Editor’s note: This piece previously quoted McDonald as “drying up things like the annual budget.” It has now been corrected to “drawing up things like the annual budget.” An earlier version of this article also stated that the meeting motioned a “tuition hike condemnation,” this has been changed to a “tuition hike opposition” to more accurately reflect the meeting agenda.
Written by: Mahdi Dialden, News Writer
The Graduate Student Society Council (GSS) held a meeting that motioned a tuition hike opposition, showcased candidates running for positions, and gave updates from committees.
Motion to officially oppose the tuition hikes
The Director of External Relations, Matthew McDonald, spoke about the motion to oppose the recent SFU tuition hikes. The motion was moved for a stance of opposition while calling on SFU to “seriously consider changes to its long-term cost structure with student affordability.” This motion also includes sending a letter to the SFU leadership and the BC government, while working with the SFSS and TSSU.
Member Reese Muntean spoke in favour of the motion, “It’s very timely. And, and what I mean by that is I think it’s good for us to act now shortly after the SFSS and TSSU condemnation letters. I think working together with other student societies will help further our advocacy work in this.”
McDonald added, “Students generally, institutionally, do not have a whole lot of power. That’s just kinda how it is. But when we make our voice heard like this, it reminds administration that they have to take our priorities into account when they’re drawing up things like the annual budget.”
The tuition hikes are affecting graduate students with 2% and 4% hikes for domestic and international students respectively. McDonald added, “In the long run, our incomes don’t really match up with the cost of living. That also includes, you know, the rapid rise in rent in the greater Vancouver area.”
This comes after the SFSS condemnation at the annual general meeting. “We think [SFU’s] institutional priorities should be reconfigured to place student affordability higher on the list,” McDonald added.
GSS Director Elections Candidates
Students nominated themselves for the Director of Finance, Director of Student Life, Director of Academic Relations, and Director of Access and Equity. They were given a chance to speak about their candidacy and why they should be elected for the position.
Candidates for the Director of Finance:
Candidate Anna Orlichenko stated, “I execute financial planning, analysis, and budget control, and I want to implement this experience if I am selected.” On the GSS website, she said she aims “to help serve students’ needs for their wellness and mindful living by managing GSS finances using my strategic vision, positive attitude, and strong passion.”
The current Director of Finance, Farina Fassihi, presented herself for re-election saying, “Despite all the challenges that last year had within the context of [COVID-19], we were able to successfully plan the budget — our operating budget is healthy.” Fassihi added, “I have a comprehensive understanding of the society’s budget processes, and budget planning strategies, and have made effective efforts in fixing and enhancing the GSS financial structure.”
The final candidate for the position was Abdul Mubarak Dutie Tuhson, “A Chartered Management Accountant and a Certified Tax Practitioner (CTP) with eight years’ experience in various finance functions,” according to the GSS website. Tuhson added, “I believe I can contribute a lot. I’ve had a look at the strategic kind of this society, and I can clearly see where we align [in] the budgeting and planning process.”
Candidate for Director of Student Life:
Gloria Li, a full-time MBA student, said, “I will provide you valuable networking opportunities that will hopefully benefit in your career. I know it’s harder to do that under the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, but I will try and explore online platform as much as possible.”
The other candidate for the position, Aiman Adelshiyeva, did not attend the meeting, but can be found on the GSS website, where she stated, “I believe I have an extensive experience in organizations of events and activities that help students feel a sense of community.”
Candidates for the Director of Academic Relations position:
Pankaj Bagga, should he be elected, is “excited to be part of SFU’s amazing community of people and ready to take responsibility as Director of Academic Relations.”
Prince Kumar Lat, pledged to “start career counselling [for] all the graduates.” He added, “I’ll try to increase the scholarships, particularly international ones. I’ll try to increase financial support during emergencies [ . . . ] and I will try to create more industrial as well as academic opportunities.”
Reese Muntean, a PhD student in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), as well as a SIAT representative, also nominated themselves for the position. Muntean stated that because of “COVID-19 issues and the research assistant concerns, [she’s] been learning a lot already this year about the issues that are faced by graduate students during their academic career, including those relating to coursework, personal research or research search assistantships, and relationships with supervisors,” she said.
Another nominee, Lance Quan, explained, “My strategy is from the positioning of learning and to embody the stewardship responsibilities of a GSS (Society) Director to collaborate, coordinate, and advocate.”
Candidate Devan Prithipaul spoke about how graduate students “are the ones who pay tuition, who pay the salary for professors and administrators. That gives [them] a huge advantage when it comes to bargaining and making sure that our interests are heard. Especially as graduate students, we are the ones who build the reputation of the university by conducting original research.”
According to the GSS website, nominee Anchal Jain has “15 years of teaching experience for undergraduate and graduate studies in the computer science field, back in India,” and wants to work on support for full-time opportunities as well as lowering co-op student fees.
Director of Access and Equity:
Candidate Shanny Rann, a second-year PhD student in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies, stated, “[The position] will enable me to advocate for diversity and inclusion — these are values that I strongly believe in. More importantly, I want to speak up for students who are experiencing systemic discrimination,” Rann added.
The next candidate, Hafsa Sadiq, said, “As a graduate student in the Master of Public Health program, I noticed the lack of policies, services, and advertising for services in place to create a campus where all graduate students have equitable opportunities to learn, care for their health, connect with peers in their community, and access financial aid and support.”
The last candidate, Satyajeet Chouhan, was not present at the meeting. On the GSS website, it states, “I will always be available as an open channel to represent and voice your indifferences and sufferings to the concerned authorities to ensure dignity, fairness, equality and respect is delivered and maintained across the university.”
According to the SFU grad society website, “campaigning will end on November 25th and polls will open for online voting from Dec 1st to Dec 4th.”
You can find the candidates’ profiles running for each position on the GSS website.