The past year has been rocky for the Student Association at Durham College and UOIT.
It has developed a reputation for meeting student concerns and inquiries with silence after it was the centre of several scandals through the spring and summer.
Since the last general election wrapped up in May, the SA has had two presidents come and go as well as another member of its board. It now faces the issues that both institutions are withholding funds, and may halt the collection of fees on the SA’s behalf.
Durham College student Vianney Nengue was elected VP of college affairs in the general election. He has now stepped up to fill the role of interim president and acknowledges that the SA has been faced with turbulent times.
Nengue says alleged emails between president-elect Reem Dabbous and the athletic department were said to include a promise of new soccer fields should they endorse her party.
When Dabbous won the election, Nengue says she immediately entered an appeals process with the election committee. A governance lawyer then made the call to disqualify her.
From there runner-up Cerise Wilson took office. Nengue says almost immediately after, Wilson and another member of the SA executive board began accusing each other of harassment, and were placed on leave. This issue has not yet been resolved.
Officials from both schools say it was during this past summer that UOIT and Durham College announced the withholding of funds due to these governance issues.
In the past both schools have collected about $96 in SA fees annually from students as part of the tuition process. Whether or not this will continue remains to be seen, raising questions about the SA’s viability, which is another dent in the SA.
“We have a negative reputation right now,” Nengue says, “so our power lays mainly with the students. When it comes to institutions, we are still in a good relationship with them. Which means we are still talking and negotiating.”
Nengue and the SA have been in constant conversation with both Durham College and UOIT administration. He says the departure of the board members has lead to the hesitation from both institutions.
“It’s politics,” he says.
Olivia Petrie, UOIT’s assistant vice-president of student life, hopes to see resolutions to the problems plaguing the SA before the next general election.
“We want to make sure that the SA continues to support our students,” says Petrie, “so we’re managing the transfer of fees that we collect from the UOIT students.”
At this point, the buzz of fee collection issues and trouble amongst the board has led to a cool relationship between the student body and the SA, something Nengue says has caused the association to begin a complete rebuilding process.
“We want to support the SA and help them rebuild,” says Petrie. “They’ve identified that as an issue and we want to support them in that rebuilding. At the end of the day we want effective leadership within the SA so that they can effectively represent our students.”
Durham College announced at the beginning of the school year that effective May of 2017 they would not collect fees on behalf of the SA. However, that may no longer be the case as Nengue says the SA and Durham remain engaged in conversation.
Meri Kim Oliver, DC’s VP of student affairs, confirms that the two groups have been trying to work on the issues.
“The SA has been working hard to resolve its internal concerns,” she says. “DC appreciates the efforts that it is making to have more contact with its student constituents.”
Nengue concedes some of the student body on both campuses feel the SA has been quiet on these matters for too long.
“That’s our fault,” Nengue says. “We’re working to be more open and invite more students to come to board meetings.”
Those interested in having their say can attend SA meetings, which are open to students.