So how does the SFSS work anyways?

You’ve seen them in the news, but you might not understand their acronyms or structure

Image courtesy of SecurityRoundtable.org

By: Gabrielle McLaren, Features editor

When you open the SFSS’s website, their “about” page seems pretty straightforward: “The Simon Fraser Student Society is a student-led organization that represents and advocates for the interests of the 25,000+ undergraduate students at SFU. As an undergraduate student, YOU are a member of the SFSS and benefit from all the services and opportunities we offer.”

Great. But what does this actually mean and how does the SFSS do this? Since the society has been in the news recently, and since chances are (if you’re reading this) that you are, after all, one of the society’s owners, it’s worth taking the time to actually understand the SFSS.

The first thing you need to know is that the SFSS is a Society, according to the BC Societies Act. They’re governed by a constitution, which you can find online, that acts as their compass. Let’s have a look at the SFSS’s more specific composition and at some terminology you’ll often seen thrown around in relation to the SFSS.

 

The board of directors

Online, capitalized baby-blue letters yell at you that “THE BOARD [sic] OR DIRECTORS ENSURES THAT THE DIVERSE VIEWS OF THE STUDENT POPULATION ARE REPRESENTED.”

The SFSS’s governance system is called the Policy Governance Model or the Carver System. According to its website, “The model enables the board to focus on the larger issues, to delegate with clarity, to control management’s job without meddling, to rigorously evaluate the accomplishment of the organization; to truly lead its organization. In contrast to the approaches typically used by boards, Policy Governance separates issues of organizational purpose (ENDS) from all other organizational issues (MEANS), placing primary importance on those Ends.”

Every spring, the student body elects 16 directors. These 16 students head the SFSS and help to shape and direct the society. According to the board of directors’ webpage, “Each Director has the responsibility to make decisions in the best interests of all SFU students, and also will take lead on many school-wide projects and events.”

You can further break down the board into six executive officers, eight faculty representatives, whose responsibilities are all outlined in SFSS by-law 4, and two at-Large undergraduate students. According to by-law 5, all of them are expected to be registered at SFU for at least two terms during their tenure, and they receive a stipend for their work. All positions on the SFSS board are paid positions, as noted on the SFSS’s website, but the exact stipend for each director is not publicly posted online.  

 

President (currently: Jas Randhawa)

Job: Represent the society on all formal occasions, convene board meetings, be a voting member on all SFSS boards and committees, liaison between the board and its employees, ensure that all policies, collective agreements, and employment contracts are being adhered to, and do whatever else has to be done to keep things running.

 

Vice-president student services (currently: Samer Rihani)

Job: Organize activities and events for the SFSS’s membership, coordinate services for SFU students, compile the annual report of the board of directors for the AGM, take on any other duties delegated to them by the board, take on the SFSS presidency should he resign, be impeached, or abandon office.

 

Vice-president external relations (currently: Jasdeep Gill)

Job: Act as a liaison between the board and other student unions and societies, represent the society in events (such as conferences) outside the university community, and keep the board informed of any events, plans, or actions that external organisations might have that could affect the society or its members.

 

Vice-president student life (currently: Tawanda Masawi)

Job: Act as a liaison between the SFSS’s board or council and other student groups on campus, oversee the activities of faculty and departmental student unions, and liaison between them and the board.

 

Vice-president finance (currently: Matthew Chow)

Job: Keep track of the money received and distributed by the society, respect all by-laws and regulations related to funds, ensure that funds are properly deposited, deliver a report of the society’s financial affairs at the board’s request and one for the annual general meeting,  Gabriand coordinate the society’s budget and its legal and commercial affairs.

 

Vice-president university relations (currently: Jackson Freedman)

Job: Liaison between the board and the university, organize student representation on all university committees, community affairs, and activities.

Faculty representatives:

Job: Act as a bridge and spokesperson between board and the students and student groups of the faculty that they represent. When voting on board, they must give special attention to students of their faculty but vote in the best interests of the student body as a whole.

At-large representatives (currently: Mohammed Ali, other seat is vacant)

Job: No job description is provided on the SFSS’ board of directors’ members page.

The powers, duties and obligations of the board as a whole are all outlined in by-law 6, if you’re interested in more.

 

Staff

The SFSS is powered by a diverse staff of workers who put in all the administrative and coordinative work to make the society run. They cover everything from finance to communications to member services, and the Copy Centre. You can consult the full list of staff online, but here are a few you might hear about in the news or touch bases with on a more routine basis.

  • Chief Executive Officer (currently: Martin Wyant)

There is no job description provided for the CEO on the profile you can find on the SFSS’s website. According to the Board Candidate Orientation Manual, the SFSS’s activities can be divided into governance (deciding what the SFSS will do and how it will do it, which the board does) and operations (actually getting that done, which the staff takes care of).

