Thursday’s allegation that Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO)’s president Rizki Rachiq established a shell club called “Testing Restaurants UOttawa” and used it to defraud students of over $20,000 has shaken the students’ collective conscious. If these allegations are found to be true, it would be both painful and hilarious given the fact that this happened under our noses, where Rachiq paraded his allegedly illicit purchases.
Students are completely justified in their outrage. Your money was allegedly stolen from you by someone you should have trusted. Be angry about it, talk with your friends about it and make it an election issue. Go show Rachiq and his United ilk that they ought never to be in a position of power again.
But what you should never do is make this a partisan issue, and that’s what one of my colleagues did. Contrary to his attempt, Alexei Kazakov’s letter does nothing to galvanize students and if his advice is heeded, the student body will be worse off for it.
I have some respect for Kazakov–he made himself a central figure in the “In My Skin” controversy back when the idiocracy of the SFUO was in its infancy. In that sense, he’s a trailblazer and I respect him for it. So it’s ironic that someone whose rise to prominence came from uniting students is now sporting a different message.
To be blunt, Madam Editor, I found Kazakov’s letter to be both divisive and historically ignorant. His suggestion that a double-secret group of right wingers will take over the SFUO and pervert it even further is absurd and deserves no reply. All it has hope to do is alienate the anti-SFUO right wing base, make them stay home on election day and help United get re-elected. His letter seems to tell conservative students that they are persona non grata and not welcome to sit at the cool kids’ table. Like it or not, right wing students make up a significant portion of SFUO reformists. Fixing the SFUO is for everybody and not just for ivory tower elitists. Everyone can play a role in making the SFUO a more responsible union.
To my second point – Kazakov’s conspiracy theory is ahistorical and flies in the face of the SFUO’s history. The idea that conservative Benedict Arnolds are waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces and make a corrupt, right wing union (the irony) is laughable. Where are these secret agent, KBG-esque conservatives? If there is in fact such a group, I can assure you I am not a member.
The reason I take issue with that assertion is because it reads like a personal attack against me. It’s no secret I’m a conservative. For those who might remember, I ran for the Board of Administration (BOA) in 2017 on an anti-corruption agenda and voters knew of my conservative leanings. My BOA campaign consisted of the Canadian Federation of Students defederation and ending the culture of corruption in the SFUO. That’s it. I would never have done what so many executives, past and present, do, and use the SFUO as a vehicle to advance my political beliefs. Leave your politics at home; we’re here for the students. This is something I had a difficult time conveying even to my leftwing slatemates.
Fixing the SFUO is going to be no easy task and as an alumnus, I do not envy the students’ position at all. It’s a task for everyone, both left and right and that’s where Kazakov completely misses the mark. Politics of division will not fix the problems of the SFUO and, if anything, will serve only to make it worse. It will alienate a significant portion of the SFUO reformist voting base and hand United another executive sweep. Remember – they only won by a razor thin margin last year. So kindly disregard the comments of my fellow alumnus: I can assure you the alumni do not look at you with such contempt.