After a year of vacancies, some SFSS board positions might need questioning

The SFSS' board composition should reflect the needs of the board and student body

Photo by Chris Ho/The Peak

Written by: Gabrielle McLaren, Features editor

Spring has sprung. The snow is melting. Flowers are budding. And the SFSS election season is upon us. Personally, I’m disappointed that the excitement of the 2018-2019 year didn’t change the way this election is going to proceed, considering that board members started vanishing from the board. Voting in this election makes me wonder about how useful it is to fill positions that the past year has revealed as non-essential.

For those who missed it, the progressive disappearance of board members started in August 2018, about four months after being elected in April. Former at-large representative Wareez Ola Giwa was removed due to allegations of sexual harassment, leaving Mohammed Ali as the sole at-large rep.

Next was Kailyn Ng, who had been elected as FASS’ faculty representative. Ng resigned from her position on August 24. FASS is SFU’s largest faculty, home to about 10,000 undergraduate students and more registered student unions on SFSS Go than any other faculty. While the online board directory does show this vacancy, no alternative-contact is listed for students.

You may also have forgotten, considering how lowkey the whole thing was and all, that the SFSS has been functioning without a president for around seven months. Vice-president student services Samer Rihani became the de facto president following Jas Randhawa’s impeachment (as per SFSS by-law 4). In an interview with The Peak in October 2018, Rihani said that the board intended to move forward by separating the role of the presidency amongst the board’s executives.

I’m not trying to air the SFSS’ dirty laundry here or give trouble to a board that’s been through a rough year (and is keenly aware of it). As far as I can tell, they’ve done a fair job in recovering from this upheaval, and have still managed to put on events throughout the semester. What I do want to bring into question is the structural integrity of a board which functioned despite three out of 16 positions being empty.

By-law 16 is the one that deals with by-elections, and it specifies that by-elections “may be called” but never have to be unless the board falls below quorum (according to by-law 17). Also worth noting is a limitation that by-elections can only take place “once per year and only in the fall semester.” This would have meant some serious rushing to usher in a new president, but doesn’t explain why Ng and Giwa weren’t replaced.     

So technically, the board didn’t do anything wrong, but this begs into question the board’s composition and design. How necessary is that second at-large member if Ali could hold the fort down while Giwa’s spot remained empty? How useful are faculty reps if the university’s biggest faculty went without theirs for most of the year and an alternative resource-person wasn’t offered to students? Does one person really need to hold the role of president if the work can be divided between all other board members so easily?

I understand that the board’s composition is dictated by the SFSS bylaws and that only Cinderella’s fairy godmother or possibly Albus Dumbledore would be able to change anything overnight. I don’t think it was this year’s board’s responsibility to reimagine the society’s structure overnight, but the 2018-2019 Year of Shenanigans should open up a discussion on what the SFSS should look like to best serve the needs of students. And, not to be that person, but when every position on the SFSS’ board is a position paid for by student dollars, it’s important to ask whether we really need them.