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This month’s Board of Governors meeting saw a large student turnout. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.

Monthly meeting sees abnormally high student attendance, SFUO presence

The university’s monthly Board of Governors (BOG) meeting played to a full house. Many students, including members of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), filled the designated observer chairs at the Dec. 7 meeting which saw BOG members discuss the university’s budget, hockey lawsuit, club sexual assault, and new president. This is a significant difference in attendance from previous meetings this year, which have seen a much smaller turnout from students.

The meeting opened with a presentation on the university’s budget, during which a  deficit was shown at $7.6 million rather than the $1.9 million the board had  predicted. With several BOG members questioning the deficit and how the university would address it. U of O president Allan Rock said that the U of O wasn’t the only Ontario university facing high deficits, and that it was to be expected.

One of the points Rock made was that the main source of university funding, in the form of tuition, has shifted away from the government to fall more heavily on students.

“It’s one of the major challenges we face. The board has known for some years that we face a structural deficit, that the system of financing universities doesn’t work in Ontario,” he said.

After the budget came the president’s report. Rock commented on the lawsuit raised by members of the suspended men’s hockey team against the U of O. He announced that the university would be releasing its statement of defence within the next week or so, but that the university would not be making any other public comments on the issue.

Rock also commented on the recent allegations involving an unspecified campus club. He said that an internal investigator had begun a review of the situation, and that the university would determine its course of action once the review is completed.

The large student audience was comprised largely of members of the SFUO—with all six members of the executive in attendance.

“We wanted to show presence,” said Roméo Ahimakin, vice-president of communications of the SFUO. He said that one of the main reasons was to protest tuition increases. “The students are crying out for a (tuition) freeze, they’re crying out for a little bit of understanding.”

“We’ll keep trying to push forward the voices of the students on campus, that it’s not fair, it’s not right,” said Ahimakin.

Another reason for the SFUO executives’ presence was an unnamed initiative on divesting from fossil fuels. At the start of the meeting, SFUO representatives gave Rock a large cheque, which purported to show the amount of money the university would have saved had it divested from fossil fuels.

Vanessa Dorimain, vice-president of university affairs, said that they had hoped to unveil the plan during the BOG meeting, but could not do so as they were denied their request for speaking rights. She said that the BOG’s undergraduate representative asked as well and was also denied.

Dorimain said the SFUO doesn’t want to reveal the initiative yet, but wants to try again to present it to the BOG. “We’re going to try to come back here to do something around that,” she said.

Other initiatives the SFUO has launched include the “In my skin” campaign, which looks to extinguish racism on campus, and a “Task force against rape culture” to counter sexual violence on campus.

The BOG’s graduate student representative Robert Head, who is facing calls for his resignation from the Graduate Students Association, was not in attendance. His situation was not discussed in the meeting.

Rock ended the meeting by discussing the university’s new hires. He said he was pleased with the choice for his replacement, Jacques Frémont, and said he was happy the university found “someone of (Frémont’s) calibre.” Rock also said that the university had yet to determine a date for the official appointment of incoming chancellor Calin Rovinescu.

The next BOG meeting will be held on Jan. 25, in Tabaret 083.