SFSS has mass resignations, new executives on staff

The president and two vice-presidents of the SFSS resign

This is a photo of the SFSS office. On their window is the SFSS logo in big print.
PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Karissa Ketter, News Editor

Editor’s note: Chloë Arneson, who was interviewed for this piece, is a former Peak employee. The Peak acknowledges and has taken steps to prevent conflicts of interest or potential bias from influencing the article. 

Helen Sofia Pahou has resigned from her position as the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) president. Former vice-president internal and organizational development, Judit Nagy, also submitted her resignation. Both executive members resigned on November 23. Recently, on January 11, Nicole Kirigin, former vice-president university and academic affairs, also resigned from the SFSS. The SFSS acting president released a statement announcing these resignations two months later, on January 18, 2023. 

The SFSS executive team is made up of the following changes: 

  • Acting president: Abhishek Parmar replaced Pahou
  • Acting vice-president finance and services: Rastko Koprivica replaced Parmar
  • Acting vice-president internal and organizational development: Peter Hance replaced Nagy
  • Acting vice-president university and academic affairs: Chloë Arneson replaced Kirigin

Parmar will serve as acting president until March 18. Koprivica and Hance will serve as acting vice-presidents until March 17, and Arneson will serve until April 30. The SFSS executive committee is made up of seven positions: the president and six vice-president positions. With the turnover of four roles, the acting president Parmar asked for “patience as newly appointed individuals and staff settle into their roles,” in the press release. 

The replacement process was based on nominations. Councillors nominated themselves or others and their appointment was voted on. In an interview with The Peak, Arneson noted their “election was a surprise.” They were nominated during the Council meeting on January 11. 

“As you can probably tell from the historically quick turnover rate, this job is far from easy,” said Arneson. Arneson noted “Abhishek and Rastko both had plenty of experience in Council” and took over the positions smoothly. 

In regards to Pahou’s and Nagy’s resignations, the executive committee is left to carry out the term with many new staff members. Koprivica told The Peak, “Burnout is huge in this position. Helen and Judit regularly put in long hours in their position and it wasn’t sustainable.” 

In an interview with The Peak, Hance said Pahou’s resignation made sense to him because “she was overwhelmed.” However, he was confused as to why Nagy resigned, because he felt “a lot of [Nagy’s] blame was towards Helen.” He believed Nagy’s challenges with Pahou were a “scapegoat” for another cause. “That’s what made both resignations leave a sour feeling in all of the councillor’s mouths because it felt like a lot of bullying,” said Hance. 

Others feel their resignations will be good for the community. Arneson noted, “I have followed both Helen and Judit’s journeys through Council closely and I believe Helen and Judit made the correct decision in stepping down. From what I understand of the information the student body has, their choices when handling Rea Chatterjee’s resignation left the executive in a difficult position and lost a student activist who has done incredible work in this school.” 

Chatterjee had resigned as vice-president equity and sustainability on August 17, 2022 citing harassment from councillors and being ignored in decision making processes. Sunghyun Choi was appointed acting vice-president equity and sustainability in their place. 

Nagy also spoke to The Peak on her resignation, “At the SFSS, rules don’t apply uniformly to everyone, so had I said half of what others did, I would have gotten into serious trouble — I expect I still will.”

Nagy noted her reasons for resigning “was being overworked, compensating for other executives’ shortcomings, with no relief in sight.” Nagy said she found most of the executive councillors “weren’t pulling their weight.” She added, “With the exception of a few, the organization had no interest in addressing this, so by November, I knew I could either stay and be complicit, or cut my losses; I chose the latter. 

“Given all that happened, the only thing I’d do differently is to be more assertive. I was too permissive when the SFSS needed a strong hand,” said Nagy. “The SFSS made it very difficult for me to do my job, and fought me for every inch of ground I gained — which wasn’t a deal-breaker, but its unwillingness to address its issues, will eventually lead to its extinction, and I refuse to play a part in it.”

Nagy is also concerned with Hance taking over her role. “Peter was only on Council for a month prior to his appointment, he’s unqualified and untrained.” She noted her concerns are with the job duties now assigned to Hance. “The internal portfolio oversees how this multimillion dollar society governs itself, so an untrained person could cause issues.” 

In an interview with Hance, he said the allegations of him being untrained “are pretty big attacks.” According to Hance, the previous vice-president internal has been refusing to contact him. 

“Usually during the on-boarding process, the previous vice-president helps you,” said Hance. However, when he replaced Nagy, this was not his experience. “The previous vice-president was very uncooperative with me. I tried multiple times to contact them in-person, they kind of walked away. Through online means they would not respond to me at all.” Hance noted this added complications to his role such as inability to access his email and important documents pertaining to his duties. 

In response to the allegations that he is underqualified for the role of vice-president, Hance referenced the progress he made during his time on Council as the First Nations, Métis & Inuit student association (FNMISA) councillor. He previously proposed a motion at the September 28 Council meeting calling on the SFSS to apologize for their behaviour during discussions about the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. Hance also noted he has worked to consult with student constituency groups in his current role. “I can say the previous vice-president internal didn’t do that. 

“I did put the effort through, even though I’m a relatively new student to the organization,” said Hance. “I’ve done my best to be very polite with the previous vice-president internal. I feel like I haven’t gotten that respect in turn.” 

In regards to the resignations, Hance extended understanding that “it’s a stressful position,” and a councillor may resign for a number of reasons — to focus on school, mental health, among other responsibilities. “We will all respect that, and hope you move on. We just don’t want any bad blood or animosity towards anything.

“These kinds of things hurt the entire student society and student body as a whole,” said Hance. 

The Peak contacted Helen Sofia Pahou, Nicole Kirigin, and Abhishek Parmar for interviews, but did not hear back by the publication deadline.