the Sept. 10, 2007 meeting of the UVSS Board of Directors, a motion was put forward to ban the Canadian Forces(CF) from the upcoming University of Victoria Career Fair. [] Directors Christine Comrie, Edward Pullman, Caitlin Meggs, Anna Planedin, Veronica Harisson, and Jamie Strachan all voted in favor of banning the CF. Six Directors voted against the motion. UVSS Chairperson, Tracy Ho, broke the 6-6 deadlock by also voting to ban the CF. [ [ Ban on military recruiters irks students ] ] Director-at-large Christine Comrie said it was important to ban the military from recruiting because some students are ignorant about the issues. “A lot of students don’t know about the issues and don’t know about the facts,” she said. “We have to make this decision for students.” [10]

This decision outraged students at UVic, including many who were involved with the military or were considering military careers, forcing the Board to rescind its original motion after over 150 students showed up at the Sept. 24 Board meeting to protest the ban. [ The Martlet Online ] ]

The Board sent the decision on whether to ban the CF to a vote at the UVSS' Annual General Meeting. An estimated 500 students were present, a number not seen at an AGM in over a decade. During the meeting, the pro-ban side attempted to filibuster the vote on their own motion, sensing an impending loss. By repeatedly debating procedural amendments to the motion, and even attempting to send the motion back to the Board of Directors, they managed to sustain a 3-hour long delay before the pro-military side managed to secure an end to the debate session and move directly to the vote. The ban was soundly defeated, with approximately 25 students voting in favor and an overwhelming majority of 95% voting against. Subsequently, some pro-ban students accused the pro-military side of cutting off debate before both sides had been heard sufficiently. [Cindy E. Harnett "UVic students overturn ban on military recruitment", Victoria Times Colonist, October 26, 2007] .


ee also

*List of British Columbia students' associations

External links

* [ University of Victoria Students' Society]
* [ CFUV Radio]
* [ Martlet Newspaper]

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