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The Nov. 12 General Assembly was unable to table motions due to lack of quorum. Photo: Eric Davidson.

Concerns raised over lack of promotion by SFUO exec

The Nov. 12 General Assembly (GA) of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) did not reach quorum for the fifth time in a row, leading to concerns over a lack of promotion, as well as student apathy.

Executive updates

SFUO president Roméo Ahimakin opened the discussion by thanking the students present for their attendance, saying that the federation will continue to fight for underrepresented groups on campus, such as racialized students, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students.

A list of the federation’s successes was then presented, such as the ban of plastic water bottles in 2008, the implementation of the U-Pass program in 2011, and the adoption of General Assemblies in 2014.

Following this update, a list of SFUO campaigns and services were presented. “Campaigns are the backbone of the university,” said Vanessa Dorimain, SFUO vice-president of university affairs.

The exec listed campaigns such as the Fight the Fees movement in collaboration with the Canadian Federation of Students, leading up to the Nov. 2 Day of Action.

“This is work that we have been doing for four years,” said Hadi Wess, SFUO vice-president social.

Morissa Ellis, SFUO vice-president of equity, also discussed the No Means No campaign which focuses on consent, gender-based violence, and rape culture.

Ellis further elaborated on the work done at the university on these issues, such as the active bystander training for 101 Week guides that was implemented this year, along with the Women’s Resource Centre’s workshops on enthusiastic consent.

Dorimain then gave a debrief of the sexual violence policy that was adopted by the Board of Governors in June 2016, and how the policy will be improved.

“We are very proud of this policy,” said Dorimain, who hopes to have the policy updated annually for the next three years based on student feedback.

Dorimain also said mandatory courses on sexual violence should be implemented at the U of O and that funds should be allocated towards campaigns on sexual violence for all students.

Other topics discussed included the Bilingualism Centre, bilingualism at the U of O in general, and 101 Week. According to Wess, despite the the fact that the SFUO had a $0 budget for the week, a total of $200,000 was saved due to sponsorship and partnerships with local businesses.

Wess also noted the success of Shinerama, with $23,000 raised on Shine Day itself.

The GA also saw discussion on clubs funding in light of the reduced SFUO budget.

“We do recognize that clubs are very important to the SFUO,” said Ellis, noting that over 60 new clubs were registered this term. Despite the lack of funding for clubs, Ellis said that she is working alongside Rizki Rachiq, vice-president finance at the SFUO, to provide savings and certain discounts on campus for clubs.

Ellis also said that she is consulting with clubs to determine other ways to meet their needs.

Question period

Following the executive updates, Rachiq presented the 2016–17 budget, which can be found on the SFUO website. Rachiq said that if students had specific questions about the budget, he would be happy to answer them in-person or via email.

The GA then moved into a 20-minute question-and-answer period after the budget presentation. Many questions raised involved communication between the executive and the student body, with one student asking, “Why is the SFUO so bad at engaging with students?”

“It’s disappointing to see the GA not reach quorum,” said Caruso. “We are constantly seeking improvement,” he continued, attributing the lack of quorum to a level of student apathy on campus.

Another question was raised about the lack of simultaneous interpretation for unilingual students. Rachiq apologized for this, saying that due to a lack of staffing at the SFUO because of its financial situation, interpretation was not possible for the Nov. 12 GA.

Jordan Kent, a first-year political science student, echoed the sentiments over miscommunication between the executive and the students, saying that he saw a lack of promotion for the GA by the SFUO such as videos and class-talks. “We are not angry, we are furious!”

Ahimakin responded by addressing Kent’s tone of voice primarily, saying that students should speak more respectfully towards one another. He also said that the executive did class talks and there was consultation with students on promotion.

“I do understand your frustrations,” Ellis said, who noted that there are only six executives. “We are talking to students to see what they would like at GAs.”

Responding to a question about the long U-Pass wait lines this year, Dorimain said that they were due to a late delivery of the cards and a lack of staffing, and to combat this issue, more distribution locations will be set up around campus in the future.

Rachiq also addressed a question about the corporate maintenance report at the Nov. 6 Board of Administration (BOA) meeting, saying that the report is confidential and will not be made public online.

Quorum

Regarding the lack of quorum, a question was raised about lowering the minimum amount of participants required for future GAs. Ahimakin responded that the current quorum, one per cent, is representative of the student population, and that the most effective form of promotion would be student mobilization, such as students telling their friends to attend.

Tristan Lamonica, a BOA representative from the Faculty of Arts, said during the GA that the criticism of the SFUO is “unwarranted,” and that the low turnout was due to a lack of student interest.

In a statement to the Fulcrum, Lamonica said that he had conducted an online survey that included 70 undergraduate U of O students following his election to the BOA, “to get a clearer picture of why quorum is never met.”

According to Lamonica, 88.3 per cent of respondents knew about the GA and that it was open to all students, but in spite of this, quorum was not met.

“The results showed me that a big majority of students indeed knew about it—but lacked interest in attending.”

“The SFUO promotes the GA as best as they can, but in the end students need to either show interest for quorum, or trust their elected BOA members,” Lamonica tweeted.  

To accommodate all questions from students, the question period was extended by another 20 minutes. The GA was adjourned following the question period due to the lack of quorum.

The next SFUO BOA meeting will be held on Dec. 4 at the Roger Guindon campus, room RGN 2012, at 1 p.m. Meetings are open to the public.