Grading the SFUO on communication, staffing, promotion & student engagement
The 2015-16 year has been tough for the Student Federation University of Ottawa (SFUO), which ended the academic year by heavily reducing summer staff to avoid bankruptcy. Here’s the SFUO’s report card for the last year in four important areas: communication, staffing and student engagement, and event promotion.
Communication is more specific than just blasting out event promotions. The SFUO has done a poor job of keeping students aware of their financial situation, up until they announced their recent decision to cut staff over the summer, as at the most recent General Assembly (GA) there wasn’t even an updated budget available—a flaw the SFUO attributed to financial reports not yet submitted by federated bodies.
The SFUO website still contains no budget for 2015, only predictions for 2015 and a budget for 2014. There’s also only one budget, making it difficult for everyday students to create a clear financial picture across time.
A disciplinary committee called to investigate claims of harassment between execs has yet to release their findings to the public.
However the SFUO has made efforts in the past few weeks to address concerns about their financial future. After the last GA they answered questions for twenty minutes, and they also extended the question period at the end of their last Board of Administration (BOA) meeting on April 10. While these efforts at proper communication is notable, these attempts came only when students were clearly frustrated with their student federation. In the future the SFUO should keep students aware of situations, particularly negative ones, as they come up.
Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.
At a recent BOA meeting, a disciplinary committee was called to address the issue of harassment towards vice-president finance Camelia Touzany by other members of the executive. While it’s good that a committee was called to address the problem, the fact that things got so out of hand that a committee had to be called is completely unacceptable. Students should be able to expect more professionalism from their executives.
There were a number of staffing difficulties throughout the year, as the exec two early resignations. A new president was only elected halfway through November, as well and the same was true for the posts of vice-president finance and vice-president services and communications. How can the SFUO maintain its mandate as a student-elected body, and provide the students with what our fees pay for, while at least three of its positions are vacant?
SFUO events have a history of low student engagement rates. This year’s election saw a voter turnout of 2,556 students, or 7.8 per cent of the student population. The failure of the GAs to reach quorum has also been well documented, with each GA proving unable to gather enough attendance to read and vote on any motions.
While the failure of students to come out and vote isn’t fully a shortcoming of the SFUO, they can definitely do a better job at promoting their events. The SFUO has listened to some of students’ concerns about the GAs, as their fourth GA was held on campus during a Wednesday night instead of a Saturday morning at 10 a.m. GAs are from now on to be held on campus, which will make it easier for students to attend. The failure of the GAs is partially due to student apathy, and the SFUO has made some changes that make it easier for students to attend.
Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.
It’s time for someone to remind the SFUO that they’re living in a digital age. For the entire month of February there was not one tweet from the SFUO’s Twitter page despite the fact that they were running the General Election Even once they did tweet, they put out six tweets about poutine fest and none about the GA on March 15—true to form, there wasn’t even one tweet about it on the date it was hosted..
Their Facebook page also has more posts about poutine fest than the GA, although at least there actually were some posts about the most recent GA. The last one of those posts however is from February 23, and is about academic amnesty for the GA.
It’s unbelievable that a student federation spreads information about a poutine festival more urgently than they do when advertising students’ chance to take part in our school’s democratic process.
The SFUO’s grade in promotion would be lower if they didn’t promote any of their events at all. The SFUO occasionally succeeds at promoting their social events, but needs to focus more on promoting the events that give students a voice in our student federation’s operations.