Written by Amneet Mann, News Editor
The 2018 annual general meeting (AGM) held by the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) saw significant student turnout, though the number of attendees dropped following the impeachment of former SFSS president Jas Randhawa.
Following the special resolution to impeach Randhawa, the meeting’s agenda involved the receipt of the SFSS’s annual finance report by vice-president finance Matthew Chow, the receipt of the society’s audited financial statements, and an open space for SFSS members to propose discussions.
Chow reported on the student society’s revenues and expenses. In the 2017–18 fiscal year, the SFSS earned $11.3 million in revenue, 96.2% of which was attributed to activity fees and levies applied to students’ tuitions. 49% of those fees were dedicated to services such as the U-Pass and the healthcare plan provided by the SFSS, while 51% of those fees were allocated towards the Build SFU project, which encompasses the Student Union Building (SUB) and the stadium project.
Chow noted that revenues outside of activity fees had fallen 60.5% since the previous fiscal year owing to the surrender of the food and beverage services lease. Total revenues this fiscal year had increased by 1.47%
The society’s expenses totalled $9.2 million, which provided a net surplus of $2.15 million. While total expenses increased by 2.2%, isolating the expenses associated with the food and beverage services lease surrender led to a decrease in expenses by 2.3%.
The society incurred a $1.4 million loss on the food and beverage services, but Chow noted that the lease surrender included a 35% entitlement on the tenant’s annual minimum rent for the next decade, so the current losses were not an accurate reflection of the lease surrender’s impact on the society’s financials.
Due to the new service delivery agreement with Fraser International College (FIC), the SFSS was projecting to add an additional $789,000 to their revenue streams the following fiscal year.
Gary Wozny presented the audited financial statements on behalf of the firm Tompkins Wozny LLP, the society’s auditors. Wozny reported that the society had spent approximately $25 million to date on the BuildSFU project.
The end of the fiscal year saw the SFSS with $38 million in assets and $21.2 million in liabilities.
A SFU student who identified themselves as the president of SFU Autistics United stepped forward to note that, while the club was listed among those who had received accessibility funding from the SFSS, the club had not received any funds form the society.
“We did our work and the committee didn’t do their part,” they stated. “We received zero funding for ASL interpretation that we requested well ahead of time.”
SUB space issues revisited
A significant topic brought forward during the open discussion period was space in the SUB for the organizations that currently occupy the rotunda. The discussion was initiated by representatives from Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry (SOCA) and the First Nations Student Association (FNSA).
FNSA board member Jakob commented on the decrease in attendance following the impeachment: “This room cleared out before we were able to speak, which I think demonstrates the engagement of the student body and their real concerns for us here,” they said. “I hope the SFSS has higher aspirations for the student body, and the ball’s in your court.”
As the president seat is currently unoccupied, vice-president student services Samer Rihani noted that the presidential responsibilities would be distributed among the five vice-presidents present on board. When asked by a student which vice-president would be “responsible for fixing the relationship with your stakeholder groups,” referring to the organizations which currently operate within the rotunda, Rihani responded that the group would act collectively moving forward.
“We’re gonna be trying to make more statements collectively,” he said. “We’re going to try and answer things collectively, work with you guys as whole team rather than one or two of us sending you answers that the whole board can’t agree to.”
A SFU student who identified themselves as an active member of music groups on campus asked whether the dance studio being designed in the SUB would be appropriate for musical groups such as choir and orchestras due to sound levels. They also asked whether storage space would be provided for musical equipment.
Vice-president university relations Jackson Freedman responded that the individual directors were not aware of the restrictions on the usage of the dance studio.
Integration of FIC students discussed
Former FIC students Simran Randhawa and Martha questioned how FIC students were to be integrated into the SFSS following the new service delivery agreement.
Martha noted that FIC students had not been allowed to attend this year’s AGM.
SOCA president Giovanni Hosang asked whether FIC students would be allowed to vote in future SFSS elections. “It’s important that when you’re taking money from students [ . . . ] they have a voice,” spoke Hosang.
Freedman responded that he was not aware of whether the new service delivery agreement enabled FIC students to vote in future SFSS elections.
Concerns raised surrounding accessibility of SFSS
The accessibility of SFSS services and meeting times was discussed during the open space session of the AGM as well.
Gabrielle McLaren, SFU student and features editor for The Peak, raised concerns regarding the closure of Out on Campus for the second time this year and asked the society to consider taking steps in the future to ensure the service would be consistently available for students.
Grace Mathisen, president of SFU’s film student union, raised concerns about the suitability of the Leslie and Gordon Diamond Family Auditorium as the sole location of the AGM. “The fact that there’s 25,000 undergraduate students and this hall can only fit 250, that’s like one percent of the student body to be able to show up,” she said. She proposed that, in the future, the board consider providing students on other campuses with the option to remotely attend these meetings and make comments on the discussions.
A second-year student stepped up to ask whether the SFSS could extend its engagement with the student body beyond Clubs Days and other events to inform students more thoroughly about their student government.
In response, Rihani encouraged students to attend SFSS committee meetings and propose motions and ideas. He noted that, while the SFSS had failed to advertise these options to students, students still had a lot of power when it came to influencing committee decisions. Rihani emphasized students external to the committees could be as involved as committee members in all aspects except for voting.
“A lot of the questions that have been posed to us on the floor so far are questions that we could probably answer in committees,” he said. “What we’re going to try to do is really just reach out to people and invite them to our committee meetings. Sit down with us, hear the ideas, bring proposals to our table.”
Questions regarding by-election
Freedman noted that the SFSS board had not yet made a decision on whether a by-election will be held to replace the vacant positions on the board of directors.
During the open space discussion, a SFU student stepped forward to urge the society to hold a by-election this fall. “We have an opportunity now with all the comments that are coming in right now from these groups here [. . .] to add new perspectives to the board with all that’s happened over the last summer and with all of the changes that are happening to the way the SUB’s being handled,” they noted.
Freedman noted that the society’s first steps following the impeachment of Randhawa was to rebuild their membership’s trust in the SFSS. “I think we’re gonna put together a pretty comprehensive plan to rebuild trust in student government across the board. This kind of process [. . .] it certainly doesn’t look good on any kind of student organization,” he noted.
Meeting delayed by smoke bomb
The meeting, which was originally scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., began nearly two hours later at 2:55 p.m. due to the smoke bomb that was set off minutes before the beginning of registration.
The crowd of students waiting outside Convocation Mall for the beginning of the meeting included members of FNSA who were drumming and students holding signs for both the SOCA and SFPIRG SUB space campaigns. There were also students holding signs protesting against the impeachment of Randhawa.