By: Michelle Gomez, Assistant News Editor and Harvin Bhathal, News Writer
19/03/2020: This story was corrected from an older version. In a previous version, Daria Elrick’s name was incorrectly spelled as “Daria Eirick.”
The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) hosted their annual election debate on March 11 at Burnaby campus in the Convocation Mall. Moderated by the Independent Electoral Commissioner (IEC) Alicen Lange, the debate allowed candidates for each position to present their platform and answer questions from students.
Here is our rundown of the debate’s highlights.
Applied Sciences Representative
Both applied sciences candidates were present at the debate.
Kia Mirsalehi highlighted his extensive experience, including previously holding the applied sciences representative position. He noted that he has lots of experience planning large-scale events, and has unique experience working with all four of his faculty’s Departmental Student Unions (DSUs).
Harry Preet Singh stated that his main goal is to be able to target students that have been neglected in the applied sciences faculty.
“I want to make people believe that you don’t need experience to participate in anything new,” said Singh.
While asking his question to Mirsalehi, Singh stated that “your term as a FAS representative was not productive.”
Arts and Social Sciences Representative
Inderpreet Gakhal and Sude Guvendik were both at the debate. A statement was read by the IEC for Simran Jir.
Gakhal emphasized her focus on ensuring “that the voices of all students are recognized by implementing positive transformations.”
Guvendik told Gakhal: “I wish I knew what you were standing for because I couldn’t see your platform on the SFSS page,” to which Gakhal responded that her priorities included increasing student engagement and effectively communicating with clubs and DSUs.
Guvendik noted that she would ensure to be involved with SASS and the faculty DSUs. “Going to every single meeting [ . . . ] and being really transparent is really important. Just showing up, representing the people that you are standing for.”
Simran Jir’s statement noted that she was unable to attend due to a class conflict in Surrey. It stated that “my main goals are to focus on mental health awareness, increase student engagement, and advocating for more study spaces.”
Mehtaab Gill and Sanaa Cassum were present at the debate. Abhishek Parmar and Pariya Zabihi were not present, and a statement was not read for either of them.
In her opening statements, Cassum noted that her priorities included improving student life and mental health initiatives. She asserted that the main way in which the department can improve is by offering more career, skill-building, and academic resources.
Gill stated: “What I bring to this role is a good understanding of the operations of the SFSS as well as Beedie clubs and BASS.” According to Gill, he plans to focus on being an active presence and fixing disconnects between the SFSS and business clubs.
Communication, Art, & Technology Representative
Both Aman Ahmed and Haider Masood were present at the debate.
Ahmed said that his main goal is to provide students with career resources including networking events and skill building workshops.
“Instead of waiting for the change, I’ve decided to become the change,” Ahmed stated.
Masood explained that his platform includes improving communication between the FCAT students unions and the SFSS, making the SFSS more accessible, and pushing for a two-year tuition freeze for both domestic and international students. He also noted that he has the endorsement of Fiona Li, the current FCAT Representative.
Masood asked Ahmed: “You outline in your platform to become the voice of students, yet you go on to plagiarize word for word from last year’s candidate: act as a liaison between the SFSS and faculty of education, when you are actually running for the faculty of communication, art & technology [ . . . ] what are your thoughts on dishonesty and plagiarism as a communication student?”
Ahmed responded that “As a communication student I can tell you plagiarism is very bad, I do not endorse it at all, dare I say, I do not condone people who plagiarize.”
Neither of the education representative candidates were at the debate, so a statement was read on each of their behalf.
Tagwa Ali’s statement noted: “I believe there should be more services in place to support students applying to PDP. I know from experience that the application process is very stressful, and if elected I plan to organize more information nights and resources to help educate students.”
Emerly Liu’s statement explained that she was unable to attend the debate due to class conflict.
Her message told students: “I welcome any questions that you may have about my qualifications or platform points.”
Anuki Karunajeewa is the only environment representative candidate. She was present at the debate.
Karunajeewa stated, “I’m running because I want to increase awareness about climate justice, create better communication within my faculty, and advocate for marginalized students and communities.”
Health Sciences Representative
Daria Elrick was the only health sciences candidate present at the debate. She highlighted her extensive experience, including being the president of SFU’s medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon, which she said has allowed her to work closely with the SFSS.
A statement was read for Roopan Garcha, and explained that she had a midterm exam at the time. It stated that her main goals include: “to enhance student experience, promote health and well-being, advocate for student affordability, and provide reassuring support to all students.”
Nafoni Modi was not present, and a statement was not read on their behalf.
“I did show up today, compared to the other candidates who are running. I think that says a lot,” said Eirick in her closing statement.
Three of the four science representative candidates were present at the debate.
WeiChun Kua explained that he is heavily involved in both climate and social justice on campus. He plans to focus on student safety, Indigenous sovereignty, and opposing the TMX pipeline.
Boris Perdija explained that his involvement with the science undergraduate society has led him to run for his position, stating that he aims “to be a liaison between the student body and the SFSS.” He also highlighted the need for a student advocacy office.
Avi Vashisht said that she plans to increase engagement within the science faculty.
Pooria Arab was not present at the debate and a statement was not read on their behalf.
Six candidates were present for the position of at-large representative.
Harleen Seehra noted her three main priorities include transparency, mental health initiatives, and campus safety.
Faiz Bandeali stated that he would like to work on increasing student safety on campus.
Arnaz Lalani said she wanted to focus on increasing scholarships and bursaries, increasing transparency between the SFSS and clubs, and ensuring adequate space for clubs in the Student Union Building.
