Posted in Opinions, Top Opinions

The SFSS 2017 candidate endorsements

SFSS strip-Recovered copy

Editor’s Note:

Candidate endorsements for elections are a norm both in student journalism and in the professional world: in the 2016 elections for the US president, at least 100 known American publications put their thoughts out there. Though this year’s IEC has asked student groups at SFU to refrain from endorsing candidates, The Peak is an independent entity, and to refrain from providing these endorsements on that basis would go against our journalistic duty. As in previous years, we have elected to continue our practice of candidate endorsements.

In such a rushed election with so little turnout, we feel that it is important to provide an informed perspective on which candidates will best serve the student body. We are conscious of the criticism raised by students in previous years, but we are confident that our input will contribute positively to a larger discussion on representation from our student society.

These endorsements reflect the stance of the The Peak’s opinions editor formed via feedback from other participating staff members and/or SFU students, and do not reflect the views of The Peak Publications Society as a whole. Endorsements are based on each candidate’s submitted platforms, their answers to our questions from our elections issue, and their performances in debates.

As always, we strongly invite feedback on our reportage, both positive and constructive. We would also love to hear your thoughts about the election and which candidates you plan on voting for. Above all, we value opening avenues of discussion with the student body on topics which affect our university.


President: Hangue Kim; Disendorse

Hangue Kim has strong points: extensive experience with the SFSS at multiple campuses; far-reaching goals of increasing academic and professional opportunities available to students; and his focus on funding services to aid students in need.

Yet, his platform is less substantial than I’d like. For instance, he mentions “creating more opportunities to get involved” and “[increasing] spaces on campus for students” without indicating plans for accomplishing that. It feels like he’s relaxing since he’s alone in the race, and that’s not ideal from someone gunning for president.

Asked what he’d do differently from his predecessor, Kim’s response basically amounted to just building off what she’d done. Yes, Larissa Chen did some excellent work as president, but he’s using that fact to gloss over bringing few new things to the table.

Also, many of Kim’s platform items from last year still haven’t been resolved, like cheque requisitions and the promise of “biweekly meetings or monthly seminars” that successfully educate students about the school’s finances.

I’m not sure Kim could do the presidency justice as he is now, even if the alternative is a headache of a vacancy. I can’t throw my support behind him with a clear conscience.


VP Finance: Baljinder Bains; Endorse

Between Baljinder Bains, Archit Bansal, and Tawanda Masawi, I’d wholeheartedly go for Bains as the next VP finance.

While Bains and Bansal have pretty equal experience, Bains is stronger socially, with a friendly and inviting demeanour. With any new team, you need cooperation and cordiality, and you can’t discount diplomacy and being group-oriented.

Bains also has a stronger plan for dealing with grant approval issues for student groups, and he cares about issues like mental health, the tank farm, and campus sexual assaults.

Masawi has good ideas. He discusses “effective utilization of members funds,” which is great. But he doesn’t give satisfactory examples of funds being wrongfully left “idle.” His basic “By Students, For Students” slogan, while touching, screams a lack of ingenuity.

Masawi and Bansal aren’t bad candidates, but I don’t hesitate to support Bains.


VP Student Services: Jimmy Dhesa; Abstain

Yes, Dhesa’s been diligent at drawing interest and attention to the election, and that paints him well both as part of the SFSS, and specifically, to the skills and priorities critical to his desired role. He has a clean, well-defined, and directed idea of what he wants to do and how to do it.

But his role as science representative on SFU’s Board of Governors leads me to be concerned about a conflict of interest, given the influence the bodies have on each other in a decision-making capacity. It’s not a fault of Dhesa’s, as there are no rules about it, and I can’t blame him for going for both.

Nonetheless, I feel uncomfortable endorsing the candidate knowing that. I won’t suggest that you not vote for Dhesa, though — whether or not you think it’s a problem or not should be the deciding factor here.


VP Student Life: Alam Khehra; Abstain

I’m pretty ambivalent about this, honestly. I like Khehra’s goals and his energy for boosting campus culture through events, but I think he falls into a basic trap — it’s easy to just say “do what the last guy did, but better.” How much does that really tell us about his suitability and preparedness for this job? I also can’t say he’s made any real splash as this year’s at-large rep, which makes his “yes, and” approach increasingly suspect.

He cares about more than just Burnaby campus, though, which is great, and he does have some prior experience with the SFSS in a role designed around keeping them in check — his performance within that role notwithstanding. Like other candidates, too, I think he’ll have the opportunity to grow into the role. I don’t claim he’ll be super amazing, but I don’t think he’ll suck, so that’s nice. Vote at your own discretion!


VP External: Prab Bassi; Endorse

I’ll preface this by saying that Bassi is not perfect. Like the presidential candidate, her platform feels a little empty, with few really detailed plans of her own and a sense that she’ll mostly be riding her predecessor’s coattails.

Still, I feel confident in endorsing Bassi for VP External for a few reasons. She seems to have a grasp of what things matter most to students, particularly regarding issues that don’t always get enough notice, like mental health on campus and worries about the tank farm. She has a good heart, and her expressed desire to build a mentorship program in external relations shows me that she cares about helping her fellow students shine — a trait that endears me to anyone in government.

She’ll definitely need to grow over the next year, and she’ll have to prepare for some potentially harsh confrontations in her role. You could call this a ‘conditional’ endorsement, but it’s one that I’m okay with betting on under the circumstances.


VP University Relations: Erwin Kwok; Endorse

As with Bassi, I’m going to label this one something of a “conditional” endorsement, because Kwok has some points of development for sure.

He doesn’t always sound the most confident in his words and choices (like it or not, oratory skills are rightfully valuable in politics), he hasn’t done much to stand out politically in the past, and he seems a bit over-reliant on his slate at times. I also don’t know if, right now, he has the fortitude for tough talks with SFU’s admin.

But hey — Kwok’s got experience, he’s got passion, and he’s grown enough as a politician that I think he could definitely grow into this role as well. I think Kwok is certainly preferable to nothing, and he’s got an easily transferable skillset to this role.