The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) is described on its website as a “student-led organization that represents and advocates for the interests of the 26,000+ undergraduate students at SFU.” They provide food services, the U-Pass BC program, extended health and dental plans, and a legal clinic, among other things. But all these useful services aside, they certainly didn’t represent “the interests of students” when SFSS president Deepak Sharma resigned from his position last week.
In a plot twist that seems akin to House of Cards, Sharma apparently did not meet the “membership eligibility status,” as The Peak recently reported. The further I read, the more upset I became. According to the SFSS Constitution, a student’s membership in the Society will be deemed invalid if they fail to register for courses for two consecutive semesters. This, allegedly, is the reason for Sharma’s leaving office.
Sharma was able to run, and ultimately he won the election fair and square. But it wasn’t until May 19 that the board realized Sharma’s presidency was in question. While Sharma did not act as president from that point forward, he wasn’t officially relieved of his position until June 2 — it took nearly a month.
Further still, the SFU public wasn’t given an official notification of the issue from interim president Larissa Chen until June 3.
This all begs the questions: how did Sharma not know that his presidency would be in question when the term started? And once the SFSS finally discovered the issue, why did it take so long to inform the student population? Unfortunately, we probably won’t receive any potential answers or learn of further courses of action until the SFSS’s next board meeting on June 16.
This isn’t a high school student council where you plan one dance and have a budget of maybe $200.
Former SFSS president Enoch Weng posted a public Facebook comment in response to student anger and confusion, stating that “[Sharma’s] in-eligibility [sic] this semester has nothing to do with the [Independent Electoral Commission], as there would be no way for them to anticipate the future.” To me, this sounds a bit like he’s passing the buck. Sure, the IEC may not have a crystal ball and predict Sharma’s fall from grace, but as one commenter responded, “No one said ‘hey make sure you take a summer class so you’re eligible’?”
This isn’t a high school student council where you plan one dance and have a budget of maybe $200. The SFSS is able to provide all manner of fantastic and expensive services because we, the students, are paying for them. Our Student Services fee is expected to go up another two percent for the coming school year to a total of $44.37 per semester, which sadly means we’ll be giving more of our money to the hands of a group of unorganized and unprofessional students.
Beyond the many people working behind the scenes, Sharma himself should not have continued with such a prestigious and important position if he suspected, in any capacity, that his eligibility might be in question. Given the fact that he was obligated to resign indicates that he was unaware of his eligibility status heading into his first term as president. A responsible president would have done their due diligence to research the requirements of the position before taking it.
For a group of students that holds so much influence over student life while managing copious amounts of money each semester, an oversight like this really makes me question the credibility and competency of the SFSS — a bunch of embarrassed undergraduates with already hectic lives as students. It’s true, we are all human and we all make mistakes. However, some mistakes have greater impacts than others, and this black mark will undoubtedly haunt the SFSS for the next while.