Simon Fraser Student Society in a state of disarray
Twenty years ago Simon Fraser University might have been described as the “left-wing school” to differentiate it from the traditionally more conservative University of British Columbia. Today, this differentiation doesn’t hold water, especially in the case of the Simon Fraser Student Society, which is in a state of political disarray after years of poor organisation.
Board decisions lead to bad blood
In August it was announced that the plans for the Simon Fraser Student Society stadium were being scrapped. The project, dubbed Build SFU, already cost the society vast amounts in planning and staff costs.
The thing is, the idea was terrible from the beginning.
Rather than focusing on getting government to fund education, SFSS leadership of recent years had such a flimsy and narrow understanding of post-secondary education that they deemed it reasonable to propose that students pay for new campus buildings. Public education shouldn’t be funded by student fees, and opting to build a stadium for the University was a shameful waste of student money. Students in athletic programs were promised a better education if they supported and voted in favour of the plan, and are now responding with the only response that should be expected: indignance.
Conflicts between staff and board members
Former President Deepak Sharma’s resignation was described by the SFU Peak writer Rachel Wong as, “a new low for the SFSS.” In the same article, the paper highlighted the gravity of the role of the SFSS, including being the student body’s voice in the determination of new fees and student life. Sharma’s resignation is not a normal occurrence for the organisation, and historical examples of resignations and impeachments usually coincide with times of uncertainty.
In addition to Sharma’s resignation, the staff and board members of the SFSS have also been in conflict. Two SFSS board members have reported that Chief Executive Officer Martin Wyant, who The Western Student has argued is unqualified for the position, has been involved in issues with other employees. The society posted for a new organiser, but having the vacancy at the beginning of the academic year is an operational hiccup that should have been avoided. Further, changes to faculty student unions while the SFSS has been with Wyant have taken away opportunities for students to be engaged on campus.
The Student Failure and Sadness Society
So what can the Simon Fraser Student Society board of directors and SFU students do to make things right? There are some easy solutions and some hard-work options that have to be done.
SFU is not special. It is a big school, it has a level of prestige, but that shouldn’t cloud the judgment of SFSS directors in making decisions about how to spend students’ money. Spending students money building a new stadium is exactly the opposite of the point. The SFSS should be mobilizing the anger of athletics students who want a better campus to fight for more public funding from the BC government. The role of the student society is to be a voice, not a bureaucracy.
SFSS directors, not all but many, spend their time thinking about how good being on the board will be for them. It is a resume builder. Having “I built a building” on your resume may indeed impress some, but it is not the role of the student society. Unless SFSS directors forsake this petty individualism and start thinking about what is best for all students then these issues will continue.