March 14 assembly sees quorum met for the first time since inception

The March 14 General Assembly (GA) of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) made history, since quorum was met for the first time since its debut in November 2014.

A motion at the Jan. 15 Board of Administration (BOA) meeting had lowered quorum for GA’s from one per cent of the student population (around 350 students) to 0.75 per cent (around 230 students).

Over 280 U of O students filled Marion Auditorium by 7 p.m., the majority standing in opposition to a motion passed at the March 12 Board of Administration (BOA) meeting which increased the SFUO execs’ salaries by 18 per cent.

Following an Indigenous land acknowledgement by chairperson Shawn Philip Hunsdale, the agenda was presented—one that did not include any points on the $6,000 salary increase.

Amendment on general election results

Jean-Philippe Dubé, a fourth-year computer science student, kicked off the GA by bringing forward an amendment to the agenda to call into question the results of the 2017 general election, due to several controversies surrounding the election that needed to be further investigated. The majority of the room applauded, echoing Dubé’s sentiments.

However, Hunsdale ruled against Dubé’s amendment, noting that all points on the GA agenda had to be presented in advance.

Discussion by various members of the audience followed, and the meeting ultimately moved to a vote to uphold Hunsdale’s decision. The vote did not carry, and so Dubé’s amendment to call into question the election results was added to the agenda.

Amendment on reversing executive salary raises

Dubé then brought forth another motion which aimed to reverse the salary increases of members of the executive. Once again, applause followed, and once again, Hunsdale ruled against this amendment to the agenda.

Following a failed vote to uphold Hunsdale’s decision, the amendment on executive pay raises was added to the agenda, and another vote led to these two points being moved to the top of the agenda, ahead of executive updates and the presentation of the budget.

“Students are here tonight to clearly say ‘no’ to the pay raise,” said Jordan Kent, a first-year political science and history student.  

Many of the same talking points that have been circulating on social media regarding the pay raises—cuts to club funding, a $0 budget for 101 Week, cuts to staffing, etc.—continued at the GA, where many expressed the idea that the federation simply could not afford to raise executive salaries by a collective $36,000. Many students booed upon hearing the new numbers.

As a compromise, Kathryn LeBlanc, a BOA Faculty of Arts director and incoming vice-president of services and communications, who showed vocal opposition to the pay raise initially, suggested that the raise could only apply to executive members with a dependent (i.e. a child).

SFUO president Roméo Ahimakin was in favour of this amendment, noting the federation’s current financial crisis. However, he said that it was imperative to specify what constitutes a dependent.

After some discussion and voting the wording of the amendment was changed to, “legal dependent.” However, the final vote on the overall amendment did not pass.

A further amendment resulted in the motion reading that executive salaries could only be raised if SFUO staff salaries would be raised as well.

Anticipation filled the room as the vote began on this motion. Ultimately, the vote passed, and students cheered since they effectively reversed the executives’ salary increase.

However, Hunsdale then made an announcement that caught many students off-guard. Following a vote at the Nov. 6 BOA meeting, it was decided that the GA was no longer the highest decision-making body of the SFUO.

Hunsdale specified that the vote on the salary increase would have no legislative authority.  Instead it only served to show the views of students, and the vote would have to be ratified by the board at a later date. In Hunsdale’s words, the board would “strongly consider” the decision of the students.

Arsalan Khan, a Faculty of Engineering representative on the board, said that the vote of the students was a demonstration of “clear democracy,” and urged his fellow board members to ratify this decision and act in the interests of the students who elected them and whom they represent.

Jeffry Colin, also a board member from the Faculty of Engineering, then pointed out that because the salary increase is not a policy or bylaw issue, it does not pertain to issues which must be voted on by the board.

This meant that the reversal of the executive salary increase did, in fact, pass.

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Photo: Kyle Darbyson.

Vet’s Tour motion

A motion was then brought forward by the Revolutionary Student Movement to “Combat Organized Rape Culture by Student Associations.”

The motion called for the assembly to set up a committee to investigate the October Vet’s Tour, which was organized by the Science Students’ Association and involved a number of students from federated bodies across campus.

According to the motion, “the investigation committee (would be) given power to access any SFUO documentation … that may relate to Vet’s Tour,” and that “federated bodies (would) be encouraged to provide full access to documentation, or their status as a federated body will be revoked.”

The motion passed.

However, by this point in the evening the assembly fell short of quorum—just 10 students shy of the necessary 231.

Therefore, the assembly could not vote on members to be part of this investigative committee, and the GA then moved to executive updates.

No other motions could be discussed, including discussion surrounding the election results.

Statement on Black History Month

During her executive updates, SFUO vice-president of equity Morissa Ellis emphasized her disappointment in the student body and members of the executive for a lack of support for Black History Month events. More specifically, she said that Ahimakin and vice-president of services and communications Francesco Caruso were not actively engaged in the month’s events.

According to Ellis, while students show a great deal of support for events such as 101 Week and Relay for Life, Black History Month often goes under their radar.

Ellis then brought up “blatant racism” on the BOA, and said that for 12 months her work as a black woman and as vice-president of equity has gone unnoticed. She also said, now that she has brought forward these sentiments, she would not be accepting any “thank-yous” from students because of their overall lack of support prior to this statement.

Following a presentation of the budget, the GA was adjourned at 10 p.m.

The next official BOA meeting is set to take place on April 2 at 1 p.m. in TBT 083.

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Photo: Kyle Darbyson.