Just because the SFUO is gone, doesn’t mean that student government is too
On Sept. 25, the University of Ottawa administration released a statement notifying students that its agreement with the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) will be terminated on Dec. 24, 2018.
This came in response to fraud allegations, and allegations of financial misconduct faced by at least three individuals on the SFUO executive, and for many students, felt long overdue.
For others however, concerns of administrative interference in student governance raised red flags, and some students feel as though their voices are being stifled. We’re here to tell you that this is not the case.
While the university ceasing to recognize the SFUO as the U of O’s official undergraduate student union seems like a drastic measure, it does not mean that students are left without representation. And if it feels like it does, it definitely doesn’t have to.
Following the university’s announcement, the SFUO stated that while the current executives named in the allegations will step down from their posts, leaving only two executives on the union, the federation will not give up its fight as the U of O’s student body representative—but they should.
In other words, just because the SFUO is no more, that doesn’t mean that the university will continue to insert itself into student matters—this is a unique case.
There is no precedent for this situation, and it does not look like it will be setting a precedent either. That is to say, the next union should be okay, as long as they aren’t involved in a police investigation or forensic audit for fraud allegations. Given the situation, the university’s decision to step in wasn’t only a good one, it was a necessary one.
In the statement itself, written by vice-president academic and provost David Graham, it is clear that the creation of a new student union is encouraged and expected by the university, although the steps needed to achieve this are not outlined. Nevertheless, certain students and student groups are already convening and making efforts to rebuild a student union from scratch, with a push towards leaving the SFUO a distant memory in the Fulcrum archives.
This is the right approach. Students should take action, and support a new student union that will adhere to a code of conduct that respects the student body it seeks to serve. The years of scandals, violations of trust, and blatant disrespect faced by students at the hand of the SFUO are finally over. This is a chance for the U of O’s undergraduate body to start fresh, and build a strong foundation for future generations.
In the meantime, trust that the university, while also flawed, made the right decision in this instance. No student levies will be collected as of January for the SFUO. Dental and health coverage will still be provided, and yes, clubs and services will most likely be left in the lurch, but it’s up to us now to take on the responsibility of making sure our services are able to serve us. In other words, get involved.
As some students pointed out in past letters to the editor, apathy has gotten us to this point. It’s time for that to change. If you want your voice heard, be loud. Support your peers, and if there is another election this year, then vote.
After all, the current student union is dead. Long live a new student union.