C19 Coalition answers student and worker questions in virtual Town Hall

The joint initiative between the SFSS, GSS, and TSSU aims to advocate for SFU students and workers amid the pandemic

Poster for the townhall event. Photo via Facebook courtesy of SFU C19 Coalition.

Written by: Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer

Updates from student and faculty organizations

C19 Coalition representative, Alison Wick, provided some background on the recently formed advocacy group. The Coalition was formed as an alliance between the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), the Graduate Student Society (GSS), and the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU).

President Osob Mohamed gave updates on SFSS’s COVID-19 initiatives. She noted that the SFSS has “been loud and forward with the government [ . . . ] [pushing for] students to have access to things like the CERB.” 

Mohamed also explained that the SFSS is supporting students struggling financially, “hoping to open up a food hub, where [they] can actually provide fresh food to students during the course of this pandemic [ . . . ] also working with our health plan providers to [make] a fair alternative for international students who may not be in the country.” 

The SFSS’s main requests of SFU have been for decreased tuition for online classes and an elimination of the 2% fee on late tuition payments. Other key issues that the SFSS is considering include the UPass for the Fall 2020 semester and privacy concerns with regard to exam invigilation. 

GSS director of external relations, Matt McDonald, stated that the GSS has been “dealing with this [pandemic] in two ways: advocacy [ . . . ] and providing extra financial support and services for [GSS] members.” The GSS’s primary concern is the financial impact the pandemic has had on graduate students and in getting the administration to recognize the depth of these problems. 

McDonald explained that the GSS has “put a fair amount of money towards [their] own relief program,” which can be applied for on the GSS website; it also offers a family subsidy, a transportation bursary and an emergency food and grocery card. 

Questions

A general question asked to the panel was what concerns the coalition has going into the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters. 

“Our main concern is that this is not going away [ . . . ] so we need to stay on top of how things are changing,” answered Wick. She further explained that a main concern is how much the university puts the onus on students for academic progress and receiving financial aid, and that the coalition is looking to mitigate the uncertainty many students face with receiving bursaries and making tuition deadlines. 

A highly upvoted question asked how undergraduate students can support their sessional instructors. 

Orion Kidder (TSSU) said, “The administration counts on students not knowing what the issues are with sessionals and not being supportive of them [ . . . ] so, let the administration know [ . . . ] email driver@sfu.ca [ . . . ] directly.” 

Kidder also added that off-campus influence can make an impact, encouraging students to engage their parents in also contacting administration as “they hate hearing from parents because they know parents control money and their biggest concern is revenue [ . . . ] that embarasses them, that shames them, and makes them fear for their revenues.”