Written by: Amneet Mann, News Editor
From reconciliation, to addressing sexual misconduct, to the political associations of our team name, 2017 was the year SFU opened up dialogue about issues that resonated in our community. We present a rundown of our top news stories of the year.
SFU cancels Aboriginal Transition Program . . . and then revives it
The abrupt cancellation of the Aboriginal University Transition Program in April due to declining enrolment prompted a petition by faculty to bring the program back for the coming academic school year. The petition gathered 885 signatures, and in August SFU revived the program when it announced an interim Aboriginal University Preparation Program piloted by the faculty of arts and social sciences, to be launched in the spring 2018 semester.
Historic report and ceremony mark the beginning of reconciliation
2017 marked the start of SFU’s journey towards reconciliation. To assist the university’s allocation of $9 million in reconciliation funds, the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council submitted Walk This Path With Us, a report consisting of 33 calls to action, including the creation of more dedicated cultural spaces and removing offensive colonial artwork on campus. The consultation process was initiated in fall 2016, and the report was submitted to the Office of the President on June 15. On October 16, a traditional Kwis Ns7eyx̱, or witnessing ceremony, was led in Convocation Mall by members of the Coast Salish First Nations to mark the historic moment.
Kinder Morgan tank farm starts construction amid growing local protests
Controversy surrounding the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project continued from 2016 through this year. Most notably, the four-day Walk for the Salish Sea march to protest the project began in Victoria and concluded at the base of Burnaby Mountain. In November, SFU President Andrew Petter called the tank farm project an “unacceptable” safety risk to students and the university as it posed “significant and deeply concerning” risks. The Trans Mountain project was approved by the federal National Energy Board in August, but the decision is now being challenged in the Federal Court of Appeal by First Nations, activists, and municipal governments. Work to accommodate the pipeline expansion project at a nearby marine terminal has begun, and boring for the project is scheduled to start in February 2018.
SFU responds to 2016 sexual violence incidents with new policy draft and Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office
SFU kicked off 2017 by releasing a draft of its Sexual Violence and Misconduct Prevention, Education, and Support Policy for feedback to address the sexual violence incidents on campus that came to light in 2016. A crucial period of editing followed the release of the draft, where members of the SFU community raised concerns and questions regarding the policy. Two of the most scrutinized issues remain: the design and staffing of the Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office and the procedure for the reporting and investigating of a sexual violence report. Dr. C.J. Rowe was named the inaugural director of the office which was slated to open in fall 2017, but was delayed.
The stadium is back
After cancelling the Build SFU stadium in August 2016, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) proposed a new version of the project in March, which was approved. After being approved by SFU, the plans for the new stadium were unveiled later in the year at an open house. The stadium will be adjacent to the Lorne Davies Complex and will be paid for through $10 million in undergraduate levies paid to the university between 2019 and 2030.
SFSS transfers food and beverage services
Highland Pub and the Ladle were shut down along with all other SFSS food and beverage operations after years of significant deficits. The SFSS then considered leasing the pub and coffee shop space to another food and beverage operator, meeting resistance and concern from many students, including a new student club titled Save the Highland. The operations were ultimately taken over by the university. While the food court remained open, Higher Grounds Coffee Shop was slated to open in fall 2017 (but didn’t), and the Highland Pub is expected to open in early 2018.
Controversy over SFU team name
Philosophy professor Holly Andersen petitioned to assert that SFU should change the name of its sports team from the SFU Clan due to associations of the name with the Ku Klux Klan. The name originates from the Scottish roots of the namesake of our university, Simon Fraser.
Food supplier changes and cafeteria strike
As their contract with SFU’s food supplier at the time (Chartwells) came to an end, SFU food service workers held protests and rallies for continuing job security under the new contractor. Tensions rose when a misleading email titled “URGENT: 160 SFU cafeteria workers received termination notices” was sent out by graduate student Monica Petek to a portion of SFU students. Online and hard copy petitions by cafeteria workers garnered over 1,500 signatures by the SFU community.