University of Ottawa Terminates Agreement with SFUO

Posted on Monday, September 24, 2018

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


Questions and Answers

1. Why did the University terminate its agreement with the SFUO?

The University’s highest priority is to act in the best interests of its students.

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 have 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 the Federation 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 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 its governance or internal management. The University’s main objective is to ensure that money collected from our students is properly managed, allocated and accounted for.

The University has now lost confidence in the current SFUO administration and in its ability to adequately represent students and supply services that students pay for. That is why we have taken this action.

2. Have the police been notified?

We understand that the allegations of financial mismanagement have been brought to the attention of the police. The University is not involved in this aspect but would fully cooperate with any investigation.

3. What happens during the three-month period before termination of the agreement?

During the next three months, the University will continue to withhold from the SFUO the fees collected by the University on behalf of the SFUO and from those monies the University will:

  • Upon receipt of invoice(s), pay health and dental insurance premiums directly to the insurance provider that the SFUO selected to provide coverage to its student members;
  • Transfer money to the SFUO for its payroll, provided that the SFUO certifies that the payroll submitted for payment is accurate and complete;
  • Upon receipt of invoices and proof, to the satisfaction of the University, that the amount is fully justified and due to the payee, make such other payments on behalf of the SFUO as may be required.

4. How will undergraduate students be represented?

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

5. Which services are affected?

The services affected include the SFUO health and dental insurance plan and support for the federated student bodies and certified student clubs. The University’s termination of its agreement with the SFUO will not affect the UPass (transit pass), which is governed by a separate agreement with the City of Ottawa.

6. Can I stop paying SFUO fees? Will I still be billed for these services? Can I be reimbursed?

You will not receive a bill in the Winter term from the University for SFUO membership fees unless a new agreement is in place. In other words, the University will stop collecting these fees.

As for reimbursements, the University has collected the student fees on behalf of the SFUO for services they provide; consequently, the University would only be authorized to reimburse monies collected in the fall term if the SFUO authorized and directed the University to do so.

7. Can the University provide the same range of services that the SFUO currently provides?

The University already provides many student services similar to those provided by the Federation. The University will take steps to ensure that the health and wellness of our students is not compromised. That is our primary concern. The University remains 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.

8. Can I still use my UPass?

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

9. What will happen to my health and dental insurance coverage?

The University will work with the SFUO’s insurance provider to ensure that students who have paid for coverage will continue to be covered under the current coverage period, which ends August 31, 2019.

10. Will there still be a foot patrol? Food bank?

The University will take steps to ensure that the health and wellness of our students is not compromised. That is our primary concern. The University is fully committed to ensuring that services deemed essential will 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.

11. What is going to happen to my student association/club?

The status of student associations and clubs is governed by the SFUO. The University is not involved in the process of establishing or recognizing student associations and clubs.

12. What happens to the student members on the Board and Senate?

Student members of the Board of Governors and the Senate are not affected by the termination of the University’s agreement with the SFUO. Current student Board and Senate members may complete their terms.

13. Will the Pivik, 1848, Café Alt and the Agora still be open?

The University is not involved in the management of these businesses. The Pivik, 1848, Café Alt and the Agora are businesses owned and managed by the SFUO. 

14. What happens to student media (the Fulcrum, La Rotonde, CHUO)?

The University is not involved in the management of the Fulcrum, La Rotonde or CHUO. The Fulcrum, La Rotonde and CHUO are each their own corporation, independent of the SFUO and of the University.

15. Will the SFUO continue to exist?

It may continue to exist. The termination of the University’s agreement with the SFUO means that the University no longer recognizes the SFUO as the exclusive student association that represents undergraduate students and no longer collects fees on the Federation’s behalf.

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