Posted in Opinions, Top Opinions

Letter to the Editor: SFSS elections and referenda questions

March 24, 2017

Dear Editor,

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Spring 2017 election voting is taking place this week and I must emphasize the importance of all students’ participation. You all can vote for SFSS’ 16 Board of Director representatives for the 2017-18 term. They will hold the responsibility of overseeing SFSS activities, as to ensure SFU student interests remain prioritized. This includes governance efforts, student group support, responsible financial management, student representation, advocacy campaigns, project development, events oversight, and many more.

More importantly, the SFSS has proposed 2 referenda questions to be voted upon. To pass, each question requires 5% of the membership to vote and a simple majority. Here’s a quick overview to contextualize the questions.

HEALTH & DENTAL PLAN FEE

The SFSS currently provides students with two options for the Health/Dental Plan: Enhanced Plan ($255/yr) & Basic Plan ($198/yr). Students can also easily opt out if they have other health insurance plans, ie. plans under your guardian(s) or employee plans.

The total cost of the plan has increased significantly over the years, due to increased claims, inflation, and increased cost of prescription drugs & services. The SFSS is currently subsidizing the plan by $16.67 per students from the Health Reserve Fund (HRF), unsustainable beyond Fall 2017.

If approved, the fee collected for the Health & Dental Plan will have the flexibility to increase or decrease by 5% max each year. Furthermore, the SFSS will be moving towards a competitive Request For Proposal (RFP) process to ensure max benefits at the lowest cost. If there is a change to the fee, the SFSS will announce the cost and benefits prior to the change. If the question fails, the SFSS will have to cut the benefits students currently have, because at the current rate, the HRF will be depleted by Fall 2017.

Recent survey results show that 72% of students wished to increase plan costs, with 42% noting they wished to have more benefits. With the exponentially growing student demand for prescriptions, mental health services and medical care year after year, the approval of this question is essential for the protection of the plan. Personally, I believe if benefits are to be cut from the plan, this will have to be done to a significant extent and would inevitably decrease the value of the plan for students.

BYLAW REFORM

The second referendum question pertains to the SFSS Bylaw reform, mandated by the changes in the BC Society Act and University Act. These bylaws dictate how SFSS governs and represents the student body.

Bylaws aren’t exciting, but they’re important for the structural oversight of the Society and its membership (SFU undergraduates). The current bylaws contain many inconsistencies, with bits added by previous Board members. This set of bylaws speaks with one voice, which appropriately addresses student needs.

Some of the key changes include a clearer definition of membership and flexibility to call by-elections as needed, rather than the current requirement to wait until the 6th week of the Fall semester. There is also reaffirmed recognition of clubs, student unions and ancillary groups (previously known as constituency groups), as they make up a crucial part of our organization. There is also improved language regarding the role of the SFSS Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is the group that administers SFSS elections.

Lastly, there have been changes to the structure of the Board of Directors, as to have 1 President, 4 Vice Presidents and 4 At-large Representatives. Subsequently, there are changes to strengthen SFSS Council, allowing for proportional representation from all faculties. Similar to how faculty representatives currently collaborate with their faculty and the SFSS Board, the bylaws changes propose 20 elected SFSS Council faculty representatives to advocate for the student interests from each of their faculties and departments.

If approved, the bylaws will come into effect May 1, 2018. If the question fails, the Society will contradict the legal obligations established in the BC Society Act and will continue to face barriers in adequately addressing membership needs.

These bylaw changes will allow for stronger flexibility in addressing student concerns as they arise. With the clear mandate to advocate for students on all tiers of the SFSS organization, your representatives will be able to work with agility and clarity to ensure your voice is heard. Another important note is that the policies that fall under these bylaws are equally important, as they address the operations and processes of how groups, such as Board of Directors, Council, clubs, student groups and ancillary groups, are to be strengthened for your representation.

MORE INFORMATION

Check out the Board of Director candidates and the referenda questions at elections.sfss.ca. The referenda questions can be conveniently found at bit.ly/2mJsVHT. To engage via social media, please check out bit.ly/2n2DeYN.

HOW TO VOTE

The voting link will be sent to each student via their SFU Connect email. Voting takes 30 seconds max and if you support the referendum campaigns, please share with your networks, engage with the campaign via social media and vote!

TLDR

Your vote matters, so get informed about the candidates and referenda questions. I encourage you to vote YES to both referenda questions. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to contribute to the improvement of SFSS and your campus experience. Thank you in advance & good luck with exams and final projects!

Cheers,

Larissa Chen

President

Simon Fraser Student Society

president@sfss.ca

 

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