UOSU the product of collaboration between three groups
A collaboration between campus groups has introduced The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU), which seeks to be recognized as the sole student federation by the university administration.
The move comes after the U of O announced the termination of the contract between the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) and the university, meaning that the SFUO will no longer be recognized as the official and only representative of the undergraduate student body.
The UOSU is an organization formed by multiple groups on campus, including Un-Tied, and others who organized the protest against the SFUO in early September.
The UOSU has a provisional constitution available on their website, and are currently seeking input and comments. In speaking with the Fulcrum, UOSU representative Moe Abu Rouss, U of O student and leader of Un-Tied, said the organization will be holding planning consultations, round tables with federated bodies, and town halls with students in the coming weeks to ensure “students voices are heard.”
Involving students in every aspect of both the process and potential governance is the focal point of the UOSU.
“We are trying to rebuild the student movement,” said Abu Rouss.
Following the fraud allegations against members of the SFUO executive, students voiced concerns around the lack of oversight the university has on a student union as the SFUO is completely independent. Similarly, the UOSU would be an independent body. However, Abu Rouss says the union’s structure provides “checks and balances to ensure transparency and accountability.”
Under the UOSU, the General Assembly (GA) would be the highest authority. This means students would have the power to override a vote by the board, excluding matters such as hiring and firing employees. As for financials, audited financial statements from the previous year are approved by the board and then presented to the GA, at the first meeting of the year, who execute the final vote.
The union’s structure differs from the SFUO, as the positions of president and vice-presidents are replaced by a decentralized governing body which utilizes commissioner positions in a communal, non-hierarchical structure. Commissioners would have mandates such as francophone, equity, and advocacy, to name a few.
UOSU representative Tiyana Maharaj told the Fulcrum this structure would not only increase transparency, but relieve elected representatives of some duties and allow the union to hire more staff members as the UOSU believes current representatives are “doing too much.”
If the UOSU is recognized as the official representative of the undergraduate student body, the team plans to take over the current services and businesses run by the SFUO.
Maharaj said the group is “not here to destroy everything the SFUO does, as a lot of students rely on what they offer.”
As for federated bodies, Abu Rouss said they would be given more independence under a new union, however, the UOSU would establish a code of conduct.
The current agreement between the U of O and the SFUO terminates on Dec. 24, 2018, however, the UOSU team is aiming to be on a referendum ballot by November, citing the long process of negotiations and legalities that would follow a successful vote.
The organization has already begun work in this direction. Maharaj said they sent a letter of intent to the U of O early in the week of Oct. 1, but have yet to hear back from the university.
Maharaj and Abu Rouss don’t believe their group is the only one mobilizing on campus, and strongly expressed the UOSU’s openness to working with any interested parties whether that be individual students or groups.
“We’re not trying to become the new union inclusively … if anyone who does share our vision wants to join us or anyone who doesn’t share our vision wants to suggest something, we’re totally open,” said Maharaj.
Moving forward, Maharaj identified voter apathy amongst the student body as the most difficult challenge any aspiring new union faces.
“We really want to prove to students that they can make a difference and that voter apathy does not need to exist here because we are going to change things.”
Both Abu Rouss and Maharaj stated that, members of the UOSU team are not interested in running for executive positions if there is a new student union.
The SFUO did not respond to media inquiries at the time of publication.