SFSS Fall Kickoff 2019 results in $105,995 deficit

Former SFSS board member calls upon the student society to hire an independent firm to audit the spending on the event

Fall Kickoff 2019, held in the Strand Hall parking lot. Photo: Andres Chavarriaga

Written by: Michelle Gomez, Assistant News Editor

The Simon Fraser Student Society’s (SFSS) Fall Kickoff 2019 has resulted in a deficit of $105,995. 

The briefing on the event displays a total net loss of $45,995. However, included under ‘revenues’ are several sponsors, including the SFSS itself, which is listed as having sponsored $60,000. In total, this constitutes a deficit of $105,995. 

Prepared by Executive Director Sylvia Ceacero, the briefing report notes that there were added expenses associated with holding the concert in the Strand Hall parking lot rather than in Convocation Mall, as has been done in previous years. The report notes that the SFSS “would have saved approximately $9,000 if the concert was held at the Convocation Mall.” 

Jessica Nguyen, VP Student Life, said in an email to The Peak that extra costs were associated with the new venue, including “fencing, security, staging, ambulance on site, etc.” She explained that when organizing the event, the safety of students, as well as the quality of talent, were top priorities. 

An emergency Board meeting was called on August 12, 2019 to approve an increase in the budget for the event from a $15,000 allowable deficit (or “SFSS sponsorship” as referred to by the event briefing) to a $60,000 allowable deficit. 

SFSS President Giovanni HoSang said in an interview with The Peak that at the emergency meeting, he “didn’t really get the chance to speak about it at the board table [ . . . ] because conversation was shut down when [ . . . ] asking more questions about the budget.” 

SFU student and former SFSS Board member Corbett Gildersleve expressed his concerns to the Board as a guest on their November 29 meeting. He later spoke to The Peak in a phone interview. 

“The Board approved an additional $45,000 to go to this event with almost no discussion [ . . . ] something is very wrong about that and very very reckless and irresponsible.”

Gildersleve explained that he has called upon the SFSS to hire an independent auditor to assess the planning of the concert. 

“Best case scenario for the board is that they spend some extra money and time just to have something that ultimately verifies what they know.” 

He noted that SFU could step in and demand a proper investigation, which could include withholding money from the society.     

When asked if she would support an audit, Nguyen said that “the SFSS finances are audited on an annual basis by a professional firm.” 

Gildersleve, however, explained that the annual SFSS audit would not be conducted until September 2020, by which time there will be an entirely new board. He noted that conducting an audit at this time would not be appropriate, as an entirely new board would not know how decisions from the previous board were made. 

HoSang stated that he supports an audit. 

“The event delivery was a success, the financials behind it ⁠— which is the core of the event was not a success, but we take the lessons from that and anything that comes from a possible audit,” said HoSang. 

Nguyen also considers the event to be a success overall. 

“This year’s Fall Kickoff demonstrated that the SFSS can pull off an event of this magnitude with no negatives which helped to rebuild our relationship with SFU. Even though there was a deficit this year, rebuilding the relationship with SFU and the community at-large is priceless.”