UOttawa protects campus through student government scrap

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When a student government breaches trust, it’s up to the university to protect its students.

In September, the University of Ottawa terminated its relationship with the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) after allegations of misappropriated funds were revealed. A police report filed by the outgoing SFUO president revealed over $20,000 in student fees misused by SFUO leadership, ranging from designer clothing to salon expenditures.

The university no longer recognizes the Federation as the exclusive association representing undergraduates, and will no longer collect fees from students on behalf of the SFUO. UOttawa has also halted payments to the student union, promised to cover some bills on the union’s behalf, and requested an external audit of the SFUO’s finances.

UOttawa’s punishment fits the crime. It’s essential for an educational institution to protect its students’ interests.

Universities have the duty to mitigate potential damage for students living and working on their campuses. UOttawa made the right choice.

Student governments cover a vast range of services, from health coverage to student employment, and elected student officials are bound to improving life on campus. When those officials breach community trust, it’s within the university’s right to take recriminative action.

That said, UOttawa’s work isn’t over after terminating its SFUO relationship. The school should act quickly and effectively to maintain stability for those paying tuition and contributing to campus.

Axing a student union places its constituents in peril. It throws work-study jobs and student services into flux. From food banks to administration, essential amenities are threatened by the loss of student fees and effective leadership.

When a centralizing institution like student government loses validity, it damages more than its credibility. It impacts transparency and loses student trust in their universities.

Though the university has cut off the SFUO, the future of student government at UOttawa is uncertain.

Student unions are necessary to represent student voices, both to the university administration and the greater community. While the agreement’s termination is a wakeup call regarding corruption within student government, a replacement is needed—and fast.

It’s incumbent on UOttawa to consult students when searching for a solution. The school’s  administration must establish an interim legal and financial plan before, critically, looking to students to determine how they want their next union to look.

Students and administration must work together and establish joint dialogue to ensure this level of campus corruption is a one-time occurrence.

—Journal Editorial Board

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