uOttawa to end recognition of student union as financial mismanagement scandal widens

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(Via University of Ottawa)

With regret, the University of Ottawa provided notice of termination of its agreement with the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO). Effective December 24, 2018, the University will no longer recognize the Federation as the exclusive association representing undergraduate students.

As an institution of higher learning for more than 35 760 undergraduate students, the University of Ottawa’s highest priority is to act in the best interests of its students. Unfortunately, the University has lost confidence in the SFUO’s ability to represent our students and to supply the services that students pay for. That is why it has taken this action.

After learning of allegations of financial mismanagement involving members of the SFUO executive and a SFUO staff member, the University requested that the Federation conduct a forensic audit. At the same time, the University notified the SFUO that uOttawa would withhold the fees that it collects from students on behalf of the Federation, pending the outcome of the forensic audit and restored University confidence in the proper financial management of student fees. Measures have been put in place to ensure the continuity of financial operations until the results of the audit become available.

Since then, the University has learned of additional allegations of improper governance, mismanagement, internal conflict and workplace misconduct within the SFUO. University representatives expressed the institution’s growing concerns about these allegations in letters to, and in two meetings with, the SFUO executive. The University made it clear to the SFUO executive that it would be required to take steps to restore the University’s confidence in the Federation’s ability to responsibly conduct its internal affairs. The University has not been satisfied with the Federation’s progress.

The University takes these allegations seriously because its primary concern is to protect the interests of uOttawa students. The SFUO is independent of the University of Ottawa and the University plays no role in the Federation’s governance or internal management. The University’s principal objective in this matter is to ensure that money collected on behalf of the SFUO from our students is properly managed, allocated and accounted for.

The agreement between the University and the SFUO stipulates that either party may terminate the agreement by giving the other party three months’ written notice. Therefore, on December 24, 2018, following termination of the agreement, the University will no longer recognize the SFUO as the exclusive association representing undergraduate students and will no longer collect fees from students on behalf of the Federation.

The implications of this decision are complex. The University of Ottawa already provides many student services similar to those delivered by the Federation. The University is fully committed to ensuring that services deemed essential be maintained; for example, the University considers it of paramount importance that vulnerable students continue to be protected and that student safety, security and wellness not be compromised.

The University’s termination of its agreement with the SFUO does not affect the student UPass (transit pass), which is governed by a separate agreement with the City of Ottawa.

A new undergraduate student government may be formed in due course and the University encourages students to take steps in this direction. The University remains firmly committed to working in good faith with a student government that demonstrates a commitment to good governance and sound financial management.

The University regrets that this action has become necessary, but emphasizes that the overriding consideration has been, and will remain, the protection of students and their interests.

David Graham
Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs

(The university also posted a Q&A for students with its press release)


OttawaStart Staff

feedback@ottawastart.com

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