With a vote to determine a new student union potentially on the horizon, should students consider giving our problematic relationship with the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) a second chance?
The short answer? As hard as they may beg, we should be running as fast and far away as we can from this broken student union.
But what about the established resources, the infrastructure, the long-held relationship with the university? Despite all of the practical reasons to stay, the Fulcrum believes it’s time for students to follow their hearts and leave this toxic relationship for good—and here’s why.
First of all, let’s address the biggest elephant in the room. There are only so many times you can get away with financial mismanagement before enough is enough. Clearly, there is a need to re-evaluate the financial checks and balances of a federation that handles this much student money, and the SFUO has proven time and time again that they are unwilling or unable to do this. Responsible management of student funds should be a top priority—year upon year of financial turmoil indicates this has not been the case.
Communication can make or break any relationship, and with the SFUO this is a major sore point. Their “apology” letter post-termination completely dodged responsibility for the entire situation, and their attempts to increase social media communications after that were quickly soured once it became clear they were deleting comments from unsatisfied students.
Not to mention that before the termination decision came from the administration, their social media presence was minimal at best. In past years, the General Assemblies (GA) and motions to be voted on have also failed to make it to the SFUO’s social feeds in a timely manner. Let alone smaller events, such as those put on by the various service centres. Their Board of Administration (BOA) meetings have been so poorly publicized over the years that even the Fulcrum’s news team has struggled at times to find the location.
And speaking of BOA meetings, why is it so darn difficult for the board to find a consistent process for livestreaming the meetings? Time and time again, this seemingly simple process gets thrown to the backburner for who knows what reason, leaving students unable to easily tune in for these important meetings.
If your partner isn’t listening to your needs, it’s probably time to go your own way. This federation has reduced power of the prime platform for student opinion, the GA, and only restored this power when the university threatened the contract, and a new potential union proposed doing so. In fact, the removal of power from the GA came shortly after students voted overwhelmingly against execute pay raises during the only GA to ever meet quorum at that point. The BOA ended up passing executive pay raises, against the student vote, at the next meeting.
In addition, when fraud allegations against SFUO executives surfaced, students raised concern with conflicts of interest in these executives holding committee and chair positions. These concerns were not acted on by the BOA until the U of O announced their intent to terminate the contract.
This pattern shows a clear lack of recognition of student opinion and, frankly, these last resort attempts are too little too late.
We’re not saying that the one option on the table, the University of Ottawa Students’ Union, is worth your support. But we do think that there’s only so much the SFUO can get away with before students should start looking for alternatives. Because at the end of the day, there are plenty of motivated students in the sea who would probably do a much better job than the current ensemble of BOA and SFUO representatives. The single life isn’t so bad, and students should take their time to explore what’s out there before hastily jumping into a brand new relationship.
After all, U of O students aren’t like other students—we’re a damn privilege to represent. It’s time to build a federation that acknowledges through their governance, constitution, and behaviour that their position is not a right, or a power for their exploitation, but a privilege.
When it comes to the SFUO, trust us honey, you deserve better.