By David Dyck
Grads and undergrads will now each have one designated seat on the board of governors
Last week’s board of governors meeting saw a motion passed that takes two student positions on the board and designates one for an undergraduate student, and one to a graduate student. Previously, the two student representatives were elected regardless of whether or not they were graduates or undergraduates.
Outgoing student representative Marc Fontaine spoke to the motion, raising concerns that there are approximately five times more undergraduate students than graduate students at SFU. Ultimately, however, Fontaine supported the motion, stating that “It’ll guarantee there is a graduate student on the board here, which historically — and I’ve looked at the election data — isn’t the case.” According to election data, only two graduate students have served on the board since 2007.
Fontaine saw a bigger problem in the lack of awareness about the board of governors in general and specifically the yearly elections. “Students have no idea. They don’t know what the board is and they don’t understand if they do. It’s not clear and it’s not advertised unless you know where to look, unless you know someone who has run.”
“It would be ironic to miss this opportunity for engagement,” said one board member.
“The history of the student representation on the board of governors has been really two undergraduate students filling those two spots,” said alumni order-in-council Bill Cunningham in response to Fontaine’s comments. “Effectively what we’d be doing is cutting their representation on the university’s governing board in half, and they represent quite a significantly larger constituency than the graduate students.” Cunningham cautioned that it may seem to undergraduates that their representation on the board is being diminished. “Having a background in student politics, this is something that I as an undergraduate activist would be very concerned about,” said Cunningham.
“We’re here not to represent our constituency, but to represent what we think is best for the university,” responded President Andrew Petter. “I would argue that the implications of this change are that we will ensure that there is a grad student perspective brought to bear on that collegial discussion, and that’s a positive. But to ensure that what Bill [Cunningham] fears or says others might fear doesn’t occur, it means we have that added responsibility to ensure that the student voice and perspective is listened to all the more carefully from the undergraduate perspective.”
“If you can properly promote the election and get a variety of students [to run, then] . . . hopefully the students will take the time to vote for the person who can best promote themselves, which reflects on how they will promote students,” concluded Fontaine.
Elections for the board of governors will occur online this week. There are three undergraduates and one graduate student in the running.