“Impactful, open, compassionate”: Giovanni HoSang’s vision for his SFSS presidency

This summer, Giovanni HoSang has a lot to look forward to and a long to-do list.

Image courtesy of Chris Ho

By: Gabrielle McLaren, Editor-in-Chief

Fast Facts

Name: Giovanni HoSang

Pronouns: He / him / his

Departmental affiliation: Computing science, fourth year

Hometown: Spanish Town, Jamaica

Hobbies: Cricket, dancing  (specifically to Jamaican music), keeping up with politics, and being active in the Black community

Fun Fact: HoSang was a semi-professional cricket player in high school. During his last year of high school, he guided his team to their first schoolboy title. Lighting up at the memory, HoSang dug up articles and videos online to show off “my first headline” and reminisce.

When asked for a fun fact about himself, Giovanni HoSang completely blanked, saying: “I’m an open book, people know everything.” It took some time to get to the cricket.

The SFSS’s new president has been a very visible individual on campus. In fact, HoSang identified rising activism and the “level of comfort in challenging the status quo” as his favourite parts about SFU’s student body. HoSang himself has been both the president of the Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry and a vocal member of the SFU Tuition Freeze Now campaign.

In these roles, HoSang has criticized the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) in the past. Last March, HoSang announced his bid for the society’s presidency and was elected by a landslide.

“I realised that the student society was disconnected from the student body,” HoSang said frankly. He pointed to the politics currently surrounding higher education and students to explain why students and their student societies need to be in synch with one another now more than ever. In particular, HoSang discussed the Ford government’s recent budgetary cuts to postsecondary education in Ontario and the sweep of conservatism across Canada.

“We have to make sure we have a strong student society that is connected to the student body.”

For HoSang, advocacy is at the core of student unions’ existences. When asked what three words HoSang hoped would describe his presidency in particular, he settled on impactful, open, and compassionate.

“The student society has lost its mandate of fighting for students and advocating heavily for students,” HoSang went on. “It feels more service-oriented. And one of the big reasons for me to run was to actually bring back that advocacy and activism to the student society.

HoSang believes that the amount of leadership experience he has on and off campus has prepared him for a board position. What attracted him to the president’s position specifically is the president’s role in shaping the board. “I’m focused on building relationships,” HoSang states.

For HoSang, these relationships are both on and off the board. He’s excited to work with a board that includes 12 other new members. “It’s a good opportunity to have new perspectives on the board which we have not seen in a while,” HoSang said.

HoSang also hopes to improve the relationship that the board has with students, and identified relationship-building as his main focus for the month of May.  He plans to use social media to keep open lines of communication with students and to push for transparency on the board. He voiced his disapproval of a recent board decision to reverse a policy designed to keep track of how individual board members voted. He also spoke of promoting board meetings to students online to boost attendance and of strengthening the SFSS’ relationship with campus media such as CJSF and The Peak.

“Once you know what’s going on, you’ll stay more connected,” HoSang said.

However, HoSang is also concerned by the SFSS’s relationship with other student groups and independent student societies on campus, which he characterized as painful.

“A wealth of institutional relationships have been hurt over the last few years, and I intend to rebuild those relationships to bring them back to where [sic] it used to be [ . . . ] That’s through dialogue and conversation.”

HoSang later emphasized how other groups on campus were an asset to the community and further spoke on the importance of strong positive relationships between student groups.

“The SFSS can’t do everything, so we need to be empowering groups on campus who are also student groups. We have had a habit over the last three years to be characterizing those groups as external groups and in a sense we share the same approach [ . . . ] It’s important that we are in collaboration with these groups.”  

He names Embark Sustainability, campus radio CJSF, the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG), and The Peak Publication Society, though he also intends to reach out to constituency groups and clubs as well.

From June to August, he will then be on co-op, working for Microsoft. He says that he will be working for the SFSS remotely.

Among his many ideas and projects, and one of his main goals is building up a movement for tuition affordability before Fall. HoSang plans on setting up an affordability working group, which he says would mirror the one currently being assembled the Graduate Student Society and would be interested in working with them in the future to “push the notion that students’ affordability should be prioritized when budgetary allocations are made by SFU.”

HoSang also hopes to reach out to Fraser International College (FIC) students over the course of his presidency to “give them a home” in the SFSS — namely by advocating for them to receive voting rights within the society.

HoSang also hopes to improve the SFSS’s advocacy or events which he identified as the weak links of his three-pronged approach of: services, advocacy, and events.

“Those are what drive the engagement of students.”   

As for his past endeavors: HoSang says he will remain a member of SOCA, which has just elected Afia Poku as their new president, laughingly noting that he will always be a member of the Black community on campus.

He also plans on staying involved with SFU Tuition Freeze Now, which will remain independent from the SFSS, though the society has endorsed it. HoSang also projects that the movement will grow as sister branches crop up across Canada to “build a Canada-wide movement.”

Ultimately, what excites HoSang the most about his presidency is the impact that the SFSS can have on the student body. To him, this goes hand in hand with “seeing a board that fights for students,” which he thinks will shift the perspective that most students have on the SFSS.