You need to pay attention to the SFSS, even when it’s “boring”

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Photo by Chris Ho / The Peak

Written by: Gabrielle McLaren, Features Editor

If you’ve been anywhere near The Peak, SFU Dank Memes Gang, or any other SFU-related online community, you probably know that the SFSS board of directors has recommended the impeachment President Jas Randhawa. A motion to impeach will be placed on the agenda of the upcoming annual general meeting (September 24), and Randhawa has been very clear that he will not be resigning or otherwise leaving his position as president in any other way, despite the complicated dynamic currently festering within the SFSS.

The news has already made huge waves. Even before The Peak was in any position to responsibly report on the developing situation, a “BREAKING NEWS” post on Facebook garnered eight shares, 21 comments, and over 100 likes. Other posts about the impeachment process and internal conflicts of the SFSS have also been popular, and people have had plenty to say in the comments. So clearly, undergraduate students are interested in this society that they “own.”

Here’s my question though: have you or anybody you know ever gone to an SFSS board meeting? They’re all public, with the exception that parts are just held in-camera for a various reasons. Do you even know how to find where and when board meetings are held? Honestly, I didn’t for a long time, and neither do many SFU students. While I don’t think anybody outside the SFSS knew just how bad a state the board is in, the fact that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns isn’t new.

Take Fall Kickoff, a cancelled event that also got undergrads upset — so much so that an online petition to save the concert was created. The Peak published a story about the cancellation on July 18, but on July 10 a Board Shorts recounting highlights from the SFSS board meetings noted that the SFSS was already struggling to find an appropriate date for the event, and didn’t even motion a budget for it. If students actually kept an eye on the board and its activities and meetings and plans, could they have known that Fall Kickoff was on the line before it was off the table? And isn’t knowing what’s going on on campus the first step of steering it into the direction you want to see it go to?

Another example: if you look at the comments on one of the most recent Facebook posts about the whole impeachment debacle (“Physical assault allegation made against SFSS President”), you’ll see students posting videos taken of members in the SFSS office, including two of the directors roughhousing. That is in no way appropriate workplace behaviour, but in the moment it was okay to be videotaped, and deemed acceptable. Why?

Because nobody gave an apparent, singular fuck about what the SFSS was doing. Nobody dropped by the board office, and nobody was keeping in touch. It’s only now that things have gone all cattywampus and people are watching that these videos are coming up as ammo to fuel one side of the argument, when really, this looks bad on everybody.

A 2011 Maclean’s piece makes a point I quite like: “When it comes to politics, boring is better.” Sure, we’re talking about student government right now, but the principle still holds. And yes, you should still care, even if it’s “just student government,” because according to their operating budget for the 12-month period ending April 19, the SFSS’ total expenditures is $2,692,767. That’s a lot of money — around of $750 from each full-time student if you look at their fees (excluding money they collect on behalf of other on-campus student societies). It goes to super useful things like the U-Pass and the Health and Dental Plan, and I’m not saying that the SFSS has no use or place on campus. But with that much of your money invested into the SFSS, don’t you want to keep tabs on how it’s being used?

Boring means that everything is running smoothly and efficiently. Think of a building when a fire alarm goes off: the noise is loud, everybody is moving, and there’s a lot of excitement and things to look at. But your building is still on fire. Wouldn’t it have been great if you’d kept an eye on it to make sure a four-year-old hadn’t accessed the matches by the door? It’s not quite as exciting, but in the long-run you’ve definitely won this scenario.  

Well, for this board, it’s a bit too late. All the matches have been struck and everything is on fire. It’s good that we’re paying attention now, but it should translate into students showing up at the AGM ready to vote — and to keep their eyes on the SFSS after the impeachment sinks or swims.