Samer Rihani’s parting thoughts on his time as acting SFSS president

The former vice-president student services reflects on his year with the SFSS

Samer Rihani, Image courtesy of the Simon Fraser Student Society

Written by: Youeal Abera, News Team Member

The Peak: Please introduce yourself, your position within the SFSS, and what your responsibilities were.

Samer Rihani: When I was first elected back in March of 2018, I was elected as the VP for student services. This was kind of to oversee the health and dental plan, services that are available to students [such as the U-Pass], the legal clinic that we provide, and food bank services. As of September 2018, following the presidential impeachment, I took over as the acting president. So, alongside the help of the other VPs, I could of oversaw all of the operations of our directors of the SFSS.

P: Can you list some highlights of your time with the SFSS?

SR: From the beginning of the year, we looked into something called the Reserve Fund, which is an amount of money set aside [ . . . ] any time you need to access it for really expensive medication for life-threatening diseases for specific students, you’ll have a reserve to tap into. We realized that students were putting in too much into the reserve. Our reserve was getting too high and it was unnecessary, so by dropping the prices for students, we saved students over $300,000.00 this year alone.

Just by digging and asking a few simple questions and just looking at the numbers from the audits, you start to realize that there’s really simple changes you can make for students sometimes that makes a big difference at the end of the day.

P: What were some of your biggest challenges in your time with the SFSS?

SR: The infamous thing is we started with 16 members and now we’re at 13 members. We started the year out with everyone filling their roles. Kailyn Ng  was our FASS rep, and she left to go to a different school. Of course, in September we had our notorious impeachment. So, you get to this point now where you’ve never seen anything like this before. The only thing that was pretty similar was in 2006 when the entire executive team of the SFSS got impeached. We kind of had to pick up for things we never really signed up for, but you can’t complain about that. You sign up for a role in the SFSS, you can’t be expected to just do your 9-5 and then go home. There is no hours, no bare minimum for what you can do. You have to pick up some of the slack for other people, and you got to check in.

Ever since I took the acting presidency, my job was less about hunting down everyone to make sure they’re doing their work, but job was more like, “Hey, we’ve had a pretty crazy year. How have you been doing with your mental health? What’s your headspace like? Is there anything I could help you with?” I had to pick up a really interesting leadership role that I never would have seen myself doing.

P: What would you like to see the new SFSS Board or President do within the coming year?

SR: I want to see the new president, specifically, give room for his team to flourish. Often times, what happens is that the president comes in and has trouble asking for help, giving a hand off to his team. What happens is board members who get elected are elected for some reason. People just don’t elect you because of posters. Essentially, what I always tell people is that your job as president is to do the least, because that means your team is functioning and doing their best.

I think one of the problems that we faced specifically this year with our president was that there was a little involvement in things that didn’t need involvement. That became problematic. Jas Randhawa [former SFSS president], for example, had really good intent. He was a hardworking guy, but I would say in the wrong categories. So, if there’s one thing I ask, it’s that a president needs to know that their team is stronger than they are. I want to see a board that’s unified.

With Giovanni [HoSang] coming in now [as the new SFSS president], it’s going to be really interesting perspective. I think, in a way, this is kind of needed. We have an activist in the role of SFSS president, which is something we’ve never really seen. I think, frankly, he can bring a lot of good to the society. However, people need to put aside biases and conflicts. You don’t have to be best friends with everybody on the board, but you should put the work in the students first before any kind of bias or conflict.