Undergraduate students denied the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) board of directors the right to pursue a loan concerning the Build SFU Student Union Building (SUB) and Stadium projects at their Special General Meeting (SGM) last Wednesday.
The SGM was held after students complained that the SFSS’ last Annual General Meeting (AGM), held on October 22, 2014, did not accommodate all SFU students who wanted to attend and vote on the motions related to the projects.
As such, the SFSS held an SGM on Jan 21 to ask students to approve the Society’s pursuit of a loan — also known as a debenture — to fund the Build SFU SUB and Stadium.
The special resolution to approve the projects generated a lively debate, with students from both sides of the issue voicing their opinions.
Members of NoToBuildSFU, a group advocating against the projects, were particularly vocal. One of the core members, Colin Woodbury, motioned that the issue be taken to referendum in order to allow all SFU students to vote. A slight majority of students rejected this idea, with 251 in favour of postponing and 261 opposed.
Other students were concerned with the amount of outreach done by Build SFU and the SFSS.
Over 630 students attended the SGM.
When SFSS at-large representative Rebecca Langmead responded that the Build SFU street team had undertaken over 4,800 hours of outreach, several members of the crowd began to heckle her.
Yvette Rancourt, an SFU student, took to the microphone next to speak to the financial pressures the levy that funds the building puts on students. “As students, we can always find a place to sleep, a place to study, a place to play video games, but one thing that is a lot harder for some of us is to find money,” she said.
She continued, saying she took issue with how the meeting itself was conducted. “I would feel a lot more comfortable [. . .] if we had an actual physical record of the votes cast that wasn’t being counted by members of the SFSS,” she said.
Adrienne Marino, president of the SFU concert orchestra, advocated for students to vote on the project at the SGM. “If this becomes a referendum, it’s a waste of my money, it’s a waste of your money,” she said. “The project is still approved, so even if we push back the loan, it’s going to cost us more money in the end.”
She continued, “This is huge. This is for us. It’s our community.”
After almost an hour and a half into the meeting, Nicholas Chapman, a student senator, moved to end the discussion and vote on the motion, stating, “I don’t know about you guys, but I kind of want to leave, so I make a motion to call the question.”
The special resolution ultimately failed, with only 65 per cent of votes in favour of approving the debenture. The motion required 75 per cent to pass. Soon after, a related motion to ensure that future SFSS boards cannot decide to cancel the student levy also failed to pass.
Woodbury was pleased to see so many students participating in the debate: “Now that many more students are really paying attention to the project, we have a chance to reform it or end it altogether.”
“It’s going to cause major delays for the project.”
Zied Masmoudi, SFSS VP student services
After the Build SFU motions failed, a large percentage of attendees exited the West Gym, despite the two additional non-binding questions on the agenda. Remaining students voted in favour of both the existence of Greek letter organisations on campus and retaining ownership of the SFSS Food and Beverage Services.
Following the meeting, SFSS VP student services Zied Masmoudi shared his thoughts on the outcome, saying, “I’m really glad to see people participating in the decision-making process and really glad to see people get involved, no matter what the results of the vote are.”
Nevertheless, the ‘no’ vote does mean that the Build SFU SUB project will be significantly delayed. Masmoudi explained, “It’s going to cause major delays for the project. We don’t know at this point how much that is going to cost us, nor how long that will be.”
When asked what the opposition at the meeting means for the society, Masmoudi replied, “I think it is time for us to probably take a step back and see what we can change about it.”
For now, the SFSS board of directors and the Build SFU project staff will work together on what their next steps will be.