The University of Ottawa recently cut off ties with their student federation (SFUO) after serious allegations of fraud. Investigations are still ongoing but this recent incident has left undergraduate students at the university shaken, without a stable government to represent them.
Contemplating the incident, the Algonquin Times wanted to know: could such a break-up and subsequent allegations happen at Algonquin?
In an interview with the Times, vice president of Student Services, Laura Stanbra, emphasized the positive working relationship the college and the Students’ Association currently have. The vice president describes the partnership as a “very engaged and transparent relationship when working together toward students’ support.”
The partnership doesn’t run on any power dynamic since Student Services is run by the college whereas the SA is an independent body. Therefore neither entity controls the other while working on mutually beneficial projects for students.
“We work together especially on student fees; it’s one of the main topics aside from students’ strategy that we talk about at the monthly meeting,” said Stanbra. “There are fees that the college collects for the SA then we remit over to the SA and there are fees that we charge students for services.”
The working dynamic is powered by policies put in place to make sure both sides are transparent with one another, accounting for a healthy partnership that has lasted for years.
According to Stanbra, these procedures prevent fraudulent incidents, like what happened with the SFUO, from happening on Algonquin’s campus.
“I can receive financial statements from the SA and they have had an independent, clean audit of their finances for the last 30 years. We know they’ve got a stellar reputation for how they manage their finances, they have full-time position control of their finances but they’re very transparent with their financial statements and they’ve got excellent records,” said Stanbra.
There is one unspoken link between Student Services and the SA. General manager of the Students’ Association, Jack Doyle, has been in his position and keeping an eye of the records for over 25 years.
Both parties acknowledge the importance of his role which has helped keep their squeaky clean records consistent.
“We’re very pleased that we have all these things in place at Algonquin and that there hasn’t even been any glimmer or anything that has been brought forward in terms of mismanagement of funds or mismanagement of even how they operate on a professional basis,” emphasized Stanbra.
What makes the SA so well managed is the training involved before fully taking on the position.
“Originally when I first came into the position I thought it was really confusing but we were lucky enough to go to a professional development summit where we got to work with other student unions across the country, including SFUO,” said SA president Deijanelle Simon. “And being able to see the differences in how we run opposed to other unions, I was incredibly happy with how everything is run.”
Simon explained that this summit was a great opportunity for different student unions to learn from each other and collaborate; however, there was a lack of effort and engagement from the SFUO during the summit.
Still, Simon said the Carleton University SA and the Algonquin SA have bonded from this opportunity “and we were kind of hoping to include uOttawa but I guess that kind of fell through.”
According to Simon, the fraud allegations against the SFUO have had a negative impact on the reputation of all student unions. As uOttawa undergraduate students’ voices, the SFUO also represents all student unions and Simon finds it unfortunate that this abuse of power devalues what student unions stand for.
Despite the mismanagement of the SFUO, Algonquin students can rest assured that their student association is not likely to run into similar incidents.
“We are very fortunate that our student leaders are so capable and competent and I think it shows the maturity of our students but also the maturity of the SA organization in itself,” said Student Services VP Laura Stanbra.