By David Dyck
Outgoing SFSS president speaks with The Peak about the lockout, the CFS settlement, and more
At the beginning of this month, after completing his term as president of the Simon Fraser Student Society in one of the most controversial years in SFSS history, Jeff McCann has left the presidency to take the position of university relations officer in the upcoming term. Under the McCann administration, the society locked out staff, negotiated a new collective agreement, increased library hours, settled the CFS dispute, and set aside $30,000 to put towards a men’s centre. He sat down with The Peak to discuss these things and more.
On the past year:
I had a lot of fun. I learned more this year than I had learned in my entire life combined. Not many 23-year-olds bargain collective agreements, or multimillion-dollar lawsuits, or buildings, or anything. For the next 20 years I’m going to work in a cubicle and it’s going to suck. I’m going to have no authority. I’m going to be told what to do. But for this past year, we accomplished a lot, and I was challenged.
On being a student politician:
It’s impossible; you can’t be a student. It’s ironic. The way I’ve found to look at it is like a co-op term . . . If you’re a business student and you become president of the student society, you want to talk about learning about business really quick? If you’re a communications major and you become president of the student society, you want to talk about learning to communicate?
It’s almost like when your parents give you a goldfish to teach you how to own a dog, the student society gives you that crash course in life. I don’t care what your GPA is — mine’s okay — because the theory that you have means nothing if you can’t actually apply it.
On the lockout:
I think we knew bargaining wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t say we saw the lockout coming because everyone had to vote on it. Did I know as president that if we didn’t get anywhere in bargaining, that was an option? Absolutely. We put proposals on the table that we thought they would go for, even during the lockout, and nothing. Status quo was not an option. They would come back to us with either status quo or status quo plus.
I challenge any single individual who disagreed with the lockout to come to me and bargain the collective agreement. I will sit in convo mall and bargain the collective agreement with anyone who would like to show up and they can tell me the answer. I would love it for them to balance my budget.
On the CFS settlement:
We had the mandate [from the 2008 referendum] to get out. We got out.
I guess all it comes down to in the end is that you elect people to make decisions on your behalf. I got elected, Jordan got elected, and the rest of the board got elected. We made a decision that we thought was best for students, the board ratified it; all elected people. You have to trust in the abilities of those you elect, right? If you don’t like that, then run for election.
I never felt like the victim this year. Everyone else tried to say they were the victim, poor us. Well, take some responsibility. You want to be involved? Come be involved. I’m not closing the door on anybody. You want information? Here.
On the structure of the board:
I think we need to reform the board. I think we need a bigger executive, and this isn’t a new conversation, don’t be alarmed: eliminate faculty reps. . . . Either increase the hours for faculty reps, or make the exec larger, make it like eight or nine people, and then eliminate faculty reps. Then use the structure within forum to represent that faculty rep voice, because it’s redundant . . . that’s where you’d have to figure out a way to give forum a little bit of power.
I think forum has a great role, they have their ear to the ground, they know what’s going on . . . They know what’s going on on their level as a student, and that’s why it’s great feedback, but they don’t know what’s going on on a board level.
I think a student union building is huge for campus community . . . my first semester at SFU was the most depressing of my life. That’s why I started playing football again, and that’s why I ran for the board.
People want to get brought in, and I respect that. Well, Mark and me work every day from 8 or 9 a.m. to about 11:30 p.m., so I’ll see you at nine, and don’t have dinner plans. Then they’d come for an hour, and wonder why they weren’t brought in. People think that what we created, they could have done with a blindfold on walking backwards, well I’m sorry but I doubt it.
On library hours:
I know that I’ve been herded out of the library, but we weren’t sure how to go about it. And this is where the left wing people get it wrong. The left wing people would have had a sit in, or a march for library hours. They would try to shame the library into doing something. Instead I talked to some people from the university who I have relationships with . . . Mark and I go in all amped up, prepared to argue our point, and they said, “This is a really great idea. I’m glad you asked us to talk about this.”
The university isn’t a big bad thing, they want to help students, they just don’t always know how.