With the end of the spring semester in sight, the Simon Fraser Student Society’s (SFSS) 56th president, Chardaye Bueckert, is preparing to make way for number 57.
From the successful negotiation of two collective agreement contracts to the failure to pass the Build SFU debenture question at the January Special General Meeting to the Freedom Square plaque being returned to its rightful home, Bueckert’s term has been punctuated with highs and lows.
We spoke to the outgoing SFSS president about her time in office and what she plans to do next.
If you had to describe your term in one word, what would it be and why?
“Accomplished? For two reasons. I think for one, our board has really accomplished a lot this year. And then, for myself, I’m quite proud to say I’ve fulfilled almost all my campaign platform promises, and [for] the two that are outstanding, substantial work has gone towards, and I’m confident that in the next year they’ll be fulfilled.”
What specific campaign promises are you proud of?
“The expansion of the food bank. We now have long-term sustained funding for the program, it’s been expanded to the Vancouver campus, it’s soon to be ready for the Surrey campus, and that was a big thing in my platform. Another thing that I’m proud of is we completely changed the society’s child care policies, so now there’s a lot more funding for students who have children, if they wish to participate in the society as a councillor, as a member of a committee, or as a member of the board of directors.”
When you were elected, you came into a board where the majority of members were from the opposing slate. Did that affect how the board functioned?
“I think definitely at the beginning it did. There were some tensions there. But as the year progressed, we kind of came to see that our areas of agreements and mutual interests certainly outweighed any differences in priorities that we had. I think [. . .] we all really realised that we’re all here for the same reason, which is to make SFU a better place for students, and while we had different ideas about how to exactly go about doing that, it’s also not a zero-sum game.”
How does your experience on this board compare to your experience on the 2013/2014 board as the External Relations Officer?
“I felt this year a lot more engaged with the board itself, simply because I was on campus a lot more and I was doing more of the internal work [. . .] I just felt a lot more cohesion with this board, particularly with the at-large and faculty representatives. You look out at our office, they’ve become really good friends, and there’s a lot of camaraderie there, which is really unique and not something I saw to the same extent in the last board.”
Was there any one moment this year that made you think, ‘This has all been worth it’?
“There’s been a lot of them. It’s been a really great year. But I think my kind of moment [. . .] was this year at the debates when, throughout, people were talking about the BC Open Textbook Program, supporting students from Louis Riel House who have been displaced, issues of transit and student loan interest rates; these are issues that, less than a year ago, weren’t really salient. These were not the big topics of conversation. And for me, to have all of that advocacy work that I’m so passionate about and got involved to do, become this valence issue that everyone gets on board with [is] very exciting.”
Moving forward to this year’s election results, most students elected were members of the REAL slate; however, the student elected to President was the only independent presidential candidate, and someone who has not previously worked on board. Do you think this has any meaning behind it?
“I think that Enoch had a very well-researched platform and he clearly knew what he was talking about, even though he wasn’t a quote-un-quote ‘insider;’ so I think that, my hope anyways, was that it was at least partially the quality of his platform that contributed to his electoral victory. [. . .] I think that the fact that he was an outsider and not as experienced as others was mitigated by the fact that he had such a knowledge of what the priorities for the next year should be.”
How does it feel to be moving on?
“Good. I’m really excited to just be able to take my elected official hat off for a while and focus on some other stuff. But it’s also scary! I’ve been doing this for two years, so it will be a very big change of pace.”
What are you doing this summer?
“I’m hoping to take the summer to learn French — I’ve applied for the Explore program — and then I’m going to be going on to graduate studies in political science. I don’t know where yet; I’m also going to be taking the summer to apply to grad schools. And then I also was accepted into the BC Legislative Internship program, starting in January 2016, so I’ll be in Victoria doing that for six months.”
What advice do you have for the incoming board of directors?
“Always come with your listening ears on, because even if you disagree with someone, everyone has got into this and has taken the time and effort to run for a position because they care. And so, I think listening to those different perspectives and trying to amalgamate them into something better than your own individual position is really valuable, [. . .] that’s why we have 16 people elected and not just one.”