SFUO passes governance review, new equity policy, student outreach committee

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO)’s Board of Administration (BOA) meeting saw a high student turnout in opposition to a proposed equity policy that called for the federation to take a pro-Palestine stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Equity policy manual motion

This motion, proposed by vice-president equity Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, called for the SFUO to take a number of political stances, as the U of O campus “has seen hate crimes, discrimination, (and) racism,” and because the university “(makes) decisions not in the best interest of marginalized communities.”

One of the sections of the motion in question that prompted outrage read as follows: “Section 47 be named BDS Movement and read ‘The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa will support this movement as well as take a Pro-Palestine stance.’”

Moumouni-Tchouassi, who said she received death threats over the proposed motion, held that the idea for the policy manual was inspired by Ryerson University, and that its purpose is to guide the student union and its actions, particularly in terms of purchasing. She also brought amendments to offending sections, including the pro-choice section.

Some students voiced concerns over potential violence and anti-semitism on campus that could be born from this motion. One of the proposed amendments read, “section 47 renamed ethical investment: the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa will divest from industries and companies who actively support war and occupation, including the apartheid regime of the state of Israel against the Palestinian (population),” to try to meet these concerns, however many students still felt that it embodied the BDS movement.

One student pointed out that 18 and 19 year-olds should not feel comfortable taking this political stance, adding that it seems naive to lump this conflict in with an otherwise anti-discriminatory motion.

Students also expressed feeling targeted since the Jewish club Hillel, was disbanded, though Moumouni-Tchouassi later mentioned that it was brought back to campus.

Other complaints regarding the amendment had to do with wording choice, opening up a debate on whether the word “apartheid” should be included to describe the situation.

Moumouni-Tchouassi proposed a further amendment to the section as follows: “section 47 be named Israeli Palestinian conflict and read: the SFUO will do all in its power to promote peace in the Israeli Palestinian conflict,” at which point students were satisfied and the board voted in favour of the amendment.  

After amending the wording to section 48 to “be named pro choice and read: the SFUO affirms a person’s right to choose. No SFUO resources, space, recognition or funding will be allocated to enhance groups/individuals with the primary/sole purpose of anti choice activities,” and section 51 to be named Decolonizing and Indigenizing and read: The SFUO will support Indigenous led collective action movements (such as Idle No More) as well as other decolonial work around indigenization and reconciliation that includes and centres Indigenous peoples,” the board voted to pass the rest of the motion.

Governance review motion

One major motion at the meeting centred on the governance of the federation, including new executive titles with updated job descriptions. SFUO president Hadi Wess, who proposed the motion, explained that it would improve efficiency within the governing body, as well as consistency across all boards, as the SFUO’s governance hasn’t been under review for a long time.

According to the motion, the president portfolio will expand to include the duties of a press secretary and will be in charge of all offices of the SFUO, including reception, the health plan, all federated bodies, the University of Ottawa Student Emergency Response Team (UOSERT), and will also intervene in emergencies and sit in on the University Centre managing board.

The position of vice-president finance will be renamed to vice-president operations, and the current duties under the finance portfolio will be redistributed. Wess explained that “it doesn’t make sense to have an 18-19 year-old make this huge budget that got the SFUO in trouble in the past.” As such, the vice-president operations will no longer be in charge of human resources or budgeting, and instead will manage issues pertaining to the U-Pass, chair the federated body money roundtable, oversee the accounting department, manage the business director, meet with administration, and be responsible for the SFUO’s collective agreement with the U of O.

The vice-president university affairs will be renamed vice-president external, and will be responsible for federated bodies, faculty associations, chief returning officers in general elections, the SFUO’s scholarship program, all board meetings, and taking minutes and maintaining the SFUO’s governance binder.

The vice-president services and communications will be renamed vice-president internal, and will be in charge of organizing and chairing the communication and internal roundtable (CIRT), be responsible for the creation of the SFUO executive videos and executive blogs, oversee the federation’s Student Refugee Program, ensure all BOA meetings are live-streamed, and oversee all SFUO clubs, along with previous duties under the communications portfolio.

A few substantial changes have been made to the vice-president equity position, such as overseeing all student services, barring UOSERT and the student rights centre, and will no longer manage SFUO clubs, while the position of vice-president social will remain largely the same.

Wess clarified that these changes will take effect as of May 2018, and put in place for next year’s executives. The motion originally contained a requirement that in order to run for president, students must have at least six months of executive experience, however the board voted against this stipulation.

The board passed this amended governance review.

Elections committee report

Wess read the elections report, opening with news that the federation will be making an external hire for chief returning officer for the February general election, with the nomination period beginning on Dec. 1.

Wess then read the report for the recent by-election, which took place Oct. 17-19. According to Wess, this by-election received the highest turnout for by-elections so far. As the position of vice-president social remains vacant, Wess said he will continue to take on the responsibilities of the position.

Following this, a newly-elected Faculty of Health Sciences director, Simran Aggarwal, was voted in and ratified by the board.

Student Outreach Committee

Vice-president services and communications Kathryn LeBlanc proposed a motion that aimed to combine a new outreach committee with the existing General Assembly committee to ensure meetings will be held from August to April year-round. The motion passed.

The next BOA meeting will be held on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. with a location to be announced at a later date.