Former BOA members and SFUO workers release statement addressing ‘austerity’
The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) held its final Board of Administration (BOA) meeting of the year on April 10, and its first since a statement was released to the public on March 31 announcing staff and services cuts effective this summer.
The meeting started off with a 20-minute question period, which was then extended two more times. The majority of questions focused on the SFUO’s response to its “cash flow shortage,” as they wrote in the statement.
Near the end of the meeting, Selena Hofmann, board representative for the Faculty of Social Science, read a statement from a group of current and former BOA members and some service workers “facing austerity.” The letter is also posted on her Facebook.
The number of supporters rose from 11 to 16 after the meeting. In the letter, they stated that they were publicly showing their disapproval for the executive committee’s recent handling of the financial problems, stating, “it has become evident that the SFUO executive has made decisions against working for transparency or accountability to their membership.”
Early in the meeting, vice-president finance Camelia Touzany announced that an updated budget, which better represents the SFUO’s current financial situation, will be posted on their website soon.
In her statement, Touzany said that the SFUO’s deficit was around $914,000, and that a large part of that, approximately $833,000 is due to the health plan.
Touzany also outlined the next steps being taken by her and her successor, Rizki Rachiq. First is to hire a comptroller general, a position which was left vacant this year, which she said is important in ensuring financial accountability. Another is meeting with the university to discuss having lease rates reduced, especially for the campus bar 1848 and Café Alt, which costs the SFUO a significant amount of money.
Touzany also said she is looking into sponsorships as a means of income, and is working with the marketing department.
The executives also stated that some services’ employment gaps could be filled by incoming executive members, specifically incoming vice-president communications, Francesco Caruso, and incoming vice-president equity, Morissa Ellis. As for what those roles might be, they said that they were roles that fell under the purview of the vice-president equity, and that they would provide “services where students come in needing support.”
They could not comment specifically on how this would work, saying it would need to be discussed with the incoming executive.
As for next year, the execs said that there could be cuts to any aspect of the SFUO that isn’t funded directly by student levies. Examples they gave were the social, campaigns, and clubs budgets.
When asked about 101 Week, vice-president university affairs Vanessa Dorimain answered that to her understanding the SFUO would not be spending a lot of money on it, but that they were looking into sponsorships to help pay for events.
Cash flow shortage
Confusion arose as to whether the financial issues were due to deficit or a cash flow shortage, followed by questions as to why the SFUO didn’t take a loan in order to keep the service staff if it was simply a short-term cash issue.
Touzany responded by saying if they wanted to take out a loan that was a decision for the BOA, not the vice-president finance, and that she felt it would be irresponsible to get a loan if they didn’t know if they could pay it back. She followed by saying the next executive should consider getting grants and that she was presently drafting letters for this.
Following this discussion, Emile Hashem, representative from the Faculty of Medicine, asked if they had considered leaving the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), noting that they pay $250,000 per year to the organization.
Lee Chitty, a proxy for Faculty of Common Law representative Amani Delbani, responded that students pay the CFS directly, and that the SFUO wouldn’t get the money if students did decide to quit the CFS.
Nicole Maylor said she “cautioned” around conversation of leaving the CFS, as students had voted in favour of being members in 2008. She asked if Hashem had done his research on this proposal and advised him to do so, and that it would take a referendum by the students to leave.
Hashem also asked if they had consulted a lawyer on declaring bankruptcy, to which Maylor quickly responded, “we are not bankrupt.”
Touzany explained that the SFUO’s account is not in the negative, but it would be if it did not reduce staff and services over the summer.
Hashem brought up another point related to the BOA’s initial adoption of the 2015-16 budget. He said that at the BOA meeting when the budget was presented last August, the budget was put up on a powerpoint, but that members were not given individual topics to look at, and said that this could have helped the BOA to examine the budget more effectively.
The execs were also asked if its accounting department deserved any blame and why they were not being reprimanded. SFUO president Anne-Émilie Hébert started to answer but could not finish as Ahimakin cut her off. Ahimakin simply said that the SFUO would not be investigating that.