Student representatives make progress with motions amid clash of tempers

Monday’s meeting of the University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors (BOG), which took place in Tabaret Hall, got off to an uneasy start, receiving a surprise visit from CTV cameras before it even started.

CTV interviewed leaders of the undergraduate and graduate student unions, but were not allowed to film the meeting itself. The BOG rules stipulate that it will present its own livestream, but not allow others to record meetings.

By the time the cameras left, students had started to file in, many carrying “Fight the Fees” signs to protest the new budget’s proposed tuition hikes. Executive members of both the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), and Graduate Students’ Association (GSAED) were also present in opposition of these hikes.

Marc Joyal, vice-president, resources at the U of O, then presented the university’s budget for the 2017-18 year. The budget featured tuition increases of three per cent for domestic undergraduate students, between zero and five per cent for domestic graduate students, and between seven and 15 per cent for international undergraduate students.

The tuition hikes combined with the promise of all faculties to slash their budgets left the university’s operating fund in a deficit of $4.6 million.

The meeting saw vocal opposition from members of the gallery during the budget discussion, with one member calling the tuition hike “disgusting,” while another said the board was “acting like Donald Trump.” BOG chair Robert Giroux on several occasions told the crowd to be quiet, or they would be asked to leave.

Jamie Ghossein, an undergraduate student representative on the BOG, presented an amendment to the budget to remove all tuition hikes, but the motion failed.

The board ultimately passed the 2017-18 budget, with the increases to tuition included in it.

Carlie Boisvert, also an undergraduate student representative, tabled a motion to have the vice-president resources give updates on alternative revenue streams throughout the meeting. This motion will be presented at the BOG’s June meeting.

Ghossein indicated he would bring another motion, stating that tuition increases for international students had to be set further in advance, and couldn’t change with little notice to the students. That motion, which received support from several non-student board members, is expected to be presented closer to September.

Throughout this time, back and forth between Giroux and the crowd had grown more frequent.

Right as the president’s report was set to begin, members of the gallery erupted in protest of the new budget. After Giroux called repeatedly for quiet he announced that the meeting would continue in-camera. Protection services then entered the room to escort the public out.

The meeting was adjourned following a half-hour in-camera session.

According to U of O president Jacques Frémont, he is sympathetic with the students, but “had no choice in the matter.”

“I think student voices were heard and the points were well taken,” Frémont said. “But this being said, the board had to take a decision.”

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of the meeting tomorrow

If you want a blow-by-blow recap of the meeting, check out our storify here.