What’s next for the Build SFU projects?

Marc Fontaine, Build SFU general manager, looks down as the debenture question fails to pass by a 10 per cent margin.

Earlier this month, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) did not receive permission from the students present at their Special General Meeting (SGM) to pursue a loan for Build SFU’s Student Union Building (SUB) and Stadium projects.

The motion only garnered 65 per cent of the 75 per cent of votes needed to pass, which means that the board cannot obtain a loan and begin construction on the SUB.

Instead, the board must now consider alternative ways to move forward, as they still need the permission of the membership to obtain a loan.

At their latest meeting, at-large representative Rebecca Langmead began the discussion by questioning the dedication of the board to the project.

“I have noticed that without me, board and executive timesheets [from January 7] only mention SGM outreach and SGM a total of 13 times. From everybody,” she said. “My timesheet mentions SGM outreach 20 plus times.”

With reference to the sentiment from some students that the SFSS had been acting as the official ‘yes’ campaign for the Build SFU project, Langmead then asked a pointed question of the executive members:

“Do our executives agree that the board should be in support of a project that is their own and a department that has been created through the SFSS? And I would like an answer from each and every one of you.”

The executives voiced their support for the project, after which several members claimed that they had intended to speak on the project’s behalf, but the question was called too early.

At this point, VP university relations Moe Kopahi questioned why there had been so much confusion as to whether or not they could pass the debenture at an AGM versus during a referendum.

“We have an entire department allocated to this. How could this happen?” he exclaimed. “I want to know whose duty was this, to do this digging and let us know, because under my impression, [. . .] the AGM or SGM was the only option.”

Marc Fontaine, the general manager of Build SFU, asserted, “I was quite surprised to hear at exec the other day that there was such confusion because I have never been confused.

“I do not believe that I ever stated that it was the only option, that it was not possible to hold a referendum,” he continued. “But it seems to have been inferred that way.”

“It’s the safe answer, to be opposed to something.”

Marc Fontaine, Build SFU general manager

The board then moved to a private in-camera session to discuss the matter. Upon returning, the board had made no decision as to the next steps forward. Bueckert said they would be discussing the matter offline.

The Peak spoke with Fontaine after the meeting to hear his thoughts on the SGM.

“I’m disappointed by the results of the SGM because I think there was a lot of misinformation in the weeks prior to the meeting,” he began. “I think a lot of the claims against the project were not the full story and were taken piecemeal.”

When asked what he thought about the support for NoToBuildSFU, the campaign against the project, he replied, “It’s the safe answer, to be opposed to something. Change is difficult and change costs money.”

Fontaine estimates that because of the failure to pass the debenture, the project will be delayed by at least six months, and the board will likely have to hold a referendum regarding the projects. In addition, the Build SFU team will begin further outreach this week.

“I think it’s really important that we step back at this point — the Build SFU department and the student society — we step back for a while, talk to students, and listen to students,” he said. “So that we can, if necessary, take steps to adjust the project to make it what students are looking for.”

Fontaine added, “And perhaps we will end up with a better building at the end of it.”

1 COMMENT

  1. If saying no was the safe and easy answer I wouldn’t have sat through an SFSS meeting in order to tell the SFSS why I voted no. I could have stayed home if I didn’t want change. If you came out of that board meeting thinking students were opposed to a meaningless jargon term like change, then you’re not listening to the students, and that’s something that should change.

    I know not listening to the students is the safe answer, because it means you can do what you want, and I get that changing so you listen to the students is difficult, but that’s what you have to do if you want to get a yes vote.

    How this article doesn’t talk through any of the great words said by Kayode, Chardaye, and Adam boggles my mind. The fact that they all seem to support the project, and noted their humanness and democratic approach to the people who weren’t paid to sit in on the meeting, was a gesture that was much appreciated, and showed the good will and fairness of their democratic approach. No one is asking you to be perfect, or to go against your own beliefs, just to create space for fair representation.