University of Victoria Students' Society

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University of Victoria Students' Society
University of Victoria Students' Society Logo with transparent bg.png
Motto Run by Students for Students
Formation 1921 (Incorporated 1964)
17 000
Key people
  • Chairperson: Bronte Renwick-Shields
  • External Relations: Kenya Rogers
  • Finance&Operations: Tristan Ryan
  • Student Affairs: Kaylee Szakacs
  • Events: Solenn Madevon
Affiliations University of Victoria
Formerly called
Alma Mater Society

The University of Victoria Students' Society (UVSS) is a student society that represents undergraduate students at the University of Victoria.[1] The student's society was founded in 1921 and incorporated in 1964. It provides services and operates business for students through the Student Union Building (SUB), and historically has advocated for special interests on campus.


Board of Directors[edit]

The Board of Directors is the decision-making body for the Society and directs all work of the Society. The board is composed of student representatives elected from the student body. The board is made up of:

  • Five salaried executives:
    • Chairperson,
    • Director of Events,
    • Director of External Relations,
    • Director of Finance & Operations, and;
    • Director of Student Affairs
  • 11 volunteer at-large directors; and,
  • Five advocacy group representatives:
    • The Native Students' Union,
    • UVic Pride Collective,
    • The Students of Colour Collective,
    • The Society for Students with a Disability, and;
    • The Women's Centre.


Board members are elected annually in March and advocacy representatives are nominated by their groups and approved by the board.[2]

Up until 2009, the elections to the UVSS Board of Directors were run internally by a committee of the Society and staff members. Since that time, the UVSS has changed its by-laws and has given much of its authority to run the elections away to externally hired individuals.[3] Policy for the elections is still determined by the Board of Directors.[4]



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).[5] 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 society.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] The 1976 addition saw the wing where Cinecenta and the Munchie Bar, Medicine Centre Pharmacy, 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).

1980s and 1990s[edit]

The Society’s organizational structure changed significantly in 1989. At this point, the Society began employing its own general manager.[12][13] In the fall of 1989, the entire structure of the Society was reorganized into the divisional structure, which exists with some modifications today.[14]

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.[15] The completion of the expansion and renovation of the SUB in 1996 was another significant marker in the history of the Society.[16] The SUB as it is known today is a product of that expansion.


The growth and change of the 1990s 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 hundreds of thousands.[17] As if this unsustainable trend wasn’t enough, the Society rang up an over $400,000 deficit in just one year in 2000–2001.[18] 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.[19] The Board responded swiftly and decisively by pressing charges against the since resigned Sharma, terminating the General Manager, and conducting a forensic audit.[20][21]

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.[22] 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 hundreds of thousands.[18] 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.

In 2008 the United Steel Workers union representing staff at the UVSS went on strike for a three months,[23] this in combination with a weak economy, and rising costs pushed the Society back into a $350,000 debt by 2009.


To address the growing deficit and put the Society back on its feet the 2010-2011 board put a number of fee referenda to members in November 2010 all of which passed.[24] The Capital Fund was reduced and shifted into the Operations Fund, dedicated fees for events and elections were established, and a modest increase of 40 cents per full-time student per semester, each semester over a three-year period was also established. Besides this, the 2010-2011 board shifted from a three-person senior management structure to a two-person management structure which further reduced costs for the Society.

In 2010-11, the Board moved from a 4-person executive structure to a 5-person executive structure. This change was passed at a Special General Meeting in January 2010 and was largely done in acknowledgement of the fact that certain executive positions had an inordinate amount of work in comparison to other positions.

Major changes on the political front happened in the early twenty-tens as well. After holding a referendum on membership in the Canadian Federation of Students, UVSS members voted to leave the Federation in March 2011 after more than twenty-five years of membership. Following this, the UVSS established the Where's The Funding? campaign in conjunction with a number of other student societies in BC.[25]

Student Groups[edit]


Clubs are interest groups run by students and administered by the UVSS. There are over 150 student groups on a variety of topics[26] a list of all active clubs can be found on the UVSS Clubs website. Any student that wants to start a club can do so by talking to the Director of Student Affairs who has an office located in the Students’ Society Centre (SUB B103).

Clubs receive a small amount of funding each semester from a student levy and are governed by clubs policy and Clubs Council.[27]

Course Unions[edit]

Course Unions are department focused student groups run by students from a specific department and administered by the UVSS. There are over 25 Course Unions representing departments across campus, a list of all active clubs can be found on the UVSS Course Union Website. Any student that wants to start a Course Union can do so by talking to the Director of Student Affairs who has an office located in the Students’ Society Centre (SUB B103)

Course Unions receive a small amount of funding each semester from a student levy and are governed by Course Union policy and Course Union council.[28]

Professional Development Unions (PDUs)[edit]

There are four active Professional Development Unions at the University of Victoria. Each PDU is run semi-autonomously with funds being raised solely by the students within that department. While each PDU raises its own funds, they are considered under the umbrella of the UVSS for purposes related to the BC University Act.

