Photo: Courtesy of David Menendez
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The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa’s (SFUO) Board of Administration (BOA) has proposed a referendum question to increase a levy that provides funding to refugee students at their meeting on Dec. 6.

If students vote yes, it would mean a levy of 50 cents would be added to undergraduate students’ bills each semester for a refugee student to study at the U of O

The money would be held by the SFUO, but would be administered by the U of O branch of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a Canadian non-profit organization that looks to provide education and employment opportunities to disadvantaged youth around the world.

U of O undergraduate students already pay a levy of $1.38 per semester for spots for two refugee students chosen by WUSC, according to David Menendez, co-president of the WUSC local committee at the U of O. “That money will serve to financially support the student,” he said. This includes rent, food, clothing, travel, and more. If students were to vote yes in the referendum, refugee placements at the university would be increased to three.

“(The refugee students) all have potential to enter a profession that they’re really passionate about and give back to their society, but because of the conditions they have to live in in the camps, they don’t have the opportunity to access post-secondary education,” said Menendez. “That’s what this program is for.”

Menendez says these students also receive help from the university’s financial aid office, which waives their tuition fees for the first two years of their schooling.

According to Andreas Malango, vocation coordinator for WUSC, there are a number of selection criteria for potential candidates, including an analysis of good high school grades, an interview process and then a review process.

Menendez says that the refugee would not necessarily come from the Syrian conflict. “It’s very likely that the student will come in from Syria, but WUSC recognizes the global nature of the issue,” he said.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, are around 15 million refugees worldwide, around 4 million of which are from the Syrian crisis.

The referendum question will be asked during the upcoming SFUO election in February.

The BOA also voted to ask another referendum question on the health plan, also during the February election.The question is to be worded differently from the last referendum, but will still ask students if they want to increase fees to preserve certain functions of the health plan.

Also brought forth was a motion that would change the SFUO constitution, obliging them to research and implement online voting in future elections. The motion was delegated to the elections committee to gather more information before proceeding. This motion comes soon after the Ryerson Students’ Union moved to implement online-based voting in their elections.

The next BOA meeting will take place on Jan. 16, 2016.