Defederation junkies get their kicks in Vic referendum
MAR 29, 2013 | BY KEVIN HEMPSTEAD
Polls closed on Monday, March 25, for the Victoria College elections and the referendum regarding the diversion of fees away from the University of Toronto Students’ Union. The referendum passed by a wide margin — 61 per cent to 34 per cent, with five per cent abstaining — but uncertainty remains over the decision’s real effect.
Despite the results, Victoria College Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) will still debate the referendum. They can either accept it, in which it must be ratified by the University Affairs Board, or they can reject it on grounds of low voter turnout.
On March 14, VUSAC agreed to pass a resolution that declared the referendum will not be binding if it does not reach a 15 per cent voter turnout. The statement did not follow proper procedure to be an actual amendment, and thus the referendum will be contested at a VUSAC meeting next week; its time and place is still to be determined.
Therein lies the potential for re-energizing what has recently been a dormant initiative. While Trinity College and the Engineers’ Society feature active campaigning for the pros and cons of secession, Vic had been absent of any such enthusiasm. By the time of the VUSAC Town Hall and the opening of the polls on Wednesday night, the “Yes” campaign was disbanded and a “No” campaign was never formed.
Pre-election opinion to fee diversion became very tenuous. “In the beginning we were very much committed to the ‘Yes’ side,” explained Dylan Moore, who originally was the leader of the fees diversion campaign.
But election controversy increased general scepticism. Two VUSAC candidates and a volunteer for Moore’s campaign were disqualified for over three days before they could appeal the decision, losing half their campaigning period.
“Observing what we viewed as significant evidence of weak electoral institutions significantly reduced enthusiasm,” said Moore. “A chief criticism we all have about the UTSU is that its own electoral institutions are faulty. It was very disheartening to see that VUSAC might suffer from similar problems.”
But the referendum’s result rejuvenated the issue. “Almost two-thirds voted for the referendum,” said Jelena Savic, VUSAC President-elect. “That’s pretty hard to ignore. In the past, all levies like this have been accepted. The vote on the Goldring Centre had 20 per cent spoiled ballots, and that was accepted.” In the event the referendum is denied passage, VUSAC is not allowed to call another one in the hopes of a better result. If rejected, it may take a couple years before such an initiative can once again occur. Thus, the need for some sort of solution everyone can agree upon is imperative.
Overall, the referendum results spell good news for those in favour of defederation at the other colleges. Trin and EngSoc feature more resources and their student council presidents have been much more confident in their abilities to adapt to the diversion of fees; should their referenda pass, they are therefore unlikely to face the controversy that has beset Vic’s attempt.
- Subtitle: Victoria College votes in favour of diverting fees from the UTSU, but controversy continues