Written by: Mahdi Dialden
The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) for its members — all SFU undergraduates — on Monday, October 26, 2020 via Zoom. The meeting included several by-law proposals and an official condemnation directed towards SFU for the recent tuition hikes.
One of the proposals entailed discussion by members voicing their concerns on the Council. The proposal was set to give the Council — which consists of departmental student union (DSU) representatives — a voice when working with the Board. This ongoing issue stemmed from problems with the 2018/19 SFSS Board and showed that the student government didn’t have the opportunity to adequately represent the students — specifically, marginalized groups.
During the discussion, one member expressed their support for the proposal saying, “There’s a difference between welcoming someone into a space and actually creating and designing that space with their needs in mind. Changing the actual system to allow these marginalized populations to have an equal seat at the decision-making table and have their voices heard on an equal level, represents the creation of a space. Representation is key and I really believe that the new organization of the SFSS governing body is the way to achieve it.”
Conversely, a council member for the Bachelors of Environment Student Union expressed that they are against the motion saying, “We don’t really get to hear the student group that we’re representing nearly as much as we’d like to, so therefore, representing and having more power on council doesn’t necessarily mean more student power.” They also added, “The council stipends are not high enough to encourage actual time commitment from us as counselors.” The proposal passed with 86% in favour and 14% against.
The tuition hikes condemnation was also a headline topic, where students expressed their outrage on the issue. VP University Relations Gabe Liosis responded to a student’s comment on SFU’s operation as a business by saying, “The university operates like a business and you’re 100% right. And what businesses try to do is [try] to make the most money [from] buying their services and are buying their goods. And that really is not how a university should run. Universities should not be a source for exploitation of students.” The vote would mean that the SFSS would be condemning and speaking on behalf of students, to answer why they would raise prices, specifically during a pandemic. The discussion was cut short, and a vote was motioned in which it passed with 98%.
By-law proposal two was directed towards clarifying the vagueness of the executive portfolios in the by-laws and instead of making it clear as to what each position entails. The new list of positions includes President, VP Internal and Organizational Development, VP Finance and Services, VP University and Academic Affairs, VP External and Community Affairs, VP Equity and Sustainability, and VP Events and Student Affairs.
The third by-law proposal sought to clarify the definitions of student groups, which include student unions and constituency groups. For example, there will now be one representative from each Affiliated Student Group, to be elected by their respective Affiliated Student Group in the Council. Constituency groups, which represent and serve their members who share an experience or condition of oppression and systemic discrimination, are now included in the by-laws and may be recognized officially by the board if they meet the requirements. This proposal was passed with 97% of members in favour.
SFSS President Osob Mohamed, who chaired the meeting, expressed her gratitude for the attendance and student response to the event. Mohamed said on Twitter, “600+ attendees at our first ever online AGM, new bylaws passed, and @SFU will need to answer to the students’ condemnation of tuition increases. Thank you to our membership for trusting me to chair such a legendary meeting. This is student power!” This is the largest turnout at an SFSS AGM since 2006.