The CEO oversees the board’s operations. He is in this way the society’s manager. The CEO is responsible for establishing board-established goals and accountable for their enactment. According to the manual, “With a strong Chief Executive Officer, the Board can expect the delivery of regular, timely, and quality reports on the performance of staff, as well as Society finances, projects, and programs.”

Every year, the CEO is evaluated by the president and two other board members to examine job performance and recommend his salary. According to the principles of the Carver system, “Furthermore, boards that decide to utilize a CEO function are able to hold this one position exclusively accountable.”

  • Build SFU general manager (currently: Marc Fontaine)

You know that ongoing construction project going on outside Maggie Benston Centre? Yeah, Marc Fontaine is the one supervising the construction of the Student Union Building. According to his Linkedin, he oversaw the initial consultation of SFSS membership to design the SUB, managed its creation from within the SFSS, and was essentially the head honcho of the whole thing.

  • Out on Campus coordinator (currently: Dani McNeil-Willmott)

Dani is responsible for Out on Campus, SFU’s Pride centre. They’re responsible for creating a safe space on campus for members of the LGBTQ+ community. They have previous experience working at the Cape Breton University Pride and Ally Centre, facilitating talks with medical professionals about queer and trans health, among other things.  

  • Women’s Centre coordinator (currently: Paola Quiros)

The Women’s Centre coordinator, like the OOC coordinator, is responsible for keeping the centre up-and-running and responding to members’ needs. In Paola’s case, that’s all self-identified women on campus. This includes supporting students in distress, referring everyone to appropriate support services, makng sure that snacks and other free resources are available, and helping other branches of SFU support their students to the best of their abilities.

 

SFSS Glossary

  • Abandonment (of a position) : According to by-law 17, a member of the board or the student council (see Glossary) is deemed to have abandoned their position if they are absent from two consecutive meetings without being authorized to do so by the board or council. Their position becomes vacant and must be filled in a by-election.
  • Annual general meeting (AGM): A meeting that must be held before October 31 every fall term for all members of the SFSS. All members are eligible to vote at the AGM on business proposed by the board (for example: amendments to the SFSS’s constitution or to any by-laws). This is where the annual report of the board, the vice-president finance’s report, and the auditor’s report will be received. For more information, see by-law 11. The next AGM will be on September 24 at 1 p.m. at the Leslie & Gordon Diamond Family Auditorium.
  • Auditor: Person who can access all documents and property from the society, board, employees, and members to audit the SFSS’ fiscal year and report their findings at the AGM. Think of them as the society’s outsider financial watchdog. They are appointed at every AGM.   
  • By-election : An election called by the board to fill a vacant position. These can only be held once a year, in the fall (unless enough positions are vacant to affect quorum). They are also run according to their own set of election procedures.
  • Constituency group: According to the SFSS’s website: “Elected, student-run bodies that represent undergraduate students that share an experience of oppression, systematic discrimination and/or barriers.” They are each represented at the student council by a councillor. Examples include the First Nations Student Association, Students United for Disability Support, or the Women’s Centre Collective.  
  • Council (also known as ‘Student Council’ or ‘SFSS Council’): Council is a group of students who meet at least once per semester. According to by-law 8, they are “the primary medium for discussion of: a) Issues of importance to members in different faculties, departments, or schools at the University. b) Advocacy and other such matters of general interest to members of the Society.” You can think of the council as the SFSS’s ears and eyes within the student body, who help them figure out what their membership wants and needs. The councillors you’ll find in student council are representatives from constituency groups, faculty/departmental student union representatives, and honourary members of the council (including SFSS directors) who may speak and attend meetings but who cannot vote and whose presence does not go towards quorum.
  • Department student union: As detailed in by-law 10, groups who “represent undergraduate students within the University Departments.” They must meet regularly and have a written constitution and by-laws approved by the council.  
  • Faculty student union: According to by-law 9: a group of students whose goal it is to represent undergraduate students within a faculty. They are overseen by the board of directors.
  • Member in good standing of the Society/of the SFSS: According to by-law 1, “a person who satisfies the requirements of by-law 2 and has paid all fees, fines and penalties levied in accordance with these By-Laws or the Society’s regulations.”
  • Resignation: According to by-law 17, a resignation is one way that a position on the board or the council can become vacant. A member of the board or the council is also considered to have resigned if they cease to be a member in good standing of the SFSS.
  • Special general meeting: Similar to AGMs, but they are only held if a petition signed by at least 5% of the board’s membership is presented to the president or if two thirds of the board or the council agree to it.