A timeline of SFSS conduct and concerns

Summer 2022 brought with it a new society and a new set of issues

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The outside of the Simon Fraser Student Society Executive Committee meeting room.
The new student government increasingly faces critiques over its Executive Committee. PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Meera Eragoda, Features Editor

May 2022 

  • President Helen Sofia Pahou and the new Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) begin their 2022/23 term. 

May 11, 2022 

  • In an interview with The Peak, Pahou said she hopes to facilitate clear communication within the SFSS. 

May 11, 2022 Council meeting

    • In-camera portion called by Pahou and vice president internal and organizational development Judit Nagy to discuss committee election. 
      • In-camera refers to portions of the meeting which are confidential and unavailable to the public. Matters which constitute a basis for an in-camera meeting are: HR matters, “open contract negotiations or competitive processes,” legal issues, and anything subject to the Personal Information Protections Act (PIPA).
    • English councillor Gabe Liosis and mathematics councillor Ben Tischler run for vice chair — Council votes in Tischler.
    • Oversight Committee on Executive Officers formed with Alan Ropke, Aaron Fun, Nim Basra, Gabe Liosis, Matthew Reed, and Riordan Huenemann as councillors for the 2022/23 term.
    • Governance Committee formed with Ben Tischler, Abhishek Parmar, Hilary Tsui, and Mark Giles for 2022/23 term. Vice president equity and sustainability Rea Chatterjee and vice president external and community affairs Eshana Baran run but are not appointed.
      • The Governance Committee is responsible for keeping up to date with and interpreting the SFSS’ constitution, bylaws, and policies. They can also make recommendations to change any of the above.

June 8, 2022 Council meeting

  • In-camera portion called for by Faculty of Communication, Art, and Technology councillor Ratsko Koprivica and sociology and anthropology councillor Arthur Lee to discuss Forum Chambers Temperature Check and Potential Sponsorship from Memory Express.
  • Council approves $6,300 to send Pahou, Chatterjee, Baran, and Unit 5 CUPE Local 3338 representative Trish Everett to Chicago, Illinois for the 2022 Labour Notes Conference from June 17–19. Various councillors express concerns over the number of people being sent, the cost of the budget, and a lack of transparency regarding the motion.

June 14 Executive Committee meeting

  • The Executive Committee is comprised of seven members, four of whom belong to the Stronger Together Party, two of whom belong to the SFU Progressives, and one independent.
  • Council moves in-camera to discuss legal concerns.
  • Vice president internal and organizational development Judit Nagy motions to issue an apology to SFU over letter dated May 17, 2022 calling for firing of an SFU employee. The Peak does not have access to the contents of the letter. According to the minutes, the letter included the SFSS Executive Committee as a signatory despite lack of support from majority of the committee. Motion passes with only vice president external and community affairs Eshana Baran and vice president equity and sustainability Rea Chatterjee opposed.

June 22 Council meeting

  • Nagy motions for policy amendments for in-camera meeting which would stipulate only councillors and invited third parties be allowed access. Additionally, any councillor not at a meeting would be excluded from information discussed at the meeting. Councillors express concerns over transparency. The motion required a ⅔ majority which was not met, with only 56% of the vote.
  • Vice president external and community affairs Eshana Baran asks for an update on coverage for operations organizer Ayesha Khan when she goes on leave. Pahou states building manager John Walsh has agreed to step in temporarily and the item will be discussed at the next Executive Committee meeting.
  • Chatterjee brings up discussion item regarding the Executive Committee meeting decision to apologize to SFU regarding the letter dated May 17, 2022. Chatterjee alleges lack of sufficient discussion time surrounding the letter. Councillors express concerns this undermines the other signatories such as Graduate Student Society, Teaching Support Staff Union, Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry, Disability and Neurodiveristy Alliance (DNA), etc. Councillors allege concerns over transparency, conflict of interest between Committee on the Councillor Breaches of Confidence and Executive Committee, and undermining of complaints process. Other councillors express support for Executive Committee decision, citing that the current Executive Committee does not have to agree with the previous one. Others express concerns over Chatterjee informing constituency groups about what they claim was SFSS business. Baran and Chatterjee allege they have been isolated and excluded within the Executive Committee.

