GA focuses on lack of student participation, healthcare, budget
The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) held their fourth General Assembly (GA) on March 15, at 6 p.m. but once again motions were not discussed because it failed to meet quorum.
The six motions filed will instead be put before the Board of Administration (BOA) at their next meeting on March 23, which is open to the public and will take place in Tabaret 083 at 5 p.m.
“There is a lot of space for students that were here today to be able to come to the BOA to and be able to express themselves,” said Roméo Ahimakin, vice-president services and communications of the SFUO. “We always encourage students to come to the BOAs, the GAs are one time per semester, but we have a lot more BOAs.”
The GA did finish the night with 141 in attendance, roughly three times the number of students in attendance at the previous GA, where no motions were filed. As quorum was not reached, the meeting featured an update from the executive, a presentation on the budget, and a 20-minute question period.
In the wake of recent accusations between SFUO executive members, a moderator at the GA told audience members that any questions pertaining to human resources or labour issues were off limits.
At the start of the meeting the SFUO executive spoke about the SFUO clubs and services available on campus.
Vanessa Dorimain, vice-president university affairs, gave another update on the new summer U-Pass. She said the pass, which is available for full-time (a student registered for 12 credits in a session) summer students only, would run from May 1 to Aug. 1, and would cost $192.70. She also confirmed that it would be valid for co-op students as well.
Ahimakin noted that the SFUO is in the midst of renewing their collective bargaining agreement with CUPE 4943, the SFUO employees union.
The main focus of the budget presentation was the health-care fund. There were audible gasps from the audience when Camelia Touzany, vice-president finance, said that the health-care fund was $704,353 in the red.
Touzany was quick to add that since the recent health-care referendum passed, that deficit will start to shrink. Touzany also said that the SFUO’s general fund was doing well, with a surplus of $7,180 as of January.
Other areas of large deficit include the student rights centre at $45,238, marketing at $70,724 and the U-Pass at $169,885. There were also some significant surpluses, with social boasting $107,579 and SFUO administration $269,835.
Touzany also acknowledged that while the budget numbers could give a general sense of the SFUO’s finances, they were not complete. For one, she said, the levy paid by students for the winter semester had not been factored in. There were some smaller things as well, like the fact that some federated bodies had not submitted their financial reports.
She said once the numbers for the levy do come in, an updated budget will be posted on the SFUO’s website.
As for SFUO businesses, Touzany said overall they were doing quite well. “When they ask how’s business, I say it’s booming!” She said to the crowd.
After the exec updates, the event featured a brief question period. “I spent two hours, and I just sat there, that is not democracy,” said Alex Plant, a third-year history student at the U of O. “The fact that they only dedicated 20 minutes to answering questions without quorum is ridiculous.”
Although the event missed quorum, Ahimakin saw some positives. “I think it went well, we had a lot of participation,” he said. “What we’ll try to do for next time is learn from what was said, and we’ll be able to improve on promotion, outreach, and things like that.”
After a student brought up the high volume of followers the SFUO has on Twitter versus other platforms, and questioned why they didn’t use that platform to better promote the GA, Ahimakin acknowledged he could have done a better job of using Twitter and said he’ll try and use more promotion platforms.
When asked by an audience member about continued low voter turnout in the recent SFUO election, less than 8 per cent, and how it would be addressed, Ahimakin, said they were having discussions at all levels. He also said that a recent BOA meeting discussed online voting, and want to implement it if they can find a way to make it secure.