With the SFSS byelection this week, The Peak sat down with all the presidential candidates for a more in-depth chat than the timed responses at the debates. To find the other interviews, click here for Larissa Chen and here for Darien Lechner.
Ashley Fraser: Why should students give you another chance after you essentially caused the byelection?
Deepak Sharma: I have never really shied away from why the byelection is taking place in the first place. After I left after being in the first month in office, originally I planned to just walk away from it all. I think the biggest reason why I decided to come back and why students should trust me again and have their confidence in me again is beyond the personal growth and development that comes from any candidate, which I never shy from acknowledging, the biggest thing is, I want to come back and fulfill the various commitments I made and fulfill the various confidence and trust that membership had already earned in placing me in the first place. In addition to that, because one may say you want to fulfill commitments, that’s pretty big isn’t it? What I generally mean by that is apply my experience and knowledge of being a member of the executive for at least over a year and a member of the board for over the past two years. I think that February, March, April, is when I want to apply all that knowledge that I have acquired during the transition period. I think being a part of the SFSS for two years now with very different boards, I think I can take the board to a place where we can prioritize all of the commitments we have made. I have over a year’s experience working with senior management; however, I have essentially been nonexistent with this current board for the almost past six months. I believe it’s very easy for me to potentially basically pick up where I left off with this board, because of the rapport I would have with them.
AF: How is your relationship with everyone who is on the SFSS board since you stepped down?
DS: Up until the Surrey debate I assumed that I had no negative relationship with a single board member, or individual board member. I think you may recall one board member did question my inclusivity at the debate, but I think I have discussed it and perhaps resolved it, and apart from that I would assume they are all my friends still — I would say so, maybe they might beg to differ. Ten out of the 13 people remaining are the people I run alongside, people who I have been working with on projects and initiatives prior to even being on the board. I think it’s a fair question for the membership to ask “Why we should trust you again when you just left us hanging,” however, I believe that’s a non-issue of me working well with the board just because I have that rapport and experience with the board and know their strengths and weaknesses. They know me personally as well. I think that is why it is fairly easy for me to just slide in there and continue to support them.
AF: You claim your resignation was forced. Did anyone at the SFSS actually force you?
DS: I think ‘force’ may be misinterpreted — forced means, forced by SFSS bylaw. So I think in my first public post that I made, where I wanted to explain what I did: take responsibility, apologize to the membership, specifically the board who is affected even more than the membership. I was supposed to be their support team and be that assertive leader; however, I wanted to acknowledge that there was no specific individual that was to blame for my forced resignation, which would be forced due to the bylaws from the previous eight years that we had to follow.
AF: On that note, you waited four months to make a statement after you stepped down. How can students trust that you will be transparent as potential president of the SFSS?
DS: Personally, I was never in denial, but there was a big cloud of regret, sadness, and embarrassment. Since I had vacated that seat, I believe that I let the membership down. It was more sadness that I let down individuals who were very confident in me. The question of transparency, the fact that I was able to be open and honest and acknowledge my mistake, on a personal level — although the timeline was four months later — I think that should provide the membership significant reasoning to believe my transparency and my ability to communicate with what takes place in the workplace. I think that when I look at it professionally, I would be representing a place of over 20,000 members on a day-to-day basis, I think it would be my fiduciary duty to ensure that anything is communicated in a timely manner.
AF: In terms of being transparent, earning back students’ trust, what is one big thing that you would like to accomplish if you were to be elected?
DS: I think we have a great relationship with SFU Health and Counselling, with High Five, our president last year did a great job of building that rapport, as well. I think this year we have some very interested board members who are passionate about this issue although, due to my vacancy they never really got to get to it. I would want to prioritize creating a peer support network, going across all three campuses, going towards, the stigma of mental health in addition to supporting members’ mental health and well-being. That is something that is big that I would like to prioritize that would have a direct and immediate impact on students.
AF: You said you did not decide to run until the last minute. Why should students believe that you are taking this election seriously?
DS: I think students should believe that I am taking this election seriously. The fact that I am willing to take that first step forward to put my name out there and make myself vulnerable to criticism and questions — and very fair criticisms because nothing had been answered in the last four months — letting them know that I have that passion and drive and that commitment that I had made to them, and I am not just simply running some sort of joke campaign, or running a campaign where I may come across as uninterested, however those are sort of secondary reasons. The fact that I went from thinking about transferring from this post-secondary institution, to wanting to not run away from my problems. I think I stress that I directly want to resolve my problems.
AF: At the Surrey debate you challenged candidates to go paperless. Why did you challenge candidates to go paperless if you now have posters up?
DS: I think at that time, I think if we had all committed to go paperless, I think that would have been fair and equal. I think if you take a look at the posters that I have put up, a large majority of them are 8.5×11 rather than 11×17 that other candidates have put up.
I feel really at fault that this election is taking place in the first place so I hope that using a smaller paper size, in a very miniscule way, still reduces the cost of this byelection in addition to obviously the sustainability factor. I think if we were all able to commit to that, it would all be fair and even playing field, but I did put posters up, because going back to your last question, I don’t want to look like I am not taking this seriously and putting in the time and commitment into having a strong campaign.
AF: If you are elected, what do you plan to do about the stadium?
DS: Although this does not gain any extra support or does not strengthen me as a candidate, I have always been, a much bigger supporter of the stadium over the Student Union Building. Although it is not a regular practice to have a student society funding a stadium, as it has always been traditionally viewed as a university or alumni business item, I see this as an opportunity to have our DNA directly imprinted on the stadium, and more accessibility to it. I was very disconnected from the board this past summer, however when I did find out that the stadium was being cancelled, I was very disappointed. At Burnaby, I don’t know the conversations behind why, although it may have been after doing all sorts of research, having it be over three times the amount it was budgeted for and then working towards reducing it, to potentially reduce the cost, but this was upsetting. However, one of my platform points is to find alternative means to a community-based stadium project. I think the first step towards that, even before we start talking about an infrastructure of that stadium is that rapport with the university administration and members beyond athletes, because I think that will be directly beneficial to the stadium as well.
AF: What is your favourite SFU memory?
DS: My favourite SFU memory was how I got involved with the SFSS in the first place. My favourite memory was being part of the marketing campaigning that led to the gathering of almost 2,000 students from all campuses that were able to attend the first-time Fall Kickoff event, which sparked my involvement with the SFSS back in 2013. Since then, I have had many great memories at SFU.