The following are the PDUs at UVic:

Advocacy Groups[edit]

Advocacy groups are organizations within the UVSS serve to represent certain special interests on campus or within society. Advocacy groups are funded by imposing fees on students that are created through by referendum. Each of the groups has voting representation on the UVSS Board of Directors.

The following list details these groups"

Affiliate organizations[edit]

Affiliate organizations are on-campus groups that receive a student levy that has been approved by referendum. All of the affiliate groups act semi-autonomously with their own governing structures.

The Martlet[edit]

The Martlet is a weekly student newspaper at the University of Victoria (UVic) in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. There are over a dozen employees on the payroll, but significant work is done by student volunteers (writing, taking photos, copy editing). The Martlet is funded partially by student fees, and partially by advertisements. The newspaper is distributed freely around the UVic campus and various locations around greater Victoria each Thursday during the school year, and on a monthly basis in the summer. The paper also maintains a website. The Martlet is a member of the Canadian University Press.

CFUV 101.9FM[edit]

CFUV is a campus/community radio station broadcasting on 101.9 FM in British Columbia, Canada. It serves the University of Victoria, Greater Victoria and, via cable, Vancouver Island and many areas in the Lower Mainland. It is owned and run by the University of Victoria Student Radio Society.[29] The station offers programs that include a diverse range of musical styles and talk shows on political and cultural issues.

DJs at CFUV are volunteers from the campus and community. Anyone interested in getting involved can stop by their office in SUB B006 Monday to Friday 10:00am – 6:00pm or visit the CFUV CFUV website

Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG)[edit]

VIPIRG is a non-profit organization dedicated to research, education, advocacy and action in the public interest. It is an ideal place for students and Volunteers who wish to work on social justice and environmental issues on campus, or at the campus level.

VIPIRG also hosts an alternative research centre with magazines, videos, books and clippings dealing with a wide range of social justice and environmental issues. More information can be found in their office in SUB B120 or on their website.

UVic Sustainability Project (UVSP)[edit]

UVSP is a student-run organization that strives to work with the campus community to achieve a balance between what is ecologically necessary, socially desirable and economically feasible at UVic. More information can be found from their website or at their office (SUB B118)

UVic Campus Community Gardens[edit]

The Campus Community Garden is a UVSS club that manages the urban agriculture space on campus, with practical support from Facilities Management and the UVic Sustainability Office. The garden is located off of Mckenzie Avenue across from the athletic fields. There are 90 plots at the gardens. Due to the high demand for plots, rentals are restricted to current UVic students, faculty and staff, though volunteers from outside the UVic community are welcome. More information can be found on the website or at their office (SUB B118)


Universal Bus Pass (U-PASS)[edit]

The Universal Bus Pass (U-PASS) started in 1999 allows students unlimited travel on the Victoria Regional Transit System. The Pass must be renewed each semester at either the University Centre or the Info Booth in the SUB and costs the equivalent of one adult monthly pass.[30]

Anti-Violence Project (AVP)[edit]

The Anti-Violence Project (AVP) is the on-campus sexual assault centre. The support services are confidential and available to anyone who has experienced sexualized violence or knows someone who has.

The staff are trained to provide emotional support and can act as a bridge for anyone seeking counselling, health and/or legal services. They also have a great resource library, and offer educational workshops and awareness events on-campus. People looking for more information can visit their website or stop by their office in SUB B027.

Food Bank[edit]

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.[31] By 2003 the need increased substantially and the society gained a $0.50 per student levy by referendum for the food bank.[32] It continues to provide much needed food and clothing to members and their families.

The Food bank is located in the basement on the SUB (B017) and is operated mainly by volunteers. All undergraduate students pay a small fee towards keeping it stalked. The Food bank offers students in need the ability to pick up food items once per week.

Health and Dental Plan[edit]

Established by student referendum the UVSS Health and Dental Plan is extended health and dental coverage specifically for students. All undergraduate students who are registered in at least 3 units of on-campus classes are automatically enrolled in the health plan. Students who are part-time, distance, co-op, or are in the Island Medical Program can opt into the health plan by visiting the Info Booth in the Student Union Building or visiting the Student Care website

Those who already have alternative coverage can opt out of the plan by visiting the Student Care website


The Ombuds office is an independent, impartial and confidential resource for students (current, former, or prospective) and other members of the University community.

The Office provides information and guidance on students’ rights & responsibilities, and UVic regulations & procedures. The Ombudsperson is also an ‘agent for change’, recommending improvements to policies and advocating for fair procedures the office offers workshops and talks on conflict and communication, fairness and related issues.

