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Student leaders agree next GAs need to be on campus to raise attendance

Photo: Rémi Yuan

It took two referendums to instate general assemblies as the highest decision-making body of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO).

After two attempts, the GAs themselves still have yet to meet quorum.

Only 107 students showed up to the Shaw Centre on March 24, a number that fell 230 short of quorum. The first GA in November was missing fewer than a dozen students.

Eleven motions were on the agenda this time around, but again students were unable to vote on them because the event didn’t meet the minimum attendance.

“I’m definitely a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get our quorum. I think we have a lot to reflect on why that is,” said SFUO president Anne-Marie Roy.

“There are six of us on the executive and we do our best to promote … but we are limited in what we can accomplish,” she said, pointing to the 1,100 students who signed petitions in support of the various motions, most of whom didn’t show up.

“If you have a motion and you want to reach quorum and want to debate it and vote on it, you have a role to play in making sure that collectively we can reach that goal.”

Roy said the motions didn’t interest voters as much as the ones from the previous GA, such as the student strike motion, which drew many students solely to oppose it.

Third-year political science student Tony Bui submitted a motion on electoral reform that called for a ban on the slate system, to have spoiled ballots counted and made public along with the official results, and “to make SFUO elections fairer overall.”

Bui said he was frustrated “to hear blame coming from the executives saying that we were responsible for getting people out.”

“That responsibility was part of the SFUO, regardless of how many people sit on there,” he said, citing a lack of promotion as the reason for poor attendance.

Ikram Hamoud addresses online comments

Vice-president social Ikram Hamoud read a statement in response to comments she has received throughout the year, saying she’s been called a terrorist, a monkey, and told to go back to her own country, among other things.

“Tensions regarding racism on campus erupted last March during the first In My Skin event,” said Hamoud, referring to an event that many criticized for separating students by skin colour.

“Throughout this process, my name was then dragged by the medias, on and off campus, and by some students, including some in the room, creating an environment that made me nervous even walking on campus alone.”

She also addressed the failure of the Racialized Student Centre referendum during the SFUO elections in February. “Racialized students faced racism once again when they were denied this space,” she said.

Hamoud has been heavily criticized for her performance as vice-president social this year, namely by several members of various federated bodies that have circulated a petition to have her impeached. At last count, the list had almost 700 signatures. Hamoud also addressed comments made on the SFUO Does Not Represent Me page on Facebook.

“A federated body vp social commented on a status on this page claiming that I’m too busy fighting white supremacy to do my job … as if fighting racism on campus is a pet project rather than a necessity of this work,” she said.

Later, Hamoud explained in an interview with the Fulcrum why she used the GA to address those comments.

“I think it’s something that had to be said and be talked about,” she said. “I’ve been going through that since I’ve been at the SFUO as an executive.”

The administrator of the Facebook page, who has held onto anonymity, said that they’re not sure where Hamoud’s claims of racism are coming from,“but if it’s about this group, I can guarantee it is not at all true.”

“I have a strict no race talk (policy) on this page, but even then I haven’t seen nor had to delete a single rude post against her,” said the administrator, who added they’ve had to “block and ban her friends from the page for spamming it with comments calling everyone (even non-white commenters) racist white supremacists.”

Revolutionary Student Movement leaves in protest

The Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) stormed out at the beginning of question period in protest of the GA’s off-campus location, lack of academic amnesty, and poor timing. The group also occupied the SFUO’s office, among several other locations on campus, to protest the GAs.

The RSM put forward a motion at the last GA to investigate the possibility of a student strike. Due to fierce opposition, Roy said she would personally table the motion to the next GA, rather than have the Board of Administration vote on how to proceed.

However upon reviewing the SFUO’s constitution, Roy said she discovered that she didn’t actually have the authority to table motions to the GA, and that the RSM would have to resubmit their motion. The RSM said they weren’t informed of this change ahead of time.

Jean-Philippe Ouellet, an RSM member who championed the general assembly referendum last year, reiterated the group’s complaints about the GA’s logistics but said he remains optimistic about next year.

“We think they’re instrumental in creating the culture of democratic participation … and we will do everything we can next year to make that happen,” he said.

Future execs reflect on the night’s events

David Gakwerere, president-elect of next year’s SFUO executive, commented on how he’s going to approach running the GAs next year.

He said having GAs on campus and acquiring academic amnesty “will be key,” adding that he will look into holding the assemblies earlier in the year. He also emphasized reaching out to students more, and including federated bodies, clubs, and services when it comes to promoting the events.

“It’s the highest democratic thing we can do on campus. It should be upheld, and it should be functional,” he said.

Hadi Wess, incoming vice-president social, said he agrees with Roy that students in charge of the motion should have done more to mobilize students.

“Six members cannot promote an event that big to the whole student population,” said Wess, though as an exec next year he said he’ll start promoting “five months in advance.”

The general assembly ended with the chair informing the room that they had overrun the 20-minute question period, which sparked complaints among several members of the audience, similar to the last GA.

All 11 motions will be tabled to the next Board of Administration meeting on April 8.

—With files from Spencer Murdock

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) General Assembly, scheduled for March 24 at the Shaw Centre, failed to meet quorum for the second consecutive year. Read below for tweets from students and Fulcrum staff at the event.

Click to access Ikram-Hamoud-GA-speech.pdf