SFSS builds “think tank” for SUB consultations

By Ariane Madden

The space will be used to introduce the student union building and gain support from the student body.

As part of an ongoing bid to garner student support for a future student union building through consultations called Build SFU, the Simon Fraser Student Society has built a special “think tank” in Maggie Benston Centre in what used to be the Travel CUTS office next to the Ladle.

The space, set to open this Monday, includes a 42 inch television which will play a looped video of the architects’ plans for the proposed student union building, an interactive computer model, and computers for students to complete surveys on what they think the SUB should look like and be used for.

The think tank also includes a scale model of the SFU campus originally housed in the main entrance to the Strand Administration building. For the purposes of the Build SFU project, architecture firm Endall Elliot Associates added models for the three proposed student union building options to the existing models which include potential future developments to the undergraduate residence community and the UniverCity community trust.

SFSS president Jeff McCann described the think tank as a space where the concept of a student union building is made “real” to students who will be faced with an upcoming referendum question that may see the building being funded by present and future students.

“I don’t think there’s any amount of feedback that’s enough . . . and I think that once you put a vision out there, it becomes more real for people so [students] see what the potential is [for the student union building].”

In order to foster engagement with students and to receive input from satellite campuses, the SFSS has also built a website and will have accompanying Facebook and Twitter accounts so that student organizations as well as individuals can provide their feedback on the plans for the building and on how the space should be used to its full potential. These accounts will be monitored by the SFSS communications coordinator as well as volunteers from the student body who will be running the think tank space.

Additionally, the SFSS will have a smaller scale think tank set up at Surrey campus and will have a “mobile think tank” which will make rounds of classrooms and existing student spaces in order to fully incorporate all interested members of the campus community. Meetings with departmental student unions, affiliate organizations such as SFPIRG, and satellite campus organizations will also help to create a complete picture of SFU’s needs and desires in a new space should the referendum question be passed.

First-year dance major Desi Rekrut expressed interest in the social media tools being used by the SFSS but also spoke about the importance of engaging students at satellite campuses such as Woodward’s: “I think to ask them for money, they will have to know what they’re paying for…So Facebook’s a really good way to get [satellite campus students] involved.”

McCann stated that the SFSS was able to borrow some equipment for the project but that its total budget was $10,000. The Peak was unable to confirm actual spending by press time.

Alastair Lindsay, a fourth-year sciences student who is involved in a number of student clubs and organizations expressed similar sentiments about the think tank and Build SFU project.

“In my opinion it’s better to spend a bit more money to make sure the job is done right by taking the time to consult students […] than to cut costs and see the building built around the ideas of a few.”

Feedback received from the think tank project will be presented to the SFSS space committee who will then act upon the feedback to incorporate it into the plans for the student union building.