More information can be found on their website or by going to their office in SUB B205

Other services[edit]

The UVSS though the Student Union Building also offers free phones, a banner room, a darkroom and study space.[33]


The UVSS has had no shortage of controversies over the years. Here are a few from the last 5 years:

  • 2008-2013 Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) is a pro-life club at UVic and funded by students. Over the past few years there have been a number of discussions and controversies relating to their activities on-campus. In 2008 and 2009 funding was cut off as a result of the groups posters and activities.[34] In 2010 funding and ratification were lost as a result of continuing controversial activities. In 2010 YPY launched a lawsuit against the UVSS where they were given back their withheld funding and ratification.[35] YPY lost their booking privileges in spring 2012 because of a graphic display held on campus.[36] YPY has since filed a constitutional lawsuit against UVic in relation to a cancelled booking in February 2013.[37]
  • 2010 Fraternities and Sororities were looking to get recognised by UVic and the UVSS.[38] This resulted in one of the largest AGMs in UVSS history where students ultimately decided to not recognize the Fraternities and Sororities.[39] The groups do continue to exist without the University recognition.
  • 2009-2012 From 1985 to 2011 the UVSS was member local 44 of the Canadian Federation of Students. In late 2009, a petition was circulated among the membership to demand a referendum on continued membership. Despite having reached the required number of signatures, the CFS denied that the petition was valid. The UVSS retained a lawyer on behalf of the membership in order to demand a legal referendum. In March 2011, 70.5% of UVic students voted in a referendum to leave the CFS. The UVSS's membership in CFS-National ended on June 30, 2011.[40] The provincial competent of the CFS, CFS-BC, has since removed the UVSS as a member.[41]

The UVSS received two F's in the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom's report The State of Campus Free Speech in 2012.[42][43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UVic Calendar: University of Victoria Students' Society". University of Victoria. 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  2. ^ "Student Representation". University of Victoria Students' Society. 2007. Archived from the original on February 16, 2008. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Ministry of Finance and Corporate Relations. Registrar of Companies. Society Act Certificate. David W. Boyd. (Number S-6839). Victoria: Province of British Columbia, 1989.
  6. ^ 1956/57 Victoria College Student Handbook. Page 33. Victoria, BC: Victoria College, 1956.
  7. ^ Neering, Rosemary. The Story of the University of Victoria and its Origin in Victoria College. Page 41. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria, 1988.
  8. ^ Neering, Rosemary. The Story of the University of Victoria and its Origin in Victoria College. Page 21. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria, 1988.
  9. ^ "Subpub open Saturday soon." The Martlet [Victoria] 21 Nov. 1974: 2.
  10. ^ The Ring: September 20, 2001
  11. ^ "$1 M SUB addition opened." The Martlet [Victoria] 15 Jan. 1976: 2
  12. ^ The staff in the building unionized under the United Steelworkers (presently local 2952).
  13. ^ Games, Rebecca. "Cinecenta Unionizes." The Martlet [Victoria] 27 Jul. 1989: 1.
  14. ^ Langford, Lisa, and Siobhan Murphy. "Society employees' jobs restructured." The Martlet [Victoria] 18 Jan. 1990: 1.
  15. ^ MacKinnon, James. "Student initiative funds tied up disagreements." The Martlet [Victoria] 5 Sept. 1991:3.
  16. ^ Mercer, Adrenne, and Miko Ross. "Stress level high in coffee bean debate." The Martlet [Victoria] 9 Nov. 1995:1.
  17. ^ Groves, Kevin. "Anatomy of a crisis." Martlet [Victoria] 25 Oct. 2001: 3.
  18. ^ a b Thompson, John. "Student society reacts to year's dismal finances." The Martlet [Victoria] 10 Jan. 2002: 3.
  19. ^ Thompson, John. "Former SUB business manager guilty of fraud." The Martlet [Victoria] 8 Jan. 2004: 2.
  20. ^ Steward, Darren. "Society fires general manager." The Martlet [Victoria] 25 Oct. 2001: 3.
  21. ^ Groves, Kevin. "UVSS starts to pick up pieces after fiscal shock." Martlet [Victoria] 25 Oct. 2001: 3.
  22. ^ Thompson, John. "UVSS licks financial wounds and looks ahead." The Martlet [Victoria] 8 Nov. 2001: 3.
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Clubs Policy" (PDF). University of Victoria Students' Society. 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-24. 
  28. ^ "Clubs Policy" (PDF). University of Victoria Students' Society. 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-24. 
  29. ^ CFUV. "Orientation Manual 06-07 5th edition" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-29. [dead link]
  30. ^
  31. ^ Rudisill, Carey. "Students to benefit from UVSS food bank." The Martlet [Victoria] 5 Oct. 2000:3.
  32. ^ Smith, Briony, and John Thompson. "Putting Students First sweeps election." The Martlet [Victoria] 13 Mar. 2003: 5.
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Board denies YPY funding for a third time this year". The Martlet Online.
  35. ^ "YPY Debate heads to court".
  36. ^ "YPY loses booking privileges after graphic display".
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^

External links[edit]