June 23 

  • English councillor and staff liaison officer Gabe Liosis expresses concerns over Executive Committee’s decision to merge operations organizer and building manager roles into one. Liosis outlined lack of consultation and silencing of current operations organizer Ayesha Khan, alongside a prediction of burnout of building manager. 

July 5

  • The Peak reaches out for a statement regarding the operations organizer positions. Pahou requests future media requests be sent solely to her and says councillors are not to speak to The Peak. English councillor Gabe Liosis claims this is unreasonable and undemocratic of Pahou.

July 6 Council meeting 

  • In-camera session called by vice president finance and services Abhishek Parmar and vice president university and academic affairs Nicole Kirigin to discuss review of a public report and Committee on Councillor Breaches of Confidence (CCBC) report. Concerns about CCBC’s transparency raised by members of Council. Council passes motion to allow CCBC to continue investigations and enable CCBC to begin future investigations on recommendation of Council or other committee.
  • English councillor Gabe Liosis, Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance representative Vivian Ly,  vice president external and community affairs Eshana Baran, and vice president equity and sustainability Rea Chatterjee leave the meeting at 6:45 p.m.
  • Motion put forward by French councillor Ethan Dungey and science undergraduate society councillor Ayooluwa Adigun to allow Council to replace members of CCBC “whenever Council believes” they are in “potential conflict of interest.” Motion is not carried with two in favour and 35 against.
  • Environmental science councillor Chloe Homenuke’s resignation accepted.
  • $14,000 approved to furnish the Computing Science Student Society common room.
  • $10,000 approved for Fall Street Festival.
  • Hiring position for staff leave and potential administrative restructuring discussion brought forth by Ly. Mathematics councillor Ben Tischler objects on the basis it should be an in-camera discussion. Discussion item postponed.
  • Operations organizer Ayesha Khan raised concerns regarding SFSS lack of action for coverage of her position. 

July 8

  • English councillor Gabe Liosis resigns due to time constraints. Liosis also alleges concerns of transparency, toxic work culture, and silencing tactics based on political ideology. Liosis states he will continue in his capacity as associate vice president external and community affairs.

July 13

  • Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance representative Vivian Ly resigns, alleging concerns of transparency, misuse of power, corruption, and accessibility, all of which Ly says contributed heavily to “rapid, severe deterioration of [Ly’s] mental health.”

July 20 Council meeting

  • Ly, Liosis, and Indigenous Studies Student Union councillor Nebula (Anita) Shen’s resignations accepted.

July 25 

  • Vice president equity and sustainability Rea Chatterjee and vice president external and community affairs Eshana Baran release a public letter alleging concerns of transparency, toxic work culture, overuse of in-camera, and other silencing tactics meetings. Chatterjee and Baran are the only two members of the executive committee belonging to the SFU Progressive party.

July 27  Special Council meeting 

  • Meeting held to call for the censure of and request resignation of Chatterjee. Motion postponed until next meeting.
  • Council condemns letter released by Chatterjee and Baran over “concerns about [councillors’] mental health, wellbeing, and safety as a result of this statement being disclosed at a Council Meeting without Council’s approval, then to the public at large.”
  • Chatterjee alleges her email has been accessed by Nagy without permission.
  • Koprivica called to skip discussion and go to a vote on condemnation of the letter, effectively blocking any discussion from the 50+ student members in attendance due to concerns they are “acting in bad faith and clearly have been brought by the two SFU Progressives [ . . . ] to pressure council to vote a certain way.” Motion to skip discussion fails. Members in attendance express concern over the seeming attempt to stifle democratic process.
  • Council goes in-camera two times in the meeting.

July 27 

  • SFU350 releases statement standing in solidarity with Chatterjee, condemning motions to call for Chatterjee’s censure and resignation. They also state they condemn the current culture at the SFSS, citing concerns of toxicity.

July 29 

  • SFSS announces hiring of Sindhu Dharmarajah as temporary replacement for operations organizer Ayesha Khan, keeping the positions of operations organizer and building manager separate.

July 29

    • Students of African and Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA) holds general meeting in Student Union Building.
    • The Peak receives a tip from an anonymous source. In a Discord chat, film councillor Riordan Huenemann made a potentially inflammatory comment towards SOCA that he later explained was not meant to be taken seriously and for which he has since apologized. Pahou acknowledged this comment and said she does not condone this behaviour. She assured Council that SOCA’s safety needs have been attended to.

This is a developing story that The Peak will cover in future issues.