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Executive committee says ‘best candidate’ who met minimum requirement of bilingualism was appointed

The University of Ottawa Students’ Union’s (UOSU) executive committee has responded to the resignation of advocacy commissioner Sam Schroeder, who cited concerns over the committee’s appointment of a former Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) manager as director of services in his departure letter on Saturday.

In their response on Monday evening, the now four-person executive says both people being considered for the position were “equally qualified” but the “best candidate” who also met the minimum requirements of bilingualism was selected through a vote of the committee. 

Schroeder announced his resignation on Saturday in a letter sent to the UOSU’s Board of Directors (BOD), saying continuing in his job “could be perceived as a tacit endorsement of the decision.”

The SFUO served as the school’s former undergraduate student union until winter 2019 after the administration terminated its contract with the organization in the wake of fraud allegations against student leaders. In their decision, the U of O also cited allegations of improper governance, mismanagement, internal conflict and workplace misconduct in the SFUO. 

In his letter, Schroeder said a number of students had raised concerns to him about the former manager who was appointed, whose name is not mentioned in the letter. The Fulcrum has been unable to verify their identity.  

“The concerns raised varied from bullying, to favouritism, to general mismanagement,” Schroeder wrote. “Despite this, and despite the fact that these concerns had been raised at numerous executive committee meetings, the executive committee voted for the second candidate over the first.”

In their letter sent to the BOD, the executive committee said the bilingualism requirement was key to the decision. 

“We strive to represent francophone students on campus, and thus the bilingualism requirement was the main decision factor in this competition,” the committee wrote. “The executive committee chose the best candidate based on their interview, their exceptional qualifications, and the constant support they demonstrated to the UOSU and our membership.”

According to the committee’s letter, the director of services’ main role is to communicate with UOSU staff, “making bilingualism a vital skill in a candidate.” 

The executive committee wrote that the director of services will have no financial or voting power and will report directly to the executive director, who the committee has extreme faith in to promote transparency and to maintain a safe and healthy work environment.” 

“The hiring decision for the director of services was determined by a well-structured, experience-based interview process according to fair, equitable and impartial practices,” the committee added.

The executives highlighted that a number of the UOSU’s employees were previously employed by the SFUO and were brought back under their collective agreement. 

In his letter, Schroeder called his decision to resign a “difficult one.” 

“At the very least, (not resigning) would show that I do not see this decision as having enough gravity to merit a protest on my end,” wrote Schroeder. “I feel as though continuing in my role would be a betrayal to the students who elected me, and to the staff who have treated me so well.”

The UOSU’s executive committee is now made up of four people: student life commissioner Jason Seguya, equity commissioner Judy El-Mohtadi, operations commissioner Rony Fotsing, and francophone affairs commissioner Natasha Roy. The union’s general elections to fill all positions for the 2020-21 academic year will take place later this month. 

“The UOSU remains committed to our values of promoting transparency and working in the best interest of our students,” the executives wrote in their letter. 

The Fulcrum has reached out to former advocacy commissioner Sam Schroeder for comment. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.