U of O follows municipal, federal governments’ cannabis plan

The University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors (BOG) convened on Sept. 24 to discuss last year’s budget, the future of Brooks residence, Ontario’s free speech policy, and cannabis legislation on campus.

Cannabis on campus

U of O president, Jacques Frémont, announced that cannabis will be banned everywhere on campus grounds including residences. However, there will be modifications and exceptions for medical use which Frémont says the university has already been managing.

A number of board members inquired about edibles. The university has spoken to the federal deputy minister of justice where both parties have acknowledged both the challenge and risk regarding edibles. The U of O is waiting to follow the lead of the government who, at this time, have yet to legislate edibles.

In terms of repercussions, if a student is found to be impaired, the City’s bylaws will apply.

Free speech policy

On Aug. 30 the Ontario government announced a new directive mandating universities and colleges implement a new policy ensuring free speech on campus.

Frémont, announced that the university will be adopting this policy by the January 2019 deadline.

Frémont, said the university has briefly been in contact with the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa, and according to Frémont they are “on the same page.”

Frémont explained that a free speech policy is particularly difficult for the U of O to enact as the university does not currently have a code of conduct for students, or the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), and has fewer restrictions on students than other Ontario universities.

According to Frémont, the university has not received details on the criteria or standards required by the provincial government, and are using the press release as a guideline.

At this time, it is undecided whether there will be a collaborative approach across all universities, or policy discrepancies between universities, however Frémont said there will be a meeting at the end of this month to discuss approaches.

Post-secondary institutions have until Jan. 1, 2019, to develop and implement a free speech policy that meets the minimum standard prescribed by the government of Ontario.

Budget surplus

In May 2017, there was a budgeted deficit of $4.6 million, however, in February 2018, the BOG received an update that put the deficit at $1.7 million instead. At the end of April 2018, the actual financial statements showed a surplus totaling $15 million—this represents close to 1.5 per cent of the university’s total budget.

According to the BOG, the surplus can be accounted for in strong returns on investments and robust austerity measures. The $15 million was not spent and will be kept in future reserves for anything from combating future deficits to new programs.

Additionally, the financial statements show $70 million in excess of audited financial statements. This money has already been allocated for specific purposes—such as pension plans and benefits–but the U of O has yet to make the payouts. This particular amount reflects the timing of payouts and is not considered a surplus.

The BOG has implemented a new financial software which will track university spending and updates to the budget in real time.

There is no surplus expected for the 2018-19 budget.

Brooks residence

Following the closure of Brooks residence at the end of August, its future had yet to be determined. However, it has now been determined that the Brooks residence cannot and will not be renovated, and so will be demolished.

It is undecided what will replace the structure. The Stanton and Marchand residences will need to be replaced within three to four years, however, the university would not begin work on those residences until an additional location to house displaced students is available. While the Brooks site could become a new residence, the university also spoke of needing to predict the demand for academic space in the future.

The residence, which originally cost $23 million, would require $43 million in renovations to keep it operational.

SFUO business

After the completion of the agenda, the BOG went in camera to discuss the university’s next steps in dealing with the fraud allegations facing executives of the SFUO. A statement was released the following day, Sept. 25, which announced the termination of the agreement between the university and the student union which recognized the SFUO as the sole representative of the undergraduate student body.