Meeting sees talk on freedom of the press, Dorimain’s March 5 statements
On Sunday, April 2, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) Board of Administration (BOA) held their last regularly scheduled meeting of the 2017–18 school year.
Motion on executive overtime pay
On the days leading up to the meeting, a point of contention among students was a proposed motion by SFUO vice-president of finance Rizki Rachiq regarding overtime pay for executives. This motion came in light of a vote at the March 14 General Assembly (GA) that overturned a proposed $6,200 pay raise for each executive.
According to Rachiq, the reasoning behind the motion was to compensate executives for the extra hours they put in, as he says that many executives work more than their designated 40 hours per week.
“I’m not saying we need to be paid (overtime) every week,” said Rachiq, noting that executives put in lengthy hours in instances such as 101 Week.
Rachiq cited the April 1 volunteer gala as another example of this, saying that vice-president social Hadi Wess was in the office until 5 a.m. the night before the event.
According to Rachiq, executives would track their overtime using a time-punch in the office, and the comptroller general would keep track of these extra hours.
“The comptroller general is there to hold execs accountable,” he said.
Lukas Hashem, a proxy for the Faculty of Medicine representative, asked if the overtime pay would really be necessary if there were weeks when executives worked less than 40 hours per week, as the pay would balance itself out.
Wess responded to this question by saying that there are no weeks when executives work fewer hours than their designated 40 per week.
Faculty of Engineering representative Jeffry Colin then asked what would happen in a situation in the future where executives were simply wasting their time in the office to extend their hours in order to receive overtime pay. Colin also noted that there may not be a mechanism in place to deal with this issue.
Rachiq responded by saying that the executives would hold each other accountable, along with the comptroller general.
Due to time constraints, this motion was pushed forward to a subsequent special meeting.
Follow-up on March 5 statements by Dorimain
As part of her executive updates, vice-president of university affairs Vanessa Dorimain apologized to the board for the way she brought forward her complaints against president Roméo Ahimakin at the March 5 BOA meeting.
While she did not retract what she had initially said, she expressed regret for using a proxy (Faduma Wais) rather than calling into the meeting or having the statement emailed out to board members.
“What I’ve said is what I’ve said because that’s what I’ve lived,” said Dorimain.
Dorimain also apologized that Wais, along with the Fulcrum and incoming Faculty of Science representative Michel Antoun, were negatively impacted by the interpersonal conflicts between executives. All three parties in question were listed in a notice of action on March 22 from Ahimakin regarding Dorimain’s statement.
Following up on Dorimain’s update, Ahimakin said that the SFUO is currently looking at bringing in counsellors to help them deal with these interpersonal conflicts.
Ahimakin then moved on to his own updates, saying that while he “appreciates the successes we’ve built here,” he believes that the SFUO is moving in a direction of “uncertainty … and chaos.”
According to Ahimakin, there is a “complete lack of supervision” over the executive by faculty representatives and a lack of respect in upholding the SFUO constitution.
“We manage millions of dollars without any significant internal policies to guide that,” continued Ahimakin, stressing that faculty directors need to take a more active role in the management of the federation.
Ahimakin then discussed the way in which Dorimain brought forward her complaints, calling them “completely untrue” and that they have affected “all of (his) interactions” since the March 5 meeting.
According to Ahimakin, Dorimain should have brought her complaints to the Disciplinary Committee before making an open statement at a board meeting, so that these allegations could be properly investigated.
Ahimakin later said that “the day will come” when the emails he has received from his colleagues will be released, since he has been unable to make them public yet.
“Every year we have executives teaming up against one,” said Ahimakin.
Question on freedom of campus press
Nicholas Robinson, a former BOA member from the Faculty of Science, addressed the executive about whether or not they believe in freedom of the press.
This question came in light of members of the SFUO exec attending the Annual General Meeting of the U of O’s Francophone student newspaper la Rotonde to allegedly obtain seats on their board, and Ahimakin’s notice of action to the Fulcrum.
“We were there, we were listening,” Rachiq responded, saying that he was interested in learning about the functioning of la Rotonde and wanted to get more information.
Dorimain continued by saying that she has no issue with articles written about her, as long as they are well-researched.
According to Dorimain, the only article she has ever had an issue with—written by either campus paper—was la Rotonde’s story on the alleged U-Pass scandal, since she believes it was not well-researched. According to Dorimain, she was only contacted for a statement once.
Ahimakin continued by saying that he recognizes the work done by both newspapers and that limiting the freedom of the press is not the intention of the executive. However, he said that he was dissatisfied with the way the Fulcrum covered the March 5 BOA meeting and that investigation should have taken place before a story was published.
Incoming vice-president of equity Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi also noted that both newspapers are important to the functioning of the campus and the way in which students receive information, specifically in the coverage of student-led initiatives.
The board also voted in favour of requiring a two-thirds vote by the BOA to overturn motions from future GAs.
Aside from this, committee reports were read with recommendations put forward, along with the ratification of the new SFUO logo.
Two subsequent special meetings of the BOA will take place in April, with dates to be confirmed.