So you got some emails about SFU’s governing bodies, huh?

Time to unpack the committees and boards your SFU Mail has been filled with

Image courtesy of SFU Faculty of Education

By: Gabrielle McLaren, Features editor 

So. The emails you’ve gotten. They’re definitely emails, and you’ve definitely seen them while frantically emailing group members and professors and getting spammed by Canvas… and while you might not have actually opened them, that’s okay, because you’re here now. Those emails were about upcoming votes to elect new students to the SFU Senate, the Board of Governors, and the SFU Community Trust. We’ll talk about what they are, what makes each entity unique, how they impact undergraduates, and what your next step towards being a good involved little student could look like.


SFU Senate

What is this: The SFU Senate is the body responsible for “the academic governance of the University,” according to its website. Their concern is anything at SFU related to learning, teaching, and research. They meet once a month, and their agendas and documentation are readily available online. You can also find some Peak coverage of the senate’s activities online under our “senate” tag.

To give you a more concrete idea of their role, some examples of things the senate has done in the past are: discuss emergency protocols on campus, debate the creation of a School of Environmental Sciences, and work out the logistics of how to distribute bursaries to international students.   

Why do we have this: Not only is SFU Senate governed by the provincial University Act, but this act guarantees their existence as components of the university. The University Act also helpfully outlines the senate’s roles, notably managing convocation and adding names to the convocation list (ergo, giving you your degree). But really, the senate has twenty-four powers listed in the Act, to give you an idea of how exhaustive the Act gets. Some standout features include:

  • Determine admission requirements (academic and other)
  • Forming standing committees that deal with things like the university’s budget, academic discipline appeals, and relations with other colleges and universities in B.C., as well as standing committees to monitor issues as needed.
  • Oversee and recommend changes to education across all faculties
  • Grant degrees, diplomas, and proficiency — including the honorary degrees that we give out to the likes of Jane Goodall and Bill Nye the Science Guy. For whatever reason, degrees and certificates in theology are specifically excluded.
  • Award fellowships, scholarships, bursaries, and prizes to students (so please let me take this opportunity to say thank you).
  • My personal favourite: “to make rules for the management and conduct of the library,” which also extends to the conservation of heritage objects and collections that are in the university’s care.  

And since there’s never a bad time to take a potshot at UBC: shoutout to UBC for having two senates and a council of senates to manage their two senates. You’re right, UBC: Mom loves you more.

Who is part of this: Back to SFU. As with most non-teaching universities (which are seperate), you’ll find the following people on the senate: the chancellor (Anne Giardini), the president (Andrew Petter) who also acts as the chair, the academic vice president (Dr Peter Keller), faculty deans, the chief librarian (surprise, this is a thing — ours is Gwen Bird whose title is actually University Librarian and Dean of Libraries), and the director of continuing education (Dr Julia Denholm is our Dean of Lifelong Learning).

Think of these people as the senate’s core. Add to that a number of faculty members twice as big, which includes at least two elected members from each faculty. For each of these “core members,” you’ll also have an equal amount of students who are members of the SFSS or GSS (again, a seat is guaranteed for at least one student per faculty). For fun, sprinkle in four non-faculty members who are elected by the convocation (which is a separate group of people you can read Part 4 of the University Act to find out more about), and one member elected by the governing body of any college affiliated with the university. In SFU’s case, that would be FIC. The senate can also choose to elect additional members, as long as that doesn’t mess with the previously outlined ratio.

That’s a grand total of 40 people currently in SFU’s senate, which doesn’t account for three vacant positions. Speaking of vacancies: unlike the SFSS, where terms last a year and there are therefore annual board overhauls, Senate terms last either one or three years. Every May 31, some terms expire. SFU students are asked to apply if they want to be on the senate (spoiler alert: if you’re reading this, you’ve missed the deadline), and those of us who don’t want to be on the senate get to elect those who do.

When is this happening: The campaigning period was from February 4-12, so keep your eyes peeled for posters and so on. From February 13-15, you’ll be asked (or are being asked, depending on when you read this) to vote for the next students that will be representing you on the senate. Links will be emailed to students, and these will include instructions on how to vote and links to candidate statements that you can use to make an informed decision.

Eleven candidates are up to be elected by acclamation, which essentially means a yes/no vote, including Russell Dunsford, who has served on the SFSS board of directors as the environmental faculty representative.

Was this helpful? If not, at least I can let you know that according to SFU, “Questions about elections may be directed to Steven Noel, Senate Assistant and Electoral Officer, at 778-782-3168 or email”


Board of Governors

The Board of Governors at SFU is different than the senate, since their goal is the business side of the university. Again, they’re governed by the one, the only, the University Act.

Unless you’re UBC, your board of governors should have 15 members (including the president and chancellor once again). As regulated, there are two students on the Board of Governors: one undergraduate and one graduate level student. One candidate per position has applied, and will be elected by acclamation: Sarah Lord Ferguson (a graduate student in business) and Ali Versi (a FASS undergrad).

Reassuringly, the University Act prescribes that these people “must act in the best interests of the university,” before going into further details. More specifically, they focus on “the management, administration and control of the property, revenue, business and affairs of the university.” This includes setting and collecting fees, but also appointing, removing, and granting tenure to teaching staff.  They meet six times a year, and are not remunerated for their work on the board.


Senate Graduate Studies Committee (SGSC)

Remember those committees the senate forms as needed? Well, here’s one specifically related to developing new graduate programs, maintaining the academic excellence standards set by the senate, and advise the senate on all things grad-school-related.

I would go on about it more, but no nominations were received to fill one of four positions available. You can still go read up on the SGSC online, where meeting minutes and annual reports can be found.


SFU Community Trust

So this one’s fun and a little different, more SFU-centric, and (you might want to sit down for this) does not involve the University Act.

The SFU Community Trust oversees the development of UniverCity, the community neighbouring the Burnaby campus. According to an email sent to the student body as a whole on January 30, “The SFU Community Corporation is governed by an independent Board of Directors that includes SFU stakeholders, faculty and student representatives, as well as external members.  As trustee, that Board sets policy for SFU Community Trust, helping to shape the future of UniverCity.”

Essentially, we’re trying to play nice with the kids next door in a productive, sustainable way. As a bonus, funds from the development of UniverCity have funneled their way back to SFU in the form of the Community Trust Endowment Fund (CTEF), and are now being put to various causes including supporting the Strategic Research Plan which does things like provide research grants and financial support to students.

The main takeaway for this one is that three students are vying for one spot: Christopher Correia, Jasdeep Gill, and John Pickering. So yes: you will have to make a decision, click a button, and vote.