SFU through 2017, a review of the ups and downs

Let’s evaluate the big moments for SFU over the past year

SFU wrote a sexual violence policy

It’s great that SFU finally has a comprehensive policy on sexual violence, both to keep students safe and to hold SFU more accountable when they fail to maintain that safety. It’s progress towards truly creating a genuine consent culture on our campuses and it establishes zero-tolerance clearly.

However, we should make sure we do not become complacent. We should continue to explore further ways to improve our policies and otherwise address sexual violence on campus. During the draft stage, for instance, a Peak editorial suggested mandatory sexual misconduct education for all students. Whether or not you agree with that particular idea, continuing to innovate and research in this regard is critical.

We should also remember that SFU still has a ways to go as far as their ability to take initiative on this kind of issue. Let’s not forget that SFU didn’t create a policy until after Bill M 205 forced all of BC’s post-secondary institutions to do so. Moving forward, let’s strive to be better at handling these sensitive crises without being forced to do so.

But regardless of what the impetus was, the fact that we have the policy and the Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office now is 100 per cent an important step forward. Keep it up, SFU.

The SFSS changed their election and referendum policies

When the SFSS introduced their revamped election policies, there were positives and negatives. It was great to hear that the Independent Electoral Commissioner (IEC) would be working harder to boost voter turnout, and that there would be better, more consistent disciplinary measures in place to deal with candidates who broke rules.

On the other hand, one Peak article notes that many of the IEC’s powers have been taken by the SFSS themselves — which is counterproductive to the lack of conflict of interest that having an independent electoral commissioner is meant to accomplish. It’s also disappointing to see that all-candidate debates will only be held at one campus now, though this is understandable if turnout has been bad over the years.

On the whole, the policies do some important work, but there are some tangible design flaws here nonetheless.

The world talked about the SFU Clan

The story behind the petition to stop being the SFU Clan went viral. Locally and globally, several news sources got in on the coverage. Do we have a duty to pay attention to the American cultural context of “clan,” especially as a school that plays in the NCAA? Or would changing our Clan name merely set a bad precedent for allowing hate groups to co-opt and control language through fear tactics?

I would personally suggest that we owe it to the thousands on thousands whose lives have been influenced by the Ku Klux Klan to change. “Holocaust” used to just refer to destruction by burning or nuclear power; the R-word used to be a normal word for talking about decreased speed. But there’s a reason we’ve mostly ceased to use words like these in common discourse.

Either way, I am pleased that we had the discussion. What I do wish is that the conversation had ultimately been more productive. Despite the media firestorm, I don’t feel that SFU Athletics has really responded. Choosing to keep the name is understandable, but “exploring our strategy and approach in how best to move forward” seems to have amounted to “wait for people to forget this.”

The saddest part of all is that everyone seems to have overlooked the fact that, well, forget the Clan: our entire school is named after a massively colonialist prick.

Highland Pub closed and SFU took over Food and Beverage Services

When the Highland Pub closed, it was a . . . I don’t want to say “nail in the coffin” for campus life, because SFU campus life has been dead for so long that its intellectual property is public domain and the carrion beetles have moved on to the next dietary craze. But it did remind us that we were losing yet another vestige of the university experience. (Personally, I was more upset to lose Higher Grounds. The Italian sodas were bomb and the baristas were great.)

I would have loved to see those services remain in student hands, even if it meant an overhaul was still in order. Student-run food and beverage services have great potential to, well, stay relevant to students, and harkens back to SFU’s very anti-authoritarian roots. It even gives back to the student community in a very real way by providing jobs.

But with all the money the Highland Pub lost, I can understand what led to the decision to transfer Food and Beverage Services to SFU. Not because I blame the student-run component for the lack of success — I don’t, to be clear — but because, from the SFSS’s and SFU’s point of view something clearly had to change. All I can hope for is that the changes SFU brings are for the better, and that we get a cafe and pub that does a much better job of engaging students.

SFU and reconciliation

This year, SFU has had ups and downs in the journey toward reconciliation. In April, they tried to can the Aboriginal University Transition Program. On the other hand, they brought it back after being petitioned. They’ve also taken on the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council’s calls to action, to be implemented over a three-year timeline.

Because the process of reconciliation is such a continuous matter, and because the witnessing ceremony to confirm SFU’s acceptance of the calls to action has only just happened, it would be remiss to offer any sort of definitive evaluation. What can be said is that SFU has made progress, and the hope is that they continue on this trajectory.