Written by: Carter Hemion, Staff Writer
As the 2020/21 Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Board closes their year, outgoing president Osob Mohamed reflected on her time at the SFSS.
Mohamed told The Peak one of the things she was most proud of was the student turnout at the annual general meeting. She said, “About 800 students attended and more than 600 participated in our tuition condemnation vote — and that in particular for me was important because it felt like a step in the direction of getting SFU to acknowledge the tuition burden on students.”
She said The SFSS has taken strides in listening to student feedback. Recalling the struggles students faced with COVID-19, Mohamed highlighted some of the SFSS’ solutions: providing emergency financial aid, leading the elective pass/fail grading scheme, and supporting initiatives like the “Don’t Forget Students” movement.
“I also feel proud because I think we’ve tried to really make an effort to support marginalized students in a number of different ways this year.”
She noted the SFSS is hiring for a Black Student Support Centre and recently hired a coordinator for the First Nations Student Association, which creates support for student groups.
In addition to working remotely, making resources like the Women’s Centre, food bank, Out On Campus, and in-person events accessible was challenging, but she said the SFSS managed to adapt.
With remote learning, student advocacy also changed. Mohamed noted the SFSS has been learning “digital organizing tactics and how to really get students together and mobilize on certain topics.”
She said despite challenges, the university’s student population of over 37,000 holds the most power. Mohamed recognized that “if we were to really band together [ . . . ] we can definitely get what we want.”
Mohamed said virtual club days and welcome days were enjoyable with the use of virtual booths. “A notable moment for me was having that feeling of getting to see what people were up to and what different groups were out doing.”
She also reflected on concluding a long-standing battle of clubs looking for space in the new Student Union Building (SUB). “This year we kind of were able to put an end to the very long — and I think very painful for a lot of people — fight for space in the SUB, particularly for the groups in the Rotunda like Students of Caribbean & African Ancestry, Embark, and CJSF [radio]. We were also able to allocate space to the Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance.”
Looking to the future, Mohamed said the SFSS will move away from making decisions as a Board of Directors, composed of 16 people, and instead towards a Council structure. With this change in May, “departments and faculty, student unions, and constituency groups make up the Board of Directors and have a direct say and vote at the Board table.” She said she hopes this change will bring more balance to the Board’s decision-making powers.
At SFU, Mohamed would like to see a tuition freeze, and for SFU to “commit to active lobbying of the BC government in their current review of the post-secondary funding system.”
Another thing she would like to see more of is a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) from SFU. “I know that with the new president and some of the new university administration, they’re taking a very different approach to EDI and trying to centralize that in their messaging about what they want to do.
“But then when it comes down to it — and we’re having those conversations with them about what we’d like to see to make the university more equitable and to take on these anti-oppression initiatives — it became clear to me that it’s very surface level. And so we want to see commitments tied to tangible action.”
Mohamed said that in her two years with the SFSS, there has been progress in increasing advocacy.
As her time as president comes to a close, Mohamed reflected that through mobilizing and supporting grassroots organizations, students have the power to change SFU.
“I think we are more powerful than we think we are and that we can make the decision makers listen.”