The Peak’s 2018 SFSS candidate endorsements

Correction, 03/14/2018: Business Representative candidate Raunaq Singh was originally erroneously listed as an independent candidate. He is a member of the Shift SFU slate. 

Disclaimer: The opinions reflected in this article do not necessarily reflect stances held by The Peak Publications Society as an institution. These endorsements are based on input from various members of The Peak’s editorial staff. Individual endorsements and perspectives offered by each participating staff member on each contended SFSS position have been compiled, edited, synthesized, and summarized by The Peak’s Opinions Editor.

The Simon Fraser Student Society Board of Directors’ elections of 2018 have officially descended upon us, and there are close to 40 candidates in the contention. It’s more important than ever for you to exercise your power to help decide which students end up shaping — or not shaping — your SFU career.

As some of those who follow the annual elections most closely, we offer our endorsements of the candidates, and establish who we support or don’t support in each seat on the Board. That being said, there’s no pressure to take the endorsements as dogma. Do your own research as well; build your own opinions.

PRESIDENT — DISENDORSE Amar Singh and Jaskarn Randhawa

We just couldn’t do it.

It’s not as if they were both horrific or anything like that.

For instance, Jakarn Randhawa’s emphasis on continuity of long-term SFSS projects is fresh and relevant — also, he has prior SFSS experience. Amar Singh, interestingly, speaks to the need to help SFU students succeed after being SFU students.

But they just weren’t . . . great.

Singh’s platform sounds inspiring, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard from previous candidates in previous SFSS elections. Basically: same tea, different cups. Plus, perhaps instead of focusing on “SFSS brand awareness” among students, the SFSS could just . . . do better work, and then their brand would legitimize itself. Your job is to help students, not to be popular.

Randhawa’s platform has more clear and actionable steps — but not that many more. He mentions “enhancing community” among the three campuses, but only elaborates on Burnaby and Surrey, not Vancouver. Beyond that, his platform chained too many buzzword-y campus issues together without elaborating on them. How will you “[expand] mental health services”? How will you “[expand] student involvement on campus”?

Also, both support the SFU gondola, which — well. Yikes. Aside from the logistical nightmares of relying on it for transport rather than buses, and the horrific expenditure it would be, SFU itself has not really spoken conclusively on it lately. Given that, who knows if their preferred strategy for implementing it is at all realistic or worth the cost?

Sorry, boys, but you’ll need to do more to convince us. To quote one of our staff members: “As always, I refuse to ever pick between two mediocre men.”

Vice-president external relations — ENDORSE Jasdeep Gill

Jasdeep Gill’s plans to work toward making affordable student housing more accessible are ambitious enough to be admirable and concrete enough to feel like a tangible hope. Her zeal for linking up with other universities is notable, and her concerns about preserving and fostering Indigeneity at SFU also does her credit. While her platform does read like it was written in a rush, which might say something about the candidate’s professional attention to detail, Gill appears to be the stronger candidate.

Livleen Sidhu appears well-intentioned, but a lot of her stated plans feel suspect. Making sexual violence prevention workshops mandatory for all students comes from a positive place, but is that the best way to address sexual violence at SFU?

There’s nothing wrong with prevention workshops. But the idea that we can solve sexual violence by making everyone go to workshops reinforces the myth that sexual violence in schools is something that only happens because student sexual predators don’t know what they’re doing. This is a dangerous myth to perpetuate. Furthermore, Sidhu completely glosses over SFU’s already-existing Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office in her platform.

Vice-president finance — ENDORSE Matthew Chow

Transparency in SFSS finances is such an ideal we’re thirsting after, and Chow’s plans to focus on using digital platforms and resources to realize that ideal are the sort of thing many students have wanted for a long time. We live in a world and time where not having that financial information readily available online through a user-friendly system is downright bizarre. I’m also happy to see Chow take an interest in investigating how SFSS-distributed money is spent and whether or not each disbursement made is ethical.

Vikramaditya Chandhok makes some missteps in his platform and approach. He says he wants to work toward getting more study spaces in SFU Surrey, but check your facts: that’s a project Hangue Kim has already worked on with the university administration. It’s also cool to see him looking to get a Student Union Building at Surrey, I guess, except — where’s the funding for that supposed to come from? More levies on students who won’t stay long enough to use the building? Then again, we will give Chandhok one saving grace: he’s right about the room booking process for student groups needing to be fixed.

Vice-president student life — ENDORSE Reza Mardan-Dezfouli

Mardan-Dezfouli has quite a thorough platform. We like the idea of more “meet the board”-type events, and of innovating a new platform for the SFSS to engage with departmental student unions. It’s especially nice to see a student life candidate who focuses so strongly on aspects of student life that go beyond the bread and circuses. For instance, he talks about socials that actually help people advance themselves academically and professionally while still being enjoyable, with potential guest speakers and opportunities to network with useful contacts. He also discusses how sexual violence prevention ties into the student life role.

We were not so impressed with Sarosha Ali or Tawanda Masawi, unfortunately. Ali advocates for some big things, but ultimately she fails to distinguish herself from the long succession of past student life candidates and her plans of action seem vague at best.

As for Masawi, his platform felt overly brief. It’s also unclear what the big deal is about “bridging the gap between athletes and students,” and there’s a confusing assertion that “Students as a whole also have a role to play in contributing to the student athletes[’] success at SFU. Ultimately the two are dependent on each other.” Does someone who doesn’t participate in athletics depend on student athletes? It’s good that SFU provides athletic opportunities to people who want to take them — but it’s not apparent that it affects those students who don’t play sports, or how students owe student athletes things.

