Council Meeting: December 16, 2020

The SFSS discusses the arrest of SFU alumnus and allegations of spreading misinformation

Image: Irene Lo

Written by: Jaymee Salisi, News Writer 

SFSS discusses the arrest of SFU alumnus

On December 16, 2020 the SFSS Council gathered over Zoom to vote on two motions regarding the arrest of a Black SFU alumnus. SFU security stated that the alumnus did not comply with COVID-19 guidelines and they asked him to leave. After refusal, security called the Burnaby RCMP. After several minutes of the officer allegedly engaging in verbal de-escalation techniques, a physical altercation ensued between the alumnus and officer, leading to the alumnus being pepper sprayed, tasered, and arrested. The SFSS expressed their belief that this situation involved racial profiling, citing that “this is not an isolated incident, and racial profiling incidents like this one have occurred many times before on our campuses.” 

Motion 1 proposed that council members, in support of the SFSS’ anti-racism efforts, “sign onto and support a letter by Black SFU staff and allies to condemn the violent arrest of the Black SFU alumnus and call for an apology [of the] escalation that led to this violent arrest.” Motion 1 passed with 34 votes in favour, 3 opposed, and 1 abstained. Council members agreed that SFU should be a safe space for its community. They expressed their support for BIPOC students and the SFSS’ statement stating that “security did not engage in proper de-escalation techniques, according to witnesses.”

Motion 2 condemned the Board for excluding Council from drafting their statement and argued that the SFSS’s statement contained “factual errors and omissions.” This motion called for strong policy changes and responses. It suggested that the SFSS should retract or amend the statement. Motion 2 failed with 23 votes opposing and 5 votes in favour. During this point of voting, several council members had left as the meeting had gone overtime.

Motion 2 was met with controversy as it opposed Motion 1. Most members felt that the information presented was accurate based on video evidence and that the SFSS was justified in creating the statement. 

SFSS President Osob Mohamed, opposed Motion 2 and assured attendees that all information in the SFSS’ statement had been backed up with video evidence and communication with Director of Campus Public Safety, Andrea Ringrose. Mohamed claimed that “there were no factual errors in [the SFSS’s] statement” and that omissions were made only in instances when the SFSS “did not feel comfortable speaking on anything that [they] did not have facts on.” 

Student Union Representative of Political Science, Helen Pahou, expressed understanding for the motion but “[could not] agree that there was misinformation in that statement” due to video evidence of the alumnus being mistreated by campus security.

In favour of the motion, Student Union Representative of Philosophy, Tony Yu assured participants that “nobody wants to say that racism isn’t a problem or that the intention of [the motion was] intent on saying that racism [ . . . ] and threats against BIPOC people aren’t an issue.” Yu explained that the motion aims to “keep a sort of accuracy in [their] accounts of what was going on.”

At the meeting, Joshua Fang shared that he was at West Centre Mall for a portion of the incident and was shocked reading the SFSS statement as it was different from what he saw that night. Fang expressed that although he did not agree with Motion 2, and did not wish to advocate for unnecessary force, he believed that “some sort of increased accountability would be beneficial.”

The council meeting had been extended multiple times, lasting three hours. Scheduled discussion regarding tuition increases, the P/F petition, and the DSU online learning survey were postponed to the next meeting. The next council meeting is to be determined for the Spring 2021 semester.

The full meeting can be found on the SFSS’ YouTube channel.