Geetanjli Sharma explained that her three main goals are combatting sexual harassment and discrimination on campus, sustainability on campus, and creating a sense of community to counter SFU’s commuter school reputation.
Balqees Jama stated: “I will continue pushing our student society to prioritize advocacy over convenience.” She plans to focus on advocacy and empowering students, as well as catering to diversity.
Phum Luckkid stated that he was running to help fix problems that many SFSS clubs face, including grants being denied, grants having too early deadlines, and room bookings being denied.
A statement was read for Harman Shergill, noting that he could not attend the debate due to a family emergency. His main goals included advocating for mental health initiatives, increasing communication between the SFSS and clubs, and raising awareness on sexual violence issues.
VP External Relations
A statement was read on behalf of Simran Uppal, stating that she could not attend due to a midterm exam. Her goals included advocating for international student tuition regulation and the Burnaby mountain tank farm safety plan.
Samad Raza was present at the debate. He noted that his main goal was to relieve students of financial pressure and promote affordability initiatives.
“I believe education is a basic human right and it should be free for everybody,” said Raza.
Corbett Gildersleve was the only vice-president finance candidate present at the debate.
“I am running because I think that the SFSS has been on the wrong path for a very long time,” Gildersleve said. He also noted that he had served as applied sciences Rrpresentative in 2015.
Gildersleve stated in response to an audience question that he would continue to push for an audit on the 2019 Fall Kickoff concert.
Joben Bassi’s statement said he could not attend due to a family emergency. “I stand for affordable education, increasing resources for clubs, and increasing student engagement,” it read.
Sahil Nathani’s statement noted that “during my time at SFU, I have come to realize the lack of good financial management in the SFSS.” The statement also noted that Nathani has experience in accounting and finance.
A statement was not read on behalf of Lara Radwan.
VP Student Life
All candidates for vice-president student life were present.
Rachel Dee discussed her experience as an administrative assistant at the SFSS, noting her familiarity with clubs and student unions, and their internal processes and procedures.
When asked about the deficit from the 2019 Fall Kickoff, Dee said, “If I did Fall Kickoff again, I would increase transparency and involve more student consultation.”
Jonathan Peral Gort’s main priority is “to create a strong sense of community for all students here.” Gort wants to create an environment that would “help the school be more involved [ . . . ] and build connections with other students around the school.”
Current Arts and Social Sciences Representative Jennifer Chou, referring to herself as “Meme Queen,” said she is running for better accessibility at events, as well as more events for mental health.
VP Student Services
Both candidates for vice-president student services were present at the debate.
Prince Cheema noted that he has been an active member of the SFU community over the past four years. Matthew Provost highlighted his involvement with the First Nations Students Association (FNSA) for three years as well as various clubs and DSUs.
Cheema asked Provost what his ideal insurance model was for the health and dental plan. Provost responded by noting that it is important to talk with students and ensure that students are aware of the benefits and the plan.
“Thank you for not answering the question at all,” Cheema responded.
Provost asked Cheema what advocacy work he had been involved with on campus, to which Cheema responded that he has been involved with the chemistry student society, the molecular biology and biochemistry student society, and the Punjabi Student Association.
“I feel like it’s more important to look at the diversity of groups on campus [ . . . ] it’s really important that we take into account the various needs of our student body since they are diverse,” rebutted Provost.
VP University Relations
Gabe Liosis and Rubab Singh were present at the debate. A statement was read on behalf of Julian Loutsik (current Faculty of Environment Representative) who could not attend due to a class conflict. For more information on his platform, he stated, “please don’t hesitate to direct message me or email me.”
As Chair of the SFSS Council, Liosis noted that he has seen “first-hand how important it is to elect students who will take bold action to stand up for students rights.” He noted that his advocacy for the Rotunda groups through proposing a referendum question played a large role in the Board’s decision to grant them space.
Rubab Singh referenced her experience working on campus, including with residence, the library, and SFU recreation. Singh noted that due to these experiences, she had an in-depth understanding of university procedures.
Both candidates expressed their support for Tuition Freeze Now.
Osob Mohamed and Miguel Resendiz were both present at the debate. Christina Loutsik was not present and a statement was not read on her behalf.
Mohamed (the current Faculty of Health Sciences Representative) emphasized her goal to lobby the university to invest in open educational resources, support the tuition freeze movement, and reform governance practices for more accountability.
Resendiz is the current President of the Association of Latin American Students. Resendiz’s priorities include student safety on campus, making education accessible, and providing effective leadership for the Board. He cited various safety issues on campus, including poor winter conditions as well as the school’s emergency response time.
Mohamed pointed out that Resendiz’s platform was not up online until that afternoon, even though the campaign period started a week ago. To this Resendiz responded, “I did not upload my platform until today because I like to be well-informed and I like to understand what I am talking about.”
Mohamed noted that his platform and answers did not have any concrete action items. “I’m a little bit worried because we want to be proactive rather than reactive [ . . . ] the SFSS is not a game, it is serious business.”
In Resendiz’s question to Mohamed, he stated that the current Board is clearly divided, and has led to “very inefficient decision making.” He asked Mohamed how she would accommodate the different values of the other Board members.
Mohamed responded “I will respect other people’s values. But if their values are based in racism, homophobia, anti-Indigenous sentiments, and other horrible things that I can’t stand for, I will not stand by it.”
Resendiz rebutted that a president’s job is to listen to every Board member first and make a decision based on consultation. He noted that the president’s agenda should not matter.
In their final statements, Mohamed said “Now is the time to fight for affordable education and space for equity seeking groups, better governance practices, and more.”
Resendiz stated “hopefully we can make this university a much more engaged place.”