Tuition hikes, updated health plan, new facilities, and more

Previously on the University of Ottawa political scene…

SFUO fraud accusations

In August, a police report was filed after outgoing Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) president, Hadi Wess, submitted a report alleging fraudulent actions conducted by SFUO president Rizki Rachiq and executive director Vanessa Dorimain, as well as references to Axel Gaga, vice-president operations. The allegations include mention of upwards of $20,000 of student funds transferred to a fake club under Rachiq. No charges have been laid at this time.

In a statement released on Aug. 10, the university announced the request of a forensic audit and placed a hold on transfer payments to the SFUO. Normally, the university collects fees from students and transfers the allotted funds to the SFUO in regular installments. The statement mentions, now, the university has placed measures in place to deal with the financial operations until such a time that the forensic audit has been completed.

Tuition hike

In May, the Board of Governors (BOG) voted on a budget that included a raise in tuition for both domestic and international students. The board voted in favour with the 3 student members voting against. Domestic students will see a 3 per cent increase, returning international students will see a 5.5 per cent increase, and new-coming international students, a 15 per cent increase.

Prior to the vote, the SFUO held a “Stop the Hike” rally. Additionally, students voiced their concerns by protesting at the meeting and by sending board members letters calling for reconsideration. In a message to the Fulcrum, SFUO vice-president of equity, Paige Booth, said the federation will work to mobilize students throughout the year hoping to pressure both the board and the Ontario provincial government into discussing and eventually developing an alternative budget.

Last spring, the tuition of returning international students was raised by 7 per cent. This year saw a 1.5 per cent reduction in the increase due to a motion put forward by BOG student representative, Jamie Ghossein. Currently, there is a provincial law in place that caps tuition hikes for domestic students at 3 per cent. No such regulation exists for international students. Ghossein’s motion called for the U of O to publicize the amount international students’ tuition will rise each year.

The information is available online for prospective students. The motion passed last year and acted as a deterrent for the university to deviate from past patterns of tuition hikes for returning international students.

New incoming international students remain without tuition regulation.

The passing of this budget marks the thirteenth consecutive year of tuition hikes.

Saudi Arabian Students

An ongoing diplomatic dispute between Saudi Arabia and Canada resulted in the Saudi government demanding all Saudi students studying in Canada through the KASP leave the country. While this mandate has since been revoked for medical students, the SFUO released a statement at the time of the initial demand discussing the barriers to accessing higher education. The International House located at UCU 211E is open for drop-in support.

Health plan

The student health plan has expanded to cover mental health services. The SFUO renegotiated for coverage of 80 per cent of costs and an increase from $750 to $1,500. Coverage includes psychologists, social workers, and counsellors. The Gardasil vaccine will also be covered now.

SFUO constitution

Updated in August 2018, at this time the only identified change is an alteration to the process of initiating impeachment.

Clause 3.1.14.2.1 dictates the two ways an impeachment proceeding can be initiated. In the previous SFUO constitution, the first way, as per clause 3.1.14.2.1.1, was through “A two-thirds vote of votes cast by the directors of the Board of Administration” that clause has been rewritten to say “Individual members of the SFUO, by a simple majority (50%+1) vote shall decide whether or not a director shall be removed from their position.”

The minutes from the August BOA meeting, which according to vice-president external Paige Booth should contain these changes, are not available on the SFUO website at this time.

Student Satisf(action) Committee

The SFUO recently established a new initiative to encourage collaboration between students and the U of O administration to improve student experience. The committee will primarily work towards quick fixes, but also offers a place for students to make suggestions and proposals to the BOG and Senate. The finalization of the communication strategy is still in development. The U of O consistently places among the lowest in student satisfaction nation-wide.

Multi-faith space

A new multi-faith space, managed by Community Life Service, will be operational this September in the Colonel By building. The motion for its creation was passed unanimously by the BOG. This is the second centre on campus, the first is located in UCU. The need for an additional prayer space was identified by Ghossein after hearing complaints of insufficient space from students. The geographical placement of this second centre was an important aspect of the motion. The south end of campus, an area heavily populated with faculty of engineering classes, was recognised as a zone that required more convenient access to a private space.

Support Services

Support services on campus range from the Student Academic Success Service, Human Rights Office, Health Services, and Faculty Academic Advisors. Many students are familiar with the long wait times of these services. This dissatisfaction is what compelled Ghossein to create a BOG motion that would demand more from the university in these areas. The motion is broken up into two sections. First, a benchmarking analysis and secondly, a minimum standard of quality.

The benchmarking is a process that determines the current state of factors relating to services including but not limited to, finances, satisfaction, and wait time. This process will provide the university with the necessary information to make data-driven decisions around student services. It has been established as an annual procedure.

The minimum standard of various student services must be comparable with the U15, Canada’s 15 most research-intensive universities including UBC, U of T, McMaster, and Waterloo among others. If the U of O’s benchmarking results do not meet the average of the U15s, the university is mandated to raise the services quality to that level.

Mental health services have been identified as a priority within the motion and will be benchmarked first.

RISE

The creation of a Racialized and Indigenous Student Experience Centre (RISE) is a planned SFUO initiative, originally passed in referenda during the February 2018 general election. However, after a SFUO tweet on June 12, no additional word on the project has been released.

Funding for SASS

According to Ghossein, the current ratio of Mental Health Counsellors to students is over 1:4,000. Ghossein and the BOG have identified a lack of funds to be the cause of this disparity. A referendum to increase the mental health services student levy, currently at $2.40 per semester per student, with a mandate for the university to match this one-to-one is planned for the 2018-19 academic year.

uOGlobal

The uOGlobal recognition is a new option for full-time undergraduate and medical school students to add to their degree. The recognition is designed to enrich students’ experience with intercultural and international experiences in both work and study. The program includes cross-cultural workshops, global citizenship training, and on-site learning experiences. It is managed through the International Office. The recognition will appear on students’ official transcripts.

Tentative agreement with professors

On June 14, the U of O and the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa reached a tentative deal for a new collective agreement following talks with a mediator. The deal has yet to be approved by the required parties and has therefore not been made public.

To express comments, concerns, or for more information reach out to your elected representatives. Jamie Ghossein can be reached at jghos051@uottawa.ca and contact information for SFUO executives and BOA members are listed online.