Vice-president student services — ENDORSE Samer Rihani

This was a tough call, but Rihani’s platform is solid and full of actual action plans. His club matchmaker idea sounds lovely, and he’s another candidate who’s pushing for fixing the many issues with the current room booking process and the deeper issue of student groups not having enough space. He’s also one of those who has solid, visible data propping up their platform.

This isn’t to call Simran Sanghera a bad candidate, though. Her inclination toward extending the U-Pass is a must, so having someone to fight against the possibility of price increase would be exceptional. Getting a Women’s Centre established at every SFU campus would be a further coup. We did wonder at the feasibility of some of her proposals from a budgetary perspective, though. Ultimately, we liked both of these candidates; Rihani was just a hair or so in the lead.

Vice-president university relations — ENDORSE Jackson Freedman

As a returning candidate from this year’s Board of Directors (serving as the Arts and Social Sciences’ rep), and one who’s done quite good work over the past year, Freedman seems like an excellent choice for the university relations role. His plans to incorporate new infrastructure into the school to aid in sexual violence prevention (CCTV cameras, better lighting, etc.) are certainly needed, and his mental health focus is also great to see — especially since it doesn’t feel like it was just randomly tossed into his platform. We should also note that Freedman’s performance in the recent SFU Senate election was impeccable, with an incredibly high number of votes.

That said, Colin Fowler is not bad: he’s also spoken to the importance of mental health issues, he’s been one of the only candidates to note the sheer volume of issues with building safety on campus, and he has specific things about SFU Athletics to improve. He’s also got more hard numbers readily available. However, his platform and past experience just didn’t feel as strong or comprehensive as Freedman’s.


Applied sciences representative — ENDORSE Fuyu Li

Of the candidates, Li seems to be the most qualified. Her spread of working and volunteer experiences is quite expansive, both within SFU and outside it. Many of her goals, such as mentorship programs for first-years and improving the not-always-great course availability in applied sciences, seem like great ideas for her faculty, though her goal of increasing available bursaries from $3,000 to $35,000 appears to be something of an overreach.

Kia Mirsalehi has some good ideas for Surrey, but his platform seems to be a little too vague and not particularly new — such as his descriptions of the goals “more events” and “transparency.”

Arts and social sciences representative — ENDORSE Ali Versi

This was a very tough call for us — we liked all of these candidates quite evenly. Ultimately, we chose Versi over Mehak Kalra and Kailyn Ng. His platform includes good points about weather-based campus closures and improving enrolment, and his tiers of experience — the Political Science Student Union, non-governmental organizations, political groups — will serve him well.

That said, Kalra and Ng both did very well. They have some really great ideas for what they want to accomplish for FASS, and Ng too has an extensive portfolio of SFU community involvement. Conversely, a big weakness of Versi is that many of his goals seem more about the student body as a whole than about things that arts and social sciences students specifically need.

Business representative — ENDORSE Jessica Nguyen

Nguyen has a variety of strengths that led us to choose her over the other candidate, Raunaq Singh. She’s clearly very involved with her faculty, and importantly, has been so for quite a while — she has a level of connection that will ensure she knows what’s best for business. Her platform also simply reads much more professionally and practically.

We weren’t big on Singh, though his platform does have some good and concrete ideas. Pushing to change how the curve on business classes works sounds interesting, and he agrees with Nguyen (as well as countless other candidates) that we need to fix the room booking process.

Health sciences representative — ABSTAIN

One candidate, Yasmin Khalili, has written for The Peak in the recent past. In the interests of avoiding any possible bias in our recommendations, we have elected to abstain from releasing an endorsement for this position.

Education representative — ENDORSE Leila Amouzandeh

Cameron Nakatsu makes some good points, but Amouzandeh seems to be more knowledgeable and up-to-date on exactly what is going on within the education faculty. She intends to improve and promote the existing opportunities, making the most of the resources that are already there, instead of trying to bring in superfluous new programs. Furthermore, while division between campuses is a general SFU issue, Amouzandeh is right to point out how it especially affects the relations between education students.

Communication, arts, and technology representative — ENDORSE Amrita Mohar (uncontested)

Amrita Mohar is running unopposed, which isn’t ideal, but she seems qualified enough for the job that we’re happy to endorse her. She has experience in student groups (VP events coordinator for Communications Student Union and program coordinator for Young Women in Business), and she has very clear demographics (first-years, students with disabilities) whom she wants to prioritize and focus on.

Environment representative — ENDORSE Russell Dunsford (uncontested)

Like Mohar, Dunsford is running unopposed, but even then he’s a legitimately worthwhile candidate. Bringing in more bottle refill points and water fountains to stay environmentally friendly is a good call, and at the same time, he also makes a good point in his Peak candidate profile: environmental work is important, but as faculty of environment students, the priority should be making the academic experience what it needs to be so that students are better equipped to do that important work after graduation.

Sciences representative — ENDORSE Natasha Birdi

Birdi definitely won out over Prince Cheema for us; she outdoes him for past experience, she’s been part of the faculty for years more, her platform is much more polished (not to mention it follows the Independent Electoral Commissioner’s parameters), and she clearly cares about helping and elevating DSUs. Pushing for a remodel of the SFSS calendar to include their events and coming up with ways to make it more available is also a big plus.

At-large representatives (2) — ENDORSE David Evans and Mohammed Ali

Of the five at-large representatives, it was a close run, but we chose David Evans and Mohammed Ali. Ali’s stated goals reflect that he has been keeping up with the current issues affecting SFU students (for example: Kinder Morgan; needs-based grants; social, financial, and health support for students) and they do so without being generic. Evans seems very tuned in to campus life, and he has a strong focus on consulting others for ideas.

That said, special mention to Arman Mohseni, who’s bringing to light issues that are less talked about but continually affect SFU students (percentages on transcripts, more study time before final exams, limited parking permits). He’s put independent effort into thinking through his platform and is bringing in authentic initiatives.