LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The Graduate Student Society at SFU is failing its membership

Dear Editor,

In 2007, the graduate students at SFU formally created a new, independent student society to represent themselves and their interests at the university. In response to a number of controversial decisions and actions undertaken on their behalf, and without a true democratic voice in the process purportedly created to represent them, grad students separated from the SFSS, and began a project to ensure that their interests, issues, and goals could be more effectively and democratically represented and pursued. As a result of the hard work of many volunteers and a handful of elected representatives, the GSS was born.

And, for some time, [. . .] the possibility of an organization devoted to advocating on behalf of graduate students’ interests started coming to fruition.

Today, this is no longer the case. With the exception of creating a position to specifically advocate on behalf of graduate students at the university (i.e., in appeals cases, in dealing with supervisory issues, etc.), and mounting a campaign to draw attention to the dismal state of the deteriorating infrastructure at SFU, the GSS has little that it can point to by way of justifying the fees which it collects semesterly from all students enrolled in graduate programs or courses at SFU.

Take the recent and still developing controversy concerning rape allegations on campus, and the response of SFU’s administration. While this situation has received media coverage from a number of different sources, and has elicited responses from both the SFSS and the TSSU, the GSS has remained conspicuously silent. Should graduate students not also be concerned about these allegations, and about the perceived response, or lack thereof, from the university’s administration? 

And yet, no statement, no communication, no apparent interest [. . .] on the part of the organization whose role it is to represent graduate student interests at SFU on this important issue that undoubtedly has repercussions across the university community.

Or, take the slough of recent and upcoming administrative hires that are occurring at SFU. A number of high profile positions have been newly filled, and more are coming. In the midst of these deeply impactful decisions being made at the university, and in spite of having the opportunity to be present and represent graduate student issues in these decisions, there has been virtually no communication, consultation, participation, or representation of graduate students in these processes. 

If the GSS exists to ensure that the issues and interests of graduate students are truly represented at the university, why has the organization been so strikingly absent from these discussions? Why have they not communicated these processes to their membership?

In fact, it seems that the GSS has done little, if anything, of late when perusing its website. Meeting minutes and reports are not made readily available, and seem to go months, even a whole semester, before they’re updated. Their “News & Events” seem mostly comprised of socials, contests, and coupons. No new services, initiatives, or projects have been undertaken in what appears to be years now. It’s little wonder that their AGM this year failed to meet quorum, or that the organization keeps trying to (and has done in the past) lower the required attendance for quorum.

For an organization created to ensure the democratic representation of graduate students in the university community, whose stated existence is to work for and on behalf of the interests and issues of graduate students, into which graduate students pay mandatory fees, there is little evidence of the GSS being much more than an expensive social club populated by resumé-padding “representatives.”


Robert Eaves