In light of a recent SFU Senate recommendation, students may have the opportunity to participate in the upcoming SFSS special general meeting (SGM) despite conflicting classes.
At the last meeting of the SFU Senate on January 5, the senate moved to recommend that instructors accommodate students who request in advance to attend the SGM next Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 1:30 pm without academic penalty.
The encouraged academic excusal (or amnesty) would be subject to the discretion of individual professors.
Due to issues with capacity and the loss of quorum partway through the recent SFSS annual general meeting (AGM) held on December 16, some students have raised concerns over the matters of approving the Build SFU debenture and a bylaw addition.
In response to those concerns, the SFSS resolved to hold the SGM in the new year to allow those students who were unable to attend the AGM the chance to make their voices heard.
Senator Peter Tingling noted his opposition to the motion and raised an issue regarding the accountability of students in their own academic careers, a concern that was echoed by other senators.
“We all make choices. We all deal with the repercussions,” he argued, “I think the best way to get people to continue to be engaged is to do so in a realistic environment.”
“I think it’s quite amazing that they’ve done this.”
SFSS VP University Relations Moe Kopahi responded by suggesting that the SFSS confirm the SGM attendance of students who express intent to participate in the meeting to their professors.
Senator Colin Percival pointed out that this sort of academic amnesty is typically granted for situations in which students are off-campus during classes for a protest regarding university affairs; however, president Andrew Petter interjected that it had been previously applied to an SFSS AGM in 2007, at which a board member was impeached.
Senators also raised the issue that the meeting time falls during peak instructional hours. Kopahi explained that the selected time was chosen for the amount of students expected to be on the Burnaby campus. He said, though unfortunate for people who have class, it was the time that made the most sense. “We’re trying to accommodate the need of those students as well,” he said.
Senator Tracey Leacock countered that if “this meeting is not important enough to students that they would be willing to attend at a time that they weren’t already on campus,” it perhaps “is not as important as the student society is making it out to be.”
However, Senator Peter Ruben commended the SFSS for the lengths to which they have gone to ensure funding to its Student Union Building project. “I think it’s quite amazing that they’ve done this,” he said. “The senate and the university should do all it can to ensure that every student has a voice in how this whole venture unfolds.”
In the vein of including as many students as possible in the meeting, senator Helen Wussow suggested that the proceedings be extended to an online environment, allowing those unable to physically attend to participate in voting and discussion.
Student senator and SFSS president Chardaye Bueckert cited the BC Society Act, explaining that the debenture must be passed by special resolution requiring an in-person vote. She went on to explain that the society lacks the technological resources to fully offer online participation, such as video conferencing, to all students who may require it.
The amnesty, given professors see fit to grant it, would not only promote the attendance of students on Burnaby Mountain, but would allow students who study at other campuses the opportunity to attend the SGM.
Many members of senate responded positively to the motion, arguing that it would help build community by reaching out and encouraging students to engage in student matters.
Senator Panayiotis Pappas explained that he was in favour of the motion on the grounds that the inaccessibility of SFU’s location must be taken into account.
“We have to face up to the limitations that our location puts on student community life,” he said. “If we have to make an adjustment now and then, it’s not the end of the world.”
Petter noted that it had been a good discussion on both sides, but in the end, the motion was passed with only a few oppositional votes.