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The latest BOA meeting took place three days before the 2017 SFUO general election. Photo: Eric Davidson.

Motions for multi-faith centre, Indigenous students’ seat pass at latest BOA

The Feb. 5 Board of Administration (BOA) meeting saw motions pass that aimed to combat Islamophobia on campus and implement an Indigenous students’ seat on the board.

Emergency motion against Islamophobia on campus

Following the Jan. 29 shooting of six Muslim men in a Québec City mosque, Faculty of Engineering representative Arsalan Ahmed Khan brought forward an emergency motion against Islamophobia.

Khan’s motion addressed the fact that the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) currently has “policies and resources set in place to aid other minority groups vulnerable to discrimination,” and that “Muslim students on campus feel unsafe due to their identity and faith.”

The motion itself asked the federation to amend its policy manual to mandate the protection of the rights of Muslim students, and that Islamophobia and xenophobia be rejected on campus.

The motion also called for the implementation of a multi-faith resource centre on campus to serve as a safe space for religious minorities.

Khan noted that Muslim students are not the only ones who feel vulnerable on campus, as other groups such as Jewish and Hindu students can also be subject to discrimination.

While a multi-faith centre currently exists on the south end of campus in the SITE building, vice-president of finance Rizki Rachiq pointed out that the room itself is not functional due to its size and lack of available hours for male and female students to pray separately.

The board as a whole was in favour of the motion, though Faculty of Engineering representative Jeffry Colin said that the means of achieving the goals set out in the motion were not explicitly described, especially when it comes  to the specifics of how the multi-faith centre would be established.

SFUO president Roméo Ahimakin suggested that the University of Ottawa Muslim Students Association could work in conjunction with the SFUO to develop a referendum question on the development of the multi-faith room, which will then be presented to students.

Khan’s motion successfully passed.

Motion for Indigenous students seat

The meeting also saw a motion presented by vice-president social Hadi Wess for the creation of a special Indigenous students’ seat on the board.

Members of the Indigenous population on campus were present at the meeting and spoke in favour of the motion, reminding the board that their work is done on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory and that this statement prefaces every meeting.

During this meeting, the idea of implementing a similar Indigenous student seat at the U of O’s Board of Governors was also discussed.

While the board was largely in favour of this motion, there were questions raised as to how the student on this seat would be selected.

Wess suggested that the three main Indigenous groups on campus—the Indigenous Law Students Association, the Indigenous Students Association, and the Aboriginal Resource Centre—would have the power to make that decision for themselves, whether through a nomination or election process.

This motion also passed.

Other business

Among other items on the agenda, a motion for the implementation of a sexual violence prevention committee on the board was passed.

Vice-president equity Morissa Ellis presented a motion towards the end of the meeting that stated faculty representatives should provide updates at the beginning of each meeting alongside the executive updates.

Ellis cited the importance of the board being aware of how these directors are engaging with their fellow students.

Members of the board raised concerns about the fact that meetings are already extend as long as seven hours, and having even more updates could prolong the runtime even further.

One suggestion was that faculty representatives could submit written updates to the board. However, Ellis raised the issue of accessibility and that hearing these updates might be easier for some students, especially for those in the public who aren’t able to get a physical copy of the report.

This motion passed.

The board also discussed the motion from the Nov. 12 general assembly (GA) of implementing online voting for elections.

While many members of the board were in favour of implementing online voting to increase voter turnout and make voting more accessible to all students (i.e. co-op students or those out of town), others raised questions about the security issues involved with online voting on a phone or laptop, such as with an unsecured server.

Others also highlighted the idea that online voting could lead to students influencing their friends during the voting process, especially in situations where friends are voting together.

In response to this, some members of the board said that students should use their discretion in voting and not give into peer pressure should they vote online.

As the board was unable to come to a decision over this motion, specifically due to security risks involved, it did not pass and was instead referred to the elections committee.

The meeting also saw vice-president of university affairs Vanessa Dorimain discuss the cancelled IPPSSA debate with the election candidates.

The next SFUO BOA meeting will take place on March 5 at 1 p.m. in TBT 083. Meetings are open to the public.