SFSS How-To Afterword: Stay Connected

If you aren’t returning to the Board for another term, you can — and should — do what you can to stay involved and help out

Written by Corbett Gildersleve, Alumnus

Each board makes a number of big and small decisions throughout the year. Each of these decisions often have unintended consequences. Sometimes they’re pretty small, but often the next board has to spend considerable time fixing the mistakes of the past. It would be really good if current board members “stuck around” to help clean up their messes, regardless of if they lost the re-election or decided not to run again.

Why should you still be involved, even if you’re not making the decisions? Because as soon-to-be ex-board members, you have the knowledge and experience to help the next board find solutions to lingering issues and navigate their execution. You can provide the rationale behind your past decisions, direct the new board to look at relevant data (if it exists), and provide additional perspectives.

You don’t need a title to have an ethical duty of care where it concerns your successors and your school. That doesn’t end just because you graduate; you’re now an alumnus of the society and a stakeholder in its well-being.

For those not graduating, there are multiple ways in which you can help out. You could sit on Council as a student union representative. You could serve as an At-Large student on six committees: Accessibility, Advocacy, Events, Strategic Engagement, and if you’re taking classes outside of Burnaby, the Surrey and/or Vancouver Campus committees.

But, if you’d rather make space for other students, then mentoring board and/or council members would not be a bad idea. What would that look like? As mentioned earlier, providing insight into past decisions, directing new members to relevant people and information, and pitching ideas on things you couldn’t get done in your year, or new things you come across.

In the last two years, I suggested board members look at applying grants to help fund some of our existing programs, look at converting the Food and Beverage Services into a social enterprise, look at applying Imagine Canada’s non-profit transparency guidelines, and research Participatory Budgeting. Some ideas were looked into, others were not — and that’s OK! Not every idea is feasible, but it’s better to pitch something than not.

Frankly, the SFSS needs a board of advisors that includes past board members who have stayed involved with the nonprofit sector so they can help orient, advise, and mentor the main board. This one-and-done cycle we’re on helps no one.

Now, I understand that not all board members can do this. In some cases, an ex-board member is just too burned out, or their mental and/or physical health has declined significantly. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, and/or substance abuse, are not always uncommon results of serving on the SFSS board.

I myself developed horrible anxiety and insomnia during my year and it took at least another year to “get my head right.” It got so bad at one point that I had to sleep with the lights on because the shadows would cause frightening hallucinations. I never sought help for that. I just tried to “power through it.”

So, if you just can’t be involved, I understand. But, those that can lend a hand and choose not to do so? When there are many safe and healthy ways to stay involved and help out? They’re cowards, and not leaders. The SFSS needs leaders, now more than ever.