Meeting centers on 11th consecutive tuition hike, growing university deficit

The University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors (BOG) held their annual budget approval meeting on May 30 at Tabaret Hall.

The university’s 2016-17 budget featured tuition hikes of three per cent for domestic studentsthe highest allowed under provincial rules—and up to 15 per cent for international students, as well as a deficit of $4.9 million. The budget was passed, with only three votes against—those of the two undergraduate and one graduate student representatives on the board.

The three-year budget projection indicated even larger deficits, with 2017-18 forecast as seeing a $15.6 million deficit and rising to $19.5 million in 2018-19.

The meeting played to a full house, with some people turned away after the room met its maximum capacity. All available seats were filled by  students, executives or members of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) and Graduate Students’ Association, and incoming U of O president Jacques Frémont, among others. Several of the students in attendance sported signs protesting the tuition hike.

BOG meeting May 30 2016 - FremontJMSadik

Incoming U of O president, Jacques Frémont, attended the meeting. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.

In response to news of the tuition hikes for returning students, Robert Head, graduate student representative on the BOG, said the university had entered into a contract with students and that the increases were unfair. He said the fees should be grandfathered to their entering year. In response to Head’s criticism of the tuition increase for returning students, outgoing university president Allan Rock said that “if there is a contract, it’s year by year.”

While SFUO executives protested throughout the meeting, they received some criticism as well. One of the undergraduate student representatives on the BOG, Shahad Khalladi, made a statement condemning the previous administration of the SFUO, saying they did not do enough to collaborate with the university.

Khalladi referenced a BOG meeting from last year where Rock said the university would collaborate with the SFUO in signing a joint statement to the provincial government decrying the lack of provincial spending on post-secondary education. She then admonished the SFUO, alleging that they made no attempt to follow up on Rock’s offer.

She stated that she hoped this year’s SFUO would be more open to working with the university, saying “we need to do our due diligence when it comes to dealing with the university administration.”

The board also looked at student satisfaction levels. A finance committee report found a “positive trend” in student satisfaction overall, with the university’s score rising to 88 per cent of students from 85 per cent in 2014. It did, however, indicate “dissatisfaction with teaching assistants and some areas of professorial engagement.”

Near the end of the meeting Rock announced that the university had submitted an application to the federal government for funding for a new infrastructure project, as part of the funds allocated in the recent federal budget.

Rock also announced that the university would be holding a lecture series in honour of Member of Parliament and U of O graduate Mauril Bélanger, which began on Tuesday, May 31.