By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer
The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) hosted their Annual General Meeting virtually on October 27, 2021. The meeting’s motions included SFSS’ divestment from fossil fuels and support for the Accessible Course Practices campaign.
The SFSS Divestment Bylaw restricts the SFSS from investing in fossil fuel directly. For indirect investments, the SFSS can only choose companies with “5% of their gross revenue from fossil fuel investments,” at most.
The Divestment Bylaw stems from an older referendum on fossil fuel divestment. Previously, 79% of SFSS members’ votes were in favour of the motion, but it did not become an official SFSS bylaw as there weren’t enough attendees to meet quorum.
SFU350 co-president Abigail Herd and divestment organizer Brennan Strandberg-Salmon attended the meeting to discuss the bylaw proposal. SFU350 hopes the bylaw’s impact will extend beyond the SFSS by pressuring other student societies and SFU to also divest — on November 1, 2021, SFU announced a full divestment from fossil fuel by 2025. Herd said the SFSS could also explore different green energy sources, such as thermal energy.
Currently, the SFSS Investment Policy prevents the society from investing in fossil fuels. Vice-president equity and sustainability Marie Haddad pointed out future boards could override the current policy. According to Haddad, while the policy is easier to amend than a bylaw, bylaws can still be changed by future AGM motions or referendums.
“As we call on SFU to divest, we also need to ensure that we continue to divest for the future and continue to be leaders to ensure that our generation and future generations to come have a future,” said Haddad.
Vice-president internal and organizational development Corbett Gildersleve clarified the SFSS has no current or former direct investments in fossil fuels. However, he acknowledged the SFSS’ previous investments could have indirectly invested in fossil fuels.
During the discussion, a member, Hnat Cheung, disagreed with the motion.
“I feel like there’s a way we can do this without hurting students’ choice and the students’ opportunities, because many of these companies are the biggest in the world, and some people want to have a career in the fossil fuel industry,” said Cheung.
Herd clarified SFU350’s stance on energy transition in response.
“This motion is about divestment, and that means it’s about revoking the social license of fossil fuels to operate. It’s not about bankrupting the fossil fuel industry. And second, I think it’s good to point out that SFU350 [ . . . ] advocates strongly for a just transition for workers who are in the energy sector right now and into the future.
“Consumers right now don’t have a choice in our energy source. We don’t have a choice until the fossil fuel industry is not the only option. We need institutional decarbonization before individual decarbonization,” said Herd.
The Divestment Bylaw passed with 204 votes in favour and 26 opposed.
Accessible Course Practices campaign Support
Biomedical physiology and kinesiology representative Kashish Mehta put forth a motion to support the Accessible Course Practices campaign (ACP). The campaign calls for all lectures to be recorded for students.
Mehta recognized students may be unable to attend class due to responsibilities as student athletes, working students, and parents.
According to Mehta, “In the summer 2020 semester, our accessible course practices student survey revealed that about 79% of the students who took the survey were anxious about their return to campus. Yet, despite their concerns, students had to be back in-person, where currently some students have to be stuck in overcrowded environments, because they’re worried about their academic standing.”
A member who favoured the motion said this campaign would address accessibility concerns of students with disabilities. They noted the challenges when advocating for a professor to record lectures, such as professors wanting to protect their intellectual property and privacy.
A member disagreed with the motion and was concerned with recorded lectures decreasing course attendance.
“The prof is recording the lectures, but that means about maybe 10 people are coming to class. And when it’s a discussion class like this, it’s completely hollowed out the entire experience of the course,” they said.
“Recordings are a great vehicle for captioning to improve communication assets. This is needed for disabled students, because we are often denied access accommodations and have to fight each term for basic communication assets and access to learning content,” a member, Vivian Ly, said.
Gildersleve amended the motion to include “closed captioning with [large] accessible font” in all lecture recordings. Gildersleve’s amendment to the ACP campaign motion passed with 221 votes in favour and 10 opposed.
The ACP campaign motion passed with 213 votes in favour and 10 opposed.
To review the meeting highlights, visit the SFSS website.