I write to you as many students across our campus are worried, confused and shocked at the recent decision of the University of Ottawa to terminate its agreement with the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO). As the administration’s decision has created headlines across the city, province and country many students are looking at this decision as a dangerous precedent.
There are so many questions that need to be answered. What will happen to student services after the agreement is officially terminated? How will the SFUO confidently and effectively operate? Will other unions like CUPE 2626 be targeted next?
It is unclear at this point whether the university will take on some of the responsibilities of the SFUO, but if a new agreement is not in place by the end of the year then there will be a lot of students at odds with continuing to study. There are so many students and clubs that rely on the SFUO for funding and financing their services. At-risk students relying on the Food Bank or Foot Patrol will suffer and students with smaller student associations will most likely lose representation.
The critical services need to be maintained regardless of what happens with the SFUO because it is the most important aspect affected by this decision. These services are crucial for students and lives are dependent on these services. Services like the Women’s Resource Centre that offer menstrual products and childcare for mothers, or the University of Ottawa Student Emergency Response Team that provides 24/7 emergency medical response on campus, are services that students on this campus cannot afford to lose.
The administration has a lot of questions to answer in the coming months and negotiations will be intense, but this needs to be readdressed with a proper overhaul of the SFUO. With only two executives currently serving, students need to come together to make sure that the SFUO does what it can to regain the trust of students at the U of O.
Our responsibility as students does not end there. We need to make sure that the SFUO and the administration are doing their part to be transparent and accountable for their decision. We also need to acknowledge that not every student can afford to rally or take time out of their lives to take on these immense responsibilities. Some students cannot join in these efforts because our campus is not accessible, some students work full-time jobs and have children to take care of, and some are too busy finding a place to stay for the night.
It has been said that ‘we cannot let the actions of a few define us all’, so let’s not allow the university’s decision to deter us from seeking a good and respectable agreement with the administration. Let’s take on some of the responsibilities that our fellow students are not able to and come together to pressure the administration and SFUO to serve the needs of students. Let’s do what we are able to and change this university for the better.