Last year’s Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) faced many difficulties, from General Assemblies that weren’t able to reach quorum to spending $10,000 on fireworks that couldn’t get used. Much of that executive board was replaced in last year’s by-election and the new President of the SFUO, David Gakwerere resigned over the summer. With a new round of leaders, the Fulcrum decided to make some suggestions to the SFUO on what we’d like to see them do differently this year.
Focus on lowering fees locally
To bookend the 2014-2015 school year, both the U of O and the City of Ottawa added further costs for students. While the university board chose to raise tuition fees by three per cent for the tenth year in a row, the City approved a $5 hike per semester on the U-Pass.
Each of these increases will be a burden to students, many who’ve already wracked up thousands in school-related debt. The SFUO has remained silent for the most part on each of these developments, despite vocally opposing tuition increases at the provincial and national levels in the past.
As a local student myself, I would like to see the SFUO take a firmer stance in advocating for student’s financial needs here at home. While federal and provincial policies are extremely important, raising awareness of the costs that students face locally would be more effective for an organization with the SFUO’s scope, than trying to take on larger government bodies. By drawing attention to this issue, as well as trying to negotiate with municipal bodies and the university, the SFUO can make itself truly relevant to lives of students here in Ottawa.
Don’t waste students’ money
I know it’s been talked about a lot but the $10,000 firework fiasco last year really got under my skin. This year I’d like the SFUO put in the research before making the purchase. Ask questions and make sure it’s possible before you start spending students’ money. I appreciate that they tried to do something new and different, but please before you try something new this year make sure you can actually do it.
The fireworks were the largest and most talked about mistake, but there were more social events that didn’t work like the cancelled snow-fort building contest. There was so much controversy around social events that a petition was circulated last year asking for the impeachment of the vice-president social. New SFUO, remember that you’re paid by student’s fees and you owe it to them to be smart with that money.
In 2010 by referendum vote, students voted in favour of the Universal Bus Pass Program (U-Pass). This meant that all full-time U of O students living in Ontario would be charged for a bus pass at a significantly lower rate than OC Transpo regular and express passes. In an attempt to make the pass more inclusive to all students, an agreement was reached with OC Transpo to include students residing in Gatineau for the upcoming year.
Talks surrounding the summer U-Pass have been going on now for years, and it’s time the SFUO reached a final agreement with OC Transpo. Former vice-president of university affairs, Chris Hynes, promised a summer pass in two separate election bids, but to no avail. Students taking summer classes, including co-op students who reside in Ottawa during the summer, are forced to pay $103.25 for just one monthly pass. Especially considering that the majority of students in need of the summer bus pass are over the age of 19, students are forced to pay adult fares since student rates are not applicable for anyone over the age of 19. It’s time this matter was settled once and for all. Let’s not wait another five years before all students can receive the benefits they are entitled to.