Why I’m voting ‘no’ to Build SFU

Photo Caption: Phoebe Lim

In 1965, SFU opened its doors for the first time and filled its lecture halls. Since then, the school has developed a reputation as being one of the leading comprehensive universities — notable politicians, artists, athletes, and researchers alike call this school their alma mater.

But SFU’s success has had its downsides. Unlike other universities such as UBC, SFU had to expand quite rapidly to accept more students as it grew in rank. As a result, many of our older buildings have gone by uncared for since we spent our funds on expansion plans.

And this brings me to why we need to vote ‘no’ to Build SFU.

With SFU’s poor maintenance, now we need to fix SFU.

In a deferred maintenance report released by the SFSS and the GSS, the total estimated replacement cost of the buildings at SFU Burnaby is approximately $1.8 billion.

As the SFSS suggests, and the GSS agrees with, “deferred maintenance refers to the routine repairs and upkeep required to keep buildings operating normally that have been postponed later than would be usually acceptable.” According to the same report, usually financial circumstances govern these kinds of decisions. If funding for general maintenance has been an issue, moving forward with the SUB seems very irresponsible.

We’ve all seen the work around campus that needs to be done. Even those who have just started their time here at SFU have probably noticed mould, poorly maintained infrastructure, and broken equipment.

So long as our campus is crumbling around us, we shouldn’t be going all-in on a new infrastructure endeavour. Our priority should be put on existing buildings that host SFU’s academics. The SUB is a project that does not align with this criteria. It goes as far as to include gaming rooms and karaoke.

The SUB’s focus on carnivalesque pleasure is a less than subtle reminder that this building is not actually a necessity. But our deferred maintenance is essential — as an institution, we cannot move forward until we’ve finished repairing the existing campuses.

So long as our campus is crumbling around us, we shouldn’t be going all-in on a new infrastructure endeavour.

Besides, deferred maintenance isn’t the only reason to vote this project down; it’s outside SFU students’ zone of affordability.

The SFSS has reported that by 2022, students would be paying an extra $90 a semester to help finance this project. Over the course of a degree, at that rate, this can cost any given student $1,000 or more. Speaking as a working student, I just can’t afford this, and I don’t think others can either. The added burden will result in more loans and more stress, and that’s just not what we students need.

Furthermore, I question whether SFU truly needs a SUB to foster students’ happiness. There are many more cost effective ways of developing a community on campus. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), earlier this year, found that 16 per cent of first-year students ranked SFU the way it currently is, without a SUB, as “excellent,” and 56 per cent ranked it as “good,” while senior-year students’ ranks had similar results. Which begs the question: do we genuinely need this?

The fact of the matter is that the Build SFU project is not the solution that students are looking for, but a luxury that the university and its students can’t afford.

Moreover, this is a very Burnaby-centric project that fails our satellite campuses and all the students unable to make it to the AGM. This vote could have been done online or via the spring referendum, but the SFSS has insisted that would be too expensive. This kind of voter suppression should set off red flags for all SFU students. If we are to go down the SUB path, we need to have a clear consensus that encompasses a much larger portion of the SFU student body.

While the SUB may provide fun, it won’t actually address the core maintenance, tuition, and democratic problems students face. We have developed a campus community and identity without a SUB, and that will continue to grow even if we vote this project down. The SFSS needs to adjust their priorities to reflect those of the student body, and you can remind them of that fact by attending the Annual General Meeting on September 22 and voting ‘no’ to this project.

Forget #BuildSFU. It’s time to #FixSFU.