Board meeting sees discussion on unaddressed GA motions
On Sunday, Dec. 4, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) held their final Board of Administration (BOA) meeting of the fall 2016 semester.
Vice-president social Hadi Wess began the executive updates by saying that he is currently part of a committee comprised of Indigenous students and groups that are working to “indigenize and decolonize the U of O campus.”
One of the major tasks that the committee is involved in is the construction of a canoe that would be unveiled in the University Centre couch lounge.
Vice-president university affairs Vanessa Dorimain’s updates included the SFUO’s opposition to the U of O’s proposed cuts to library materials, which they demonstrated through their presence at a Nov. 30 rally held outside Morisset Library.
The Human Rights Office on campus has also reviewed a standing committee on the new sexual violence policy, with more follow-up consultation to take place in 2017.
President Roméo Ahimakin provided updates on the SFUO mobile app, saying that 1,269 students have currently downloaded the app, with 257 students viewing events on the app daily and 374 students adding the events in the app into their schedules.
He also said that presidents of student federated bodies showed support at the last Presidents’ Round Table for an Equity Week, which would take place in the winter 2017 term and be spearheaded by vice-president equity Morissa Ellis.
Ahimakin further said that he was recently interviewed by Hydro Canada on issues affecting international students on campus, and that he is working on implementing an international students’ council to address their specific needs.
During question period, Faculty of Science representative Nicholas Robinson asked why the SFUO’s social media pages are inactive in comparison to other student unions like the Carleton University Students’ Association.
Caruso, the executive responsible for all of these platforms, admitted that the SFUO’s social media pages have not been regularly uploading content. But he said that their social media presence will improve in the new year, and that pages will also be used to re-share content from other groups and services on campus to promote their content.
Robinson then asked about the mobile app and if it would compromise students’ privacy, given that it has students’ personal information on their accounts.
“Your concern is fair,” Ahimakin responded, saying that he has “100 per cent certainty” that the app development company, OOHLALA, will not compromise students’ personal information.
A student in the gallery then asked about whether a motion would be passed to lower the General Assembly (GA) quorum from 325 students—one per cent of the student population—to 250 students. This question came following the lack of quorum at the Nov. 12 GA, which prevented the tabling of motions.
According to the student, a quorum which is unattainable “leaves out students who are interested (in voting on motions).”
Wess responded that the student could meet with the BOA’s GA and constitutional committees to determine the best way to go about lowering quorum.
Following question period, Caruso presented an emergency motion to the board which would have the SFUO officially oppose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and Enbridge’s Line 3.
According to the CBC, the Trans Mountain pipeline “will move a mix of oil products from Edmonton to a terminal in Burnaby, B.C., near Vancouver, where it will be exported to markets in Asia.”
Meanwhile, Enbridge’s Line 3 “will carry oil from a terminal near Hardisty, Alberta, through northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin,” the CBC noted.
The pipelines have been criticized for their effects on the environment as well as their impact on Indigenous communities, specifically as the Trans Mountain pipeline will run near a British Columbia First Nation community.
Robinson questioned the motion, saying, “I’m not sure that this is a thing the SFUO should be taking a stance on.” He explained that more students’ opinions on the pipeline should be heard before the federation releases an official statement.
However, according to Caruso, “This is an environmental issue that affects Indigenous people internationally,” noting that at the November National General Meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) the SFUO was asked by the National Aboriginal Caucus to make a statement on the pipeline.
“Indigenous aspects and environmental aspects are very much intertwined,” said Ellis, noting that the pipeline could be detrimental to water and other parts of the environment as well.
Despite the possible benefits of the pipeline raised by some board members, such as the creation of new jobs, Ellis said that the federation must support Indigenous voices and acknowledge the land on which the campus is built.
“At board meetings, one of the first things we say is that we are on unceded and unsurrendered (Algonquin) territory,” said Ellis.
“We have Indigenous students who are part of the U of O … this environmental racism affects all of us,” said Dorimain.
The emergency motion ultimately passed, and an official statement by the SFUO to oppose the pipelines will be released soon, according to Caruso.
The motions from the Nov. 12 GA were then presented, as they failed to be tabled at the GA due to a lack of quorum.
The first motion presented was for the creation of a CFS review committee, which would examine what work done by this organization through its use of student funding via the SFUO.
According to Robinson, who presented the motion, this committee would provide U of O students with more information about the CFS—many of whom, he believes, are unaware of its existence.
This motion ultimately failed to pass with a vote of 10 against, nine in favour, and three abstentions.
The next motion presented was for a declaration of students’ rights. Robinson, who also developed this motion, said that most other organizations and groups have documents enumerating the rights and privileges to which members are entitled. This motion passed.
A motion was then presented on the adoption of mandatory voting in further general elections of the federation, a change which would be set into motion by implementing a referendum question during the next SFUO by-election.
If the referendum passed the motion, students would pay an additional levy of $60 annually, refundable upon voting in SFUO general elections.
Many members of the board and the executive had concerns about this motion, with Ahimakin questioning its legality and expressing concern about the act of fining students who do not take part in elections.
The question of democracy was also raised, as Tristan Lamonica, a BOA representative from the Faculty of Arts, said that students who choose not to vote have their reasons for doing so. In addition, Wess noted that the act of fining students who do not vote is undemocratic, especially given the financial situation of many students due to rising tuition rates.
Arsalan Khan, a representative from the Faculty of Engineering, said that the motion was meant to improve democracy on campus by having more students involved in the voting process.
“If students want to vote, they’ll vote,” said Erin Chapman from the Faculty of Arts, noting that many co-op students in a work term are often unable to get to the polling stations on time to vote. Chapman also raised concerns about the issues this levy would cause the university’s administration.
The motion eventually failed to pass.
Another motion was then presented on SFUO electoral reform, to change the voting system from its current first-past-the-post system to the Wright system of the single transferrable vote, where candidates would be ranked in order of preference.
Members of the board and the executive cited the associated costs and difficulties with changing the electoral system, and this motion failed to pass.
Towards the end of the meeting, Wess raised concerns about students in the gallery filming the BOA meetings. Wess said that these students should ask the SFUO executive and faculty representatives for their consent prior to filming the meetings.
However, other students noted that according to the SFUO constitution, “Any member of the public may record, tape or capture video recordings, audio recordings or photos of the board of administration meetings.”
Wess said that while he did not object to being filmed himself, other members of the board could potentially have concerns with this, and so it was important for members of the gallery to get consent before filming meetings.
Quorum was absolved around 10:30 p.m. and the meeting was consequently adjourned before members could vote on referring all other motions to the BOA’s constitutional committee, as proposed by Ahimakin.
The next BOA meeting will take place on Jan. 15, 2017 at 1 p.m. in Tabaret Hall room 083. Meetings are open to the public.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the other motions not presented during the meeting were referred to the BOA’s constitutional committee. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Fulcrum sincerely regrets this error.