Written by: Jaymee Salisi, News Writer
On March 12, 2021 former president of SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry (SOCA) Tim Maruti was removed for failure to fulfill his presidential duties throughout 2020 and 2021.
Upon removal, Maruti posted a statement on the SFU Undergrads Facebook page claiming SOCA handled decisions undemocratically.
His argument centred around his request for SOCA to wait for more information before releasing a statement about the arrest of a Black alumnus. The arrest, which occurred last fall, drove conversations around racial profiling and police brutality on campus.
Maruti said his actions were “met with resistance from executives.
“I found it important to draft [my] statement on the organization’s official letterhead for credibility and designative purposes,” he told The Peak in an email interview. He said he needed to use the club’s resources in his announcement to reflect his position as president.
SOCA president-elect and Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) at-large representative Balqees Jama told The Peak that club members found issue in the undemocratic process that went into posting Maruti’s statement.
Jama said the use of unauthorized club resources — such as the logo and letterhead — put their name to “this narrative that was not true.” SOCA disavowed the release and outlined the recollection of events which led to Maruti’s dismissal.
Maruti’s failure to call general meetings was one factor. On July 3, 2020, he addressed this and apologized, saying his lack of communication was due to the online transition. Since the discussion, he attended three out of five meetings. When in attendance, Maruti debriefed members on the progress of his assigned projects.
Jama said she did not witness Maruti conducting presidential duties, such as providing strategic focus for the organization, and “representing SOCA to the SFSS and university administration [ . . . ] If it did happen, it wasn’t enough,” she said.
According to Jama, the executive team took on Maruti’s unfulfilled responsibilities with most of the labour falling on Black women.
Maruti explained his absences, telling The Peak, “I travelled to my home country in Kenya — in East Africa — to spend time with my family for two months. While away, I notified the executive team through the official WhatsApp group that I was in Kenya at the time and [said] I would still be able to attend meetings.”
Due to the 10-hour time difference, he suggested meetings be held at 12:00pm PST or earlier, to accommodate Canadian and East African time zones. According to Maruti, a new meeting time was spoken about, but not arranged.
“Being in Kenya in December does not validate absence during September–November,” read SOCA’s motion.
Allegedly, Maruti ignored executive requests for stating pronouns during meetings, held events without approval, and was difficult to reach. SOCA executives drafted a letter to Maruti in December 2020 and January 2021, calling for his resignation as president.
Executives warned in the letter that they would “go public about [Maruti’s] act of violence [and his] speech against the Black community on campus,” if their requests were not handled.
At the meeting on February 26, 2021, Maruti said he had not seen any SOCA emails, as they went to his spam folder.
Members referred to his opposition to the release of a statement about the arrest and personal conversations within the organization’s WhatsApp group chat. The conversations are not available to anyone outside the organization.
They discussed the need for clearer communication and Maruti’s alleged anti-Black sentiment. The motion stated that Maruti said “it is natural that this person would be physically removed” in regards to the arrest. Club members said this outlook appears to give police the right to regulate Black people, though acknowledged this may be “a personal opinion rather than community sentiment.”
SOCA drafted a motion for Maruti’s removal due to lack of communication and work effort. There was also a vote to charge him for anti-Black sentiment, which failed.
In his statement, Maruti said, “If your views do not align with their manifesto and ideology, they will attempt to remove and replace you with an individual of their choice.” He also claimed exclusive meetings were called for members to “conspire to remove [him] as SOCA president.
“‘SFU [Progressives] — a student-led political party — have taken SOCA hostage,” read his statement.
“The statement itself had actually painted a false narrative of SOCA, me, and several other people listed,” Jama said.
Before the SFU Progressives existed, Jama said they “came out of SOCA members, who were resisting the eviction of SOCA by the SFSS and initially mobilized the Black Spaces Matter campaign.”
Therefore, Jama said she did not understand what Maruti meant by stating SOCA was being held hostage by members of SFU Progressives within the SFSS.
She said most people who learned about the incident were unaware of the organization’s initiatives. As a result, she believes Maruti’s statement incited tokenization outside the SOCA community. She said this is harmful as it results in “cherry picking a voice from a marginalized community that confirms your views.
“Some folks have been holding up the former president’s word without caring for what SOCA’s stance actually is,” Jama said.
The Peak asked Maruti to expand on his statement regarding the use of Black suffering as political leverage. He declined, explaining, “I do not think it is constructive for the finer details of these statements to be initially discussed through this article.”
Moving forward, Maruti hopes to see student-led organizations and SFU administration stay consistent with student engagement to create an inclusive campus community.
“Coming to a communal resolution on the matter within SOCA is an initiative that I would happily endorse and participate in,” Maruti said.
Jama encouraged people to support the Black community by sharing Black student resources and respecting SOCA’s and the Black community’s privacy, “including [that of] the former president.” Doing so could “alleviate the burden off Black people and SOCA at the moment.”