Students’ Dialogue on Democratic Engagement

UVic-Canada

UVic and The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and Government House have partnered to engage students in an initiative on one of The Lieutenant Governor’s areas of focus: Democracy and Civic Engagement.

The project will bring together a representative group of students selected through a democratic lottery to learn and deliberate on democratic engagement. We would like to seek your involvement in supporting this meaningful series of dialogues.

Restoring our ability to have meaningful and respectful conversations about major societal issues must start with fixing the way we engage with each other on campus. That is why I want to participate in the Dialogue on Democratic Engagement. By offering a representative group of students an opportunity to have meaningful discussions about societal topics, informed by experts and factual information, can in the long-term, improve the quality of discussion on UVic’s campus and throughout our communities.

—Liam Byrne, UVic student

The Opportunity

While our democracy is envied around the world, one of British Columbia’s challenges is the increasing fragility of democracy in the 21st century. Across the globe, politics have further polarized. The tone of rhetoric has become more divisive and many Canadians perceive limited opportunities to engage constructively in politics.

The University of Victoria and The Lieutenant Governor feel strongly that universities can play an active role in addressing these challenges. Through this unique partnership, we hope to encourage the cross-pollination of opinions and bring together students with differing perspectives who share the desire to make their communities a better place to live.

Invitations were sent to several thousands of university students to participate in two dialogues this spring. 24 students will be selected from among all interested students using a civic lottery to make sure there is broad representation from the student community.

Over four evening forums held virtually, participants will meet to learn and deliberate about civil political discourse and democratic engagement. The Dialogue’s takeaways and recommendations will be documented and shared with UVic and The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. They will also be made available on UVic’s website for anyone to be able to review.

If you have any questions please contact

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:

 

What is the University of Victoria Students’ Dialogue on Democratic Engagement?

The University of Victoria Students’ Dialogue on Democratic Engagement (“Dialogue”) is a pilot program launched by the University of Victoria (“UVic”) in partnership with The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and Government House. It will bring together a representative group of students selected through a democratic lottery to learn and deliberate about democratic engagement from 5:30-8 p.m. on November 10, 17, 24 and December 1. Following the four forums, participants will have the option to attend a casual wrap-up reception to celebrate and discuss their experiences.

Why is UVic hosting this Dialogue?

UVic is committed to fostering opportunities in which students can learn and deliberate about topics relevant to them and the broader community. We believe that universities can and should be hubs of democratic innovation. To that end, we wish to try a new approach to student engagement that builds off the concept of deliberative mini-publics, which bring together a group of people that are descriptively representative of the community to engage in robust deliberation and learning about a particular topic. We hope to learn from this pilot to continue developing innovative ways of engaging students and the broader community.

What will happen at the four sessions?

The topic for the first two sessions is civil discourse, and the topic for the final two sessions is democratic engagement. Sessions will range from 2 to 2.5 hours in length. The sessions will involve brief presentations by experts with knowledge of the topics, followed by small-group discussions among students.

I am not an expert on democracy, nor am I highly involved—can I still participate?

Absolutely! We do not expect you to have any expertise or experience pertaining to democracy, democratic engagement, or civil discourse. In fact, we are hoping to attract a people with various levels of involvement in politics and civic engagement to ensure diverse perspectives and experience. Your perspective as a member of our community is what matters most. All participants will have the opportunity to learn about the topics through expert presentations, and to engage in facilitated discussions with their peers in order to make a meaningful contribution to the Dialogue.

What would be my role as a participant?

As a participant in the Dialogue, you would attend all four sessions from 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. on on November 10, 17, 24 and December 1. You would learn from expert presenters, actively participate in the small-group discussions, and be open to learning from others.

What will be done with the participants’ input?

Key takeaways and recommendations from the Dialogue will be documented and shared with UVic’s Office of the President and the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. The findings will also be published on our website to be available to the broader community.

How was I selected to receive this invitation?

We sent out invitations to approximately 7,500 students selected at random from the total body of enrolled UVic students.

How will the final participants be selected?

Participants will be randomly selected from among the volunteers who respond to the invitation. Given the diversity of our institution and UVic’s institutional mandate to be equitable and inclusive, diversity is a reality in all our work. Diverse perspectives are needed to gain comprehensive understanding and expand thinking, challenging perspectives and enabling more creative and targeted solutions. The participant application survey asks for self-identification data. This data will be used to select a representational and inclusive group of participants.

Who is eligible to participate?

In order to be eligible you must have received your invitation and must be enrolled in at least one class for the 2020-2021 year.

I am unsure whether I can attend all sessions of the Dialogue: Can I still volunteer?

It is crucial that all 24 participants attend all sessions. If you do not think you can attend all four sessions, then please do not volunteer. We hope to create similar opportunities for student engagement in the future, so stay tuned!

Will I be compensated for my participation?

You will not be compensated for participating in the Dialogue. We believe this is an excellent opportunity to learn from a variety of experts, and make new connections across campus.

Where will the sessions be held?

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all four sessions will be held virtually.

I require an accommodation. Can you assist me in participating?

If you would like to volunteer to be a member of the Dialogue and are concerned about a potential barrier to participating, please contact us at or 250-472-5048 (during office hours). We are committed to assisting all members of the Dialogue so they can participate, and if you were selected we will work with you to accommodate your needs.

If I am not selected to participate, can I still be involved in the process?

If you are not selected for this Dialogue, you will able to view the final report when it is published. We hope to create many more opportunities for student engagement in the future, so stay tuned!

How can I register as a volunteer for the Dialogue?

If you were among the students to receive an e-mail invitation and would like to volunteer, complete the short registration form by October 10, 2020 at the latest.

How will my privacy be protected?

Personal information is only being collected to ensure a diverse representation of students are selected to participate, and will not be used for any other purpose, nor will it be disclosed to any other person except in aggregated statistical form.

Who can I contact if I have further questions?

Please contact us at or 250-472-5048 (during office hours) if you have any further questions.