What’s this nonsense about lack of community at SFU?

Photo Credit: Lisa Dimyadi

When I told my friends at UBC Okanagan three years ago that I would be attending SFU to study communication, I was met with distaste.

“You know that SFU has the highest suicide rate in the whole country, right?”

“It’s foggy, dreary and everything is made of concrete. Everyone’s apparently really sad.”

I was surprised to learn that this institution is often defamed as one without a sense of community, especially given its ‘radical’ history, proudly embellished with rallies, protests, and gatherings of like-minded individuals who’ve defended what they believe in.

By this history, I was intrigued. My interest piqued. I craved a change in atmosphere; a taste of diversity; a place to express whatever values I had in new ways. Maybe SFU brought me this, maybe Vancouver lent its helping hand, but the experience here has been far from dreary walks down depressing, concrete halls.

The sunny Thursday morning I took a place in Residence, I felt as though SFU had been unfairly labelled. SFU isn’t a single community, it’s a vast collection of them. To be more specific, the multi-day student orientation program I was thrown into was wonderfully jam-packed with vibrant people and activities — so much that it was a little overwhelming; SFU rightfully boasts one of the best orientation programs in the country.

I feel that many people on this campus are so quick to take to heart this visage of a helpless, solitary, fog-ridden SFU lacking any substantial community, that they don’t bother to put their foot forward and actually explore their options. In reality, there are endless club, job, research, community space, and campaign options.

This university has no fewer components to creating community atmosphere than any other institution.

It was difficult, and still is, for me to fall into the sheep-herd of false beliefs regarding SFU as a sad hollow for the dead. I quickly learned that people need to stop criticizing the cracks in the concrete and realize this university for what it really is: an institution with no fewer components to creating community atmosphere than any other place.

Just to be clear, I’m not approaching this idea from the usual ‘get involved’ and ‘make connections’ standpoint, but rather a place that’s more meaningful to us as people. SFU communities are about gathering experiences which will help you sculpt the kind of individual you are.

While I’ve certainly developed qualms about some of the bureaucratic processes at this school, I’ll say that any advertisements you see about vibrant student life actually have merit, and that the various opportunities I’ve cautiously stepped into over the past few years have not only exposed me to new perspectives, but encouraged me to be more open and upstanding with the personal values I’d developed before I began studying here.

University is a valuable time and place to shape yourself as the adult you will be; it’s the limbo you float in, the conflicts you face, as you discover the person whose feet will finally touch that daunting yet exciting new ground. Beyond textbooks and iClickers, it’s an environment for us to embrace honesty, sincerity, work-ethic, passion — traits that will hopefully propel us into our future as the confident, genuine people we strive to be.

I understand that not everyone will hold the same beliefs about SFU’s community atmosphere, and that you might smirk and shake your head at all this dramatic nonsense, but I encourage you to be open-minded. All cheese aside, SFU’s rainy mountain is a pedestal of pride and accomplishment, of challenges to the status quo, of individuality, creativity and bravery that make it stand out.

In light of SFU’s 50th birthday, I’m glad you chose this radical, concrete campus and I hope you strive to find your niche here, especially if you feel this unique institution aligns with your values and beliefs. You have one lucky life; make the most of SFU’s true sense of community in whichever way you see fit.


  1. We all still leave the campus as soon as possible, 3, 4, 5 pm.
    It is a dreary piece of concrete with little warmth from the setting, the locked-down rooms during exam period when there is NO place to study on the Hill.
    Poor food choices, if you don’t bring your own.
    Profs sealed in their ofices, then swan away to their West Vancouver mansions ignoring the students to their brow-beaten TAs.

    It should be demolished forthwith, and with the lessons learned build a new York University, the right way this time.