Campus maintenance issues blamed on lack of funding

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WEB-sfu cracks-Jennifer hoffmeister1

The decline of the physical state of the SFU Burnaby campus was widely publicized in local media last week, and there is one cause of the problem that both students of the SFU Graduate Student Society (GSS) and SFU administration agree on: reduced funding from the provincial government.

The GSS has been attempting to raise awareness about the maintenance problems on the Burnaby campus through their “I [heart] SFU” Tumblr campaign, a blog that encourages students to post pictures of the decay. The GSS also recently released a report detailing the damages and repair costs of the building.

The blog and the issue of the deferred maintenance caught media attention last week, with stories being run by The Tyee, Vancouver Sun, and Global News. The pictures posted on the blog feature exposed pipes, mouldy walls, and garbage cans used to catch leaks, all found in the halls of the buildings on Burnaby campus. The tagline of the website reads, “Premier Clark: Show Our Crumbling Campus Some Love!”

“What happens when we don’t have enough money to do the routine maintenance that we need is that we defer that maintenance and problems compound . . . and the buildings are in a state of crisis or emergency,” said Julia Lane, Coordinating and External Relations Officer at the GSS, who spearheaded the campaign.

 

NEWS-quotation marksI don’t think the responsibility relies most heavily with SFU administration.”

Julia Lane, GSS Coordinating and External Relations Officer

 

Lane stated that the report shows the main problem is the reduced funding that the university is receiving from the government annually. “The capital plans estimate that $20 million would be needed yearly . . . to maintain the buildings and do necessary upgrades,” she explained. This number falls below the government’s funding guidelines for buildings of a yearly maintenance allowance of between 1.5 and 3 per cent of the university’s replacement value, $1.8 billion.

The university currently receives much less than that amount, namely $2.2 million annually, a number that was raised from about half a million dollars in the preceding two fiscal years. This lack of funding forces the university administration to seek other sources of funding to do this maintenance, including the operating budget and tuition fees, said Lane.

“I really want to emphasize  that at this point I don’t think the responsibility relies most heavily with SFU administration,” Lane said.

Pat Hibbitts, Vice President of Finance and Administration at SFU, said that the primary areas of concern are the infrastructure that ensures that the buildings “continue to be safe and reliable.” Hibbitts did concede that “improvements to roofs, building envelops, electrical and mechanical systems, elevators and seismic improvements are needed in various locations of the Burnaby campus.”

Approximately $33.5 million has been allocated by the university to maintenance needs. Currently, the campus has “fairly immediate deferred maintenance needs of approximately $160 million,” according to Hibbitts.

 

The university currently receives $2.2 million annually to maintain and upgrade buildings.

Hibbitts calls it “very unlikely” that SFU would be able to provide its own funding to restore all the Burnaby buildings to the GSS report’s suggestion, “‘good’ condition or better.” But the university, she says, has been “actively working with AVED [the Ministry of Advanced Education] for the past several years to make them aware of the need for Provincial funding,” and that “a plan is in place to increase [the Annual Capital Allowance fund] by $1M each year over the next 10 years.”

According to Chardaye Bueckert, the External Relations Officer at the SFSS, she wants to see “big calls to action with, obviously, a large cash-injection” to address the maintenance issues, as well as an inclusion of “maintenance funding whenever building a new building.”

“If you can’t fix a leak, then the leak . . . goes into the wall, then the wall has mould, then the whole wall has to be taken out, and then the insulation needs to be replaced,” Bueckert said. “The problems compound . . . that’s the major consequence of this deferred maintenance.”