Comptroller general’s investigative powers, sexual violence prevention also on agenda
The most recent meeting of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa’s (SFUO) Board of Administration (BOA) could easily have ended in disagreement.
The Jan. 15 meeting came only four days after a special meeting of the BOA, where a report by comptroller general Tanner Tallon raised issues about executives’ expenses and hours in the office.
You might expect that taking this same group of people and shutting them in the basement of Tabarat for six hours would yield somewhat of a dark ambiance. But you would be wrong.
It certainly seemed like things could take a turn for the worse at the beginning of the meeting, with Faculty of Engineering representative Arsalan Khan saying that some executives had been “too emotional” about motions in the in-camera session at the last meeting.
But even though there was the usual heated debate over topics as obscure as how many people are allowed to sit on committees, nothing bad seemed to come of them.
Some motions, including the creation of an ad hoc committee on sexual violence prevention, passed unanimously.
There was even a moment of levity when the board motioned to take a ten-minute break. The meeting’s chairperson, Shawn Philip Hunsdale, asked if members were sure, as “when you ask for 10 minutes you often take 20.” There was an audible “ooh.”
But it wasn’t until around five hours in that the meeting took its strangest and most uplifting turn.
Will Hume, a fourth-year communications student at the U of O, was given speaking rights and walked to the front of the room.
Hume had received the requisite 300 signatures on a motion to lower quorum needed at General Assemblies (GA) from one per cent of the student population (around 350 people) to 0.75 per cent (around 240).
The mood lightened considerably at this point, and several executive members asked Hume to join the GA committee.
After some quick back and forth, the board passed the motion lowering quorum. Everyone applauded.
In the allotted six hours, the board got through several other important motions.
Vice-president of university affairs Vanessa Dorimain announced that the next GA will take place on March 14, with quorum now being lowered from one per cent of the student population to 0.75 per cent.
Lee Chitty, a representative from the Faculty of Law’s common law section, brought up two motions that looked to clarify the powers of the SFUO’s comptroller general, who is responsible for investigating financial misconduct within the organization.
The first motion clarified the scope of investigative powers allotted to the comptroller, stating that they now have access to SFUO books and personnel in addition to strictly financial documents. It also gives them the power to investigate incidents with indirect effects on the organization’s finances, such as the hiring and firing of people in business roles. This motion passed.
The second motion allows the independence of the comptroller from the board and executive, thereby strengthening their ability to maintain the anonymity of complainants.
There was concern from both faculty representatives and members of the executive that this motion would make it too easy for people to falsify claims to “get back” at executive members.
After debate, the motion was sent to the constitutional committee, which will examine it before it is brought to the board at a later date.
The motions that were presented at the General Assembly will be voted on by the board at the next meeting on Feb. 5.
The Sustainable Development Centre has temporarily closed, as its two employees left for academic reasons.
SFUO president Roméo Ahimakin announced his intention to create a seat on the BOA to represent international students.
A motion was then brought to increase the scope of records collected at SFUO meetings, including during in-camera sessions. Records kept for in-camera sessions would be kept private for 10 years. Before it could be voted on, the motion was sent to the policy and bylaws committee to be voted on later.
A motion to examine transparency within the SFUO was also sent to the policy and bylaws committee to be voted on later.
Another motion which passed made it easier to submit a motion to the BOA. Individual students can now submit a motion to the board if they get 100 signatures (it used to be 300).
The next BOA meeting will take place on Feb. 5 at 1 p.m. in TBT 083. Meetings are open to the public.