From resignations to exec pay raises, we need a union that represents us

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) has long framed itself as a union advocating for the campus community, through better representation of the university’s Indigenous and Muslim populations, and bringing awareness to financial barriers to education. The SFUO has also showed continued vocal opposition towards annual tuition hikes by the university administration.

Yet, while they say they are on the side of students, the federation has taken numerous actions to strip power away from the voices they represent. In the past few months alone, the SFUO has done everything from increasing their own salaries to reducing the power of the General Assembly (GA), and most recently, threatening the funding of federated bodies. Oh, and let’s not forget the resignation of an exec just two months into his mandate.

While the SFUO may fight against increases to our tuition, they have no problem raising their salaries with money coming out of our pockets. At their April 26 Board of Administration (BOA) meeting, the board passed a motion for a $2,000 pay raise, after a raise of $6,200 was voted down by students at the March 14 GA.

That same meeting also saw a motion passed that requires a two-thirds ratification by the board for anything passed by the GA. If the SFUO cared about students as much as they say they do, they would respect the clear intentions expressed at the GA, and take measures to strengthen the assemblya place for students to have a stronger voice in the decisions that impact them.

At last weekend’s BOA meeting, the board also voted in favour of a cut of up to 25 per cent of federated bodies’ first levy if they fail to bring the maximum number of students to Take Back the Night during 101 Week. This event is certainly a positive force on campus, highlighting the issues surrounding gender-based violence, however the cut could have drastic financial implications on federated bodies that are unable to meet this undefined “maximum number” for completely legitimate reasons. This also leaves us wondering where the money taken away from fed bodies will be spent.

For years now, students across campus have made it clear that the SFUO does not represent them, and as a new year begins, this same sentiment holds true. It’s easy for the SFUO to say they act in our interests on larger issues like tuition increases, but it’s in the more mundane operations of the federation that we see who they really support.

With September right around the corner, it’s time for a change in the way our student union represents our interests. It’s up to the SFUO to not just fight against the administration on our behalf, but more importantly to support students. Whether it’s the decisions we make together at the GA, or concerns over where our money is going, this year we need the SFUO to hear us loud and clear.