By: Winona Young, Staff Writer
On Thursday, May 16, SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry (SOCA) delivered a presentation to the SFSS Board proposing that SOCA receive status as a tier 2 constituency group.
According to the SFSS, any SFU group that are “student-run bodies that represent undergraduate students that share an experience of oppression, systemic discrimination and/or barriers” are constituency groups. There are three tiers of constituency groups with corresponding benefits.
For context, Students United for Disability Support (SUDS) are comparable in tier 2 status, since they are recognized within the Student Union Resource Office. The First Nations Student Association (FNSA) and Out on Campus (OOC) are tier 3 as they are a “collective.”
If recognized as a tier 2 constituency, SOCA would receive a seat and vote on SFSS Council, and funding from the Student Union Resource Office. The group’s governance and administration would need to match that of other departmental and faculty student unions, such as SUDS.
The presentation was led by SOCA member Balqees Jama and vice president Sebastian Baretto. The half-hour presentation began with the pair explaining what SOCA does, what they’ve accomplished, as well as incidents of racism Black students have faced at SFU.
With issues of complaints being met with ambivalence and a sense of alienation among the Black community of SFU, Baretto emphasised the necessity of SOCA.
“SOCA acting as a cultural hub allows student experiences to be proliferated,” said Baretto. “ It shows Black students and our allies [ . . . ] that there is a place that can be afforded to you.”
Later in the presentation, Jama discussed why tier 2 constituency would be important to SOCA, particularly in terms of funding.
“It means increased funding, so up to $300 [ . . .] that would be incredible, because so much of SOCA’s funds come from our personal pockets,” she said.
In a follow-up email with The Peak, Baretto further elaborated on how tier 2 status would help SOCA.
“Tier 2 constituency status would allocate better funding to be used for social advocacy, outreach and community events,” he wrote.
Baretto expanded by insisting that SOCA would grow further as a group to further uplift SFU’s Black students and community. The vice president emphasized the potential to strengthen the image of the SFSS as an organization that supports marginalized groups and to create a more welcoming environment overall.
In the ensuing discussion that followed the presentation, some board members expressed a desire to postpone the motion. Jasdeep Gill, vice-president external relations, and Tawanda Nigel Chipati, vice-president finance, both stated their desire for more time to fully grasp the tier system.
Not every board member agreed with this assessment. Health sciences representative Osob Mohamed noted that it appeared fairly clear what the tiers were under the policy distributed prior to the meeting, further questioning what else the board needed to understand the system. Guests also spoke to the board, with one pointing out that the tier system was, at the moment, ill-defined in the SFSS’ practises and was never intended as policy.
Ultimately, the SFSS board ruled to postpone the decision. In a follow-up statement emailed to The Peak, Barreto outlined SOCA’s position on the matter.
“The SFSS Board’s postponement of the vote was disappointing from SOCA’s perspective as we believe the emotion and truth of our presentation may be lost.”
“However, we are looking forward to the board’s vote and we remain hopeful that we will be recognized as a Tier 2 Constituency.”