On January 8, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) held a consultation with students on what the required qualifications should be for the new SFSS executive director (ED).
Present at the meeting was Tony Kirschner, partner of Leaders International Executive Search Firm. Kirschner explained that the hiring board and SFSS board members were not present at the consultation to allow students to speak freely and “without a filter,” and that all the feedback given would be anonymously relayed to the hiring board.
When asked what characteristics the new ED should have, Giovanni Hosang, president of the SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry (SOCA) said they should be honest, transparent, easy to contact, and should be someone “who is not condescending.”
Graduate student Teresa Dettling expressed the importance of taking an anti-racist approach, as opposed to the multicultural framework that the board currently operates under.
“[SFU is] a campus that’s starting to embrace more anti-racism versus multiculturalism [ . . . ] if an individual doesn’t even know what the difference is and doesn’t know what the critiques of multiculturalism are, then they’re going to come to the job with a deficit.”
Elisha Cooper, member of SOCA, said, “the previous person had character flaws that made it really difficult for him to do his jobs effectively . . . we need somebody who is open and sees the importance of engaging marginalized groups on campus.”
Sheldon Bond, a First Nations student noted that currently “there seems to be a general lack of accountability” in the SFSS, which needs to be addressed by the new ED.
“One of the big problems now is that, to be honest, the student society has been getting much more corporate than the university,” Hosang said, adding that he hopes for someone who comes from a student union environment, rather than a corporate background.
To this, Kirschner explained that they are only searching within two different pools of candidates: those coming from a background of student union leadership and others with a non-profit background.
“. . . we need somebody who is open and sees the importance of engaging marginalized groups on campus.” – Elisha Cooper, member of SOCA
SOCA member Flourish Adeogun described her ideal ED as “open-minded and [ . . . ] willing to take in new ideas and to really hear what we as students have to say.”
Adeogun said that the new ED needs to acknowledge the past issues with the SFSS before trying to move forward. “We still feel like we’re not being heard and that the issues that we had in the past are not being addressed,” she said, noting that it is important to not have someone who comes in with a fixed plan of how to solve the problem, but rather an “open agenda.”
Kirschner responded that they believe the candidates who are not willing to fix the current situation will filter themselves out during the hiring process. He said that they are specifically looking for a person who “loves messes.”
Kirschner announced that they will hold an event where the top few ED candidates will deliver a presentation about how they intend to do their job, following which students will have the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback. Various students brought up the fact that this should not be scheduled during a time when many classes take place.
Dettling’s ideal vision of SFU involves “different student groups all working together [ . . . ] a lot can be done for all students at SFU if everyone is working together [ . . . ] if one group is silencing and trying to be dominant, it’s not going to work.”
Similarly, Hosang hopes that the new ED will “consult early and consult often.”