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Student union claims violation of nomination rules for the Senate Appeals Committee

Photo by Tina Wallace

The University of Ottawa has disappointed its student union by appointing a representative to the Senate Appeals Committee (SAC) without their consultation.

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), alongside the Graduate Student Association (GSAÉD), released a statement Nov. 11 claiming the U of O did not consult with either association when appointing student representatives to the SAC.

The Senate is the chief academic body at the U of O and decides all matters of an academic nature as well as educational policies. The Senate also holds power to appoint committees as a deliberative body.

The SAC, established by the Senate, is a sub-committee comprised of six full-time professors and two student representatives, one undergraduate and one graduate student. The SAC is the highest appellant body regarding academic decisions at the U of O.

All candidates within the SAC are appointed through the Senate’s executive committee.

According to Chris Hynes, vp university affairs and one of the signatories of the statement, the university administration did not inform the SFUO of the undergraduate seat vacancy earlier in the year.

Hynes said the university was not interested in the SFUO’s nomination for the seat and was told by Diane Davidson, vice-president of governance at the SFUO, the position had been filled.

“They appointed an undergraduate student representative chosen by the faculty of law administration to the Senate Appeals Committee rather than appointing the student union’s chosen candidate,” stated the letter signed by Hynes, Gabrielle Berube, GSAÉD’s internal commissioner, and Brenna Quigley, GSAÉD’s university affairs commissioner.

Hynes said he questions the intentions behind the decision considering the SFUO represents the undergraduate student body. He also said the position should be filled by someone who understands student realities and what students face on a day-to-day basis.

“It’s really unfair when you have student unions, whose job is to be the student representation, who get told, ‘We’re not interested in having your representatives sit on our bodies, we’re going to choose our students,’” Hynes said.

According to Adam Strombergsson-DeNora, a third-year English and history major and executive committee member, the SFUO and GSAÉD do not have the right to select student representatives on the SAC.

“It’s absolutely false to state the SFUO has the right to select student representatives,” Strombergsson-DeNora said. “They have the ability to nominate representatives, but they don’t have the right.”

He said Hynes should be aware the SFUO does not have the power to appoint the student undergraduate seat on the SAC and rejected the idea that the SFUO is the only representative student body on campus.

“We have undergraduate representation in the Senate,” he said. “Every faculty has an undergraduate representative in the Senate. How exactly can the SFUO claim to be the only democratic representatives on campus?”

While the statement from the SFUO and GSAÉD asks for “an immediate rectification of the situation” and expects the university to “follow its own established rules and practices,” Strombergsson-DeNora believes the university acted within its rights.

“We weighed all the candidates and their qualifications, and then the committee decided based on an objective process,” he said.

In an official statement, the administration said the executive committee did not consider an SFUO nomination for the student representative seat on the SAC, but did consider GSAÉD’s suggestion.

The university has committed that SFUO suggestions will be put forward for consideration in the future.