SFSS Non-Executive Debate emphasises student engagement

Many of the seats for Faculty Representative positions are going uncontested this year.

“The SFSS, although a wonderful organisation, has failed to do its job in connecting with students,” said Alam Khehra, a candidate for the position of At-Large Representative. Throughout the first debate in this year’s election for the SFSS Board of Directors, many candidates also stressed the need to engage students and suggested their own ideas for how to do so.

The position of At-Large Representative is currently the most competitive of the entire SFSS election, with five candidates running for two positions. When asked about their feelings on it by current VP Student Services Darwin Binesh, all five candidates notably supported the Build SFU project. Binesh himself called it the “biggest project in the student society’s history.”

From Left to Right: Jaggy Kullar, Alam Khehra, Mudiwa BK Bwakura. Paul Hans, Moein Sharifi Moghaddam

Candidates differed on what their main focus would be as an At-Large Representative. While candidates Jaggy Kullar and Alam Khehra stressed the need to listen with and engage with Departmental Student Unions (DSUs), Paul Hans argued that this might be impractical considering there are 73 DSUs [The Peak was only able to account for 53]. Candidate Moein Sharifi Moghaddam explained his main focus would be increasing awareness about the services already offered to students, supporting the women’s centre, and establishing a men’s centre, a controversial proposal that has been debated on campus for several years

Khehra questioned Hans on the promises he made when he ran for senator, such as increasing student engagement and decreasing the commuting time from Surrey. Said Hans, “If you just look at the election, sure, engagement has gone down,” adding that he did not call for reducing commuting time but instead advocating for transit services, which he argues he did by addressing pass-ups with the 145.

Alan Lee, a candidate for Applied Science Representative, asked competitor Prashant Verma about concerns that Surrey students were left out of the process out of the process of approving Build SFU. Verma argued that while there was a need for greater engagement with Surrey and Vancouver students, Surrey students will benefit from the project still and the project will make the university more competitive with other universities.

Arts and Social Sciences Representative (FASS) candidate Blossom Malhan asked rival Erwin Kwok how he would increase voter turnout in the FASS, given the importance of getting enough voters to pass the two referendum questions. Kwok said he would use social media, approaching students in-person, and liaising with DSUs, noting his own time with Criminology student association. Kwok shot back with a question of his own about Malhan’s absences when she was appointed to the Events Committee. Malhan replied that she withdrew from the committee because she didn’t have enough time: “I didn’t want to do something where I knew I couldn’t be there and it would be just for show.” 

Blossom Malhan (Left) and Erwin Kwok (Right).
Blossom Malhan (Left) and Erwin Kwok (Right).

Jimmy Dhesa, a candidate for Science Representative, questioned his fellow candidate Tomas Rapaport about his success as a third year representative on the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS). Said Dhesa, “Since your term in the position the involvement of science students has decreased. [. . .] Since you were unable to complete the fundamental and simple role of your position, how can students trust you to take on many other roles as a science representative?”

Jimmy Dhesa (Left) and Tomas Rapaport (Right).

Rapaport called the premise of the question “false” and argued that he has increased participation in the SUS, citing 16 candidates running for 11 positions when there were six candidates the year before. Dhesa said that while there was an increase, it was “not significant enough.”

All other Faculty representative positions had candidates running unopposed, except for the Environment representative, for which no one is running. Notable highlights from uncontested seats include Education Representative candidate John Ragone speaking to his wish to create a faculty student union for Education instead of the current departmental student union, considering that Education is a faculty, not a department.

Health Sciences Representative Candidate Raajan Garcha, said that she would divert funds from “unnecessary funds” to create more faculty scholarships, increase social events for Health Science students, and named mental health as a particular concern for her.