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The ceremony was held in the UOSU’s office in the University Centre. Photo: Rame Abdulkader/Fulcrum

U of O president, Rideau-Vanier city councillor, union executives and management team give speeches

The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) marked the official launch of its office space, website, and service centres on Tuesday morning with an event featuring speeches from the university president and the Rideau-Vanier city councillor, along with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The UOSU came to power earlier this year after the school terminated its contract with the former student government (the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa) last year in the wake of fraud allegations against the union’s leaders. 

The UOSU then won a referendum in February to take over as the new union, with about 75 per cent voting in favour. In April, the union’s first executive committee and Board of Directors were elected. They also secured the collection of levies previously put in place by the SFUO, with about four in five students voting yes. 

About 40 people gathered for the ceremony in the UOSU’s office in the University Centre. With student life commissioner Jason Seguya as emcee, the speeches started with a land acknowledgement from interim equity commissioner Judy El-Mohtadi. 

Seguya then gave a shout out to a number of people in attendance, including the union’s transitional committee, Board of Directors (BOD), and management team.

“This event and the union itself would not have been possible without each and everyone one of you,” said Seguya. “A huge, huge shoutout to the U of O student community.” 

Seguya handed over the mic to general director Patricia Inostroza and then advocacy commissioner Sam Schroeder.

“This is the start of us getting out of the transition (period and) getting into providing services to students and showing our value to students,” said Schroeder. “This is kind of a new beginning, an opportunity for us to really reinforce the things we all ran on and the things UOSU is supposed to stand for.” 

Tables were set up outside the office for representatives from the UOSU’s 13 services, which include the Student Rights Centre and the Racialized and Indigenous Students Experience Centre. Those service centres all officially opened their doors on Tuesday, although some had launched earlier this semester. 

The UOSU’s three businesses — 1848, Pivik, and Café Alt — are expected to open in fall 2020. The union chose to not take on the SFUO’s Agora Bookstore, citing financial challenges posed by the provincial government’s Student Choice Initiative.

“It’s good to see a new energy on campus,” said Rideau-Vanier Counc. Mathieu Fleury, a U of O alumnus. “I would encourage you (the UOSU) to continue to engage with students at all levels, from a good atmosphere to challenging discussions.” 

U of O president Jacques Frémont touched on the “growing pains” of establishing the new union in his speech. 

“It was not always easy, but it was worth every moment,” said Frémont.

Frémont also addressed the university’s response to the carding and handcuffing of Black U of O student Jamal Koulmiye-Boyce by Protection Services in June, marked by a growing chorus of voices demanding further action from the administration to address systemic racism.

“I again want to commit myself publicly, that this place will be a better place,” Frémont said. He added town halls are in the works for the next few weeks and months and urged students to participate. “It’s extremely important that we learn to work together, that we learn to disagree with each other … but that we are always within speaking terms and moving ahead.”

“We are still committed to that collaboration and we look forward to what we’re going to be able to do together on this campus,” said Seguya. 

The UOSU is holding its fall General Assembly on Nov. 7 in the University Centre auditorium. They are also holding a byelection from Nov. 6-8 that looks to fill the equity commissioner position and nine seats on the BOD. 

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