Are you SFU-ready? Version 1: Busting myths and spreading facts

Busting myths and spreading facts about SFU

Image courtesy of SFU

Myths busted by: Jennifer Low

Facts provided by: Victoria Lopatka

As you stand at the bus loop, glancing up at Simon Fraser University and trembling before the foreboding concrete maze that awaits you, your mind is plagued by the many horror stories that you were told the moment you announced that “You Are SFU.”

Fear not, troubled and confused students. The Peak’s Declassified SFU Survival Guide is here to help you feel a little less troubled, and maybe a bit less confused. Simply put: most of those horror stories are just stories. But if the legends aren’t true, then what is? We’re here to put the rumours to rest once and for all by separating fact from fiction.


Myth #1: SFU used to be a prison

SFU was never used as a jail, and was never designed to resemble a prison at all. In fact, according to the Archives and Records Management website, its design was created for a competition in 1963 that was held by Dr. Gordon Shrum, who had recently assumed the position of chancellor of the university. You have Shrum to thank for never having to walk through the rain to get to class, and for having all your large lecture theatres in one place rather than dispersed about the entire campus, as these were included in his collection of informal guidelines for SFU’s design. The winning design was created by Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massy in a unanimous selection by the judges.

Besides, not everyone thinks SFU looks like a prison. Its design is based on the horizontal structure of the acropolis in Athens and has been featured in many TV shows and films . . . It has served as courtyards, streets, walkways, CIA/FBI Headquarters, government research facilities, alien worlds, hospitals, and a slew of other settings. – JL


  • Originally, Simon Fraser University’s proposed name was simply Fraser University, but Les Peterson, the minister in charge of the legislation setting the new university up, didn’t like that the abbreviation would be “FU,” so the name was changed.
  • Arthur Charles Erickson, whose works include the Canadian Embassy in Washington, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, the MacMillan Bloedel Building and the Vancouver Art Gallery, was the architect who worked on SFU. You may have heard that Erickson designed prisons (an extension of Myth #1), which is false.
  • SFU was nicknamed the “instant university” due to its quick construction and opening. Over a span of roughly two years, the Burnaby Campus was built and ready to welcome its first class of students.
  • In 1969, a heavy snowfall cracked the glass in the roof of Convocation Mall, so the school paid $70,000 to have all the panes replaced with reinforced glass.
  • Many TV shows and movies have been filmed at SFU, including The Day the Earth Stood Still, Spy Game, Agent Cody Banks, The Sixth Day, Personal Effects, Antitrust, Fringe, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, Millennium, and The X-Files.
  • Do you know what SFU’s coat of arms looks like? Based on the arms of the Scottish Fraser of Lovat Clan, it includes blue and white quarters, white strawberry flowers, and red crowns. It bears some books, representing education. This coat of arms replaced a previous one bearing crosses, which led students to believe SFU was a private religious institution. Today, SFU is best known for a simple red box with white letters.
  • Many students may not know the university’s official motto: “Nous sommes prêts,” which is a French phrase meaning “We are ready.” This is also inspired by the Frasers of Lovat.  – VL


Myth #2: UBC is better than SFU

Ah, there is no greater rivalry than the one that is revealed in the UBC versus SFU debate. However, this myth can be debunked, as a quick Google search will ultimately reveal that SFU and UBC are both rated as among Canada’s top universities. For this reason, it is often more important to consider the options based on the program that you are interested in.

While UBC has a larger reputation, as it is about 57 years older than SFU, SFU is still well respected. In October 2017, for the ninth time in a span of 10 years, SFU was named one of the top universities in the Maclean’s Magazine University rankings in the comprehensive universities category. According to the article: SFU was ranked as “one of Canada’s top universities for producing research that makes an impact in the real world, and was lauded by Times Higher Education World University Rankings as one of four Canadian schools that excel in tech programs such as engineering.”

Not to mention, SFU (arguably) won the Great SFU vs UBC meme war of 2017. Even UBC had to admit defeat when facing the wrath of SFU’s superior meme skills. – JL


  • Of the 4,438 bachelor’s degrees that SFU awarded in 2008–09, the most popular majors were business, education, economics, psychology, communications, criminology, and english.
  • In 1970, SFU became the first university in Canada to implement a computerized registration system.
  • In 2008, the reflecting pond in the Academic Quadrangle was emptied by staff, revealing all the items that had been lost in it over the years. According to The Province, besides about 400 fish, they found “two pairs of glasses, three hockey pucks, a hearing aid, a ‘really boring’ diary, two cellphones, a five-pin bowling ball, some liquor bottles, and a sodden copy of the Thomas Hardy novel Tess Of The D’Urbervilles with an inscription that read: ‘She should have kicked him in the strawberries’.” Though it may not look like it, the large boulder in the reflecting pond in the AQ is actually six tons of Lillooet jade discovered in the Fraser Canyon. That mossy mass is the university’s founding stone. – VL


Myth #3: You’ll make all of your friends during the first few weeks.

In every cheesy rom-com with a college setting and every post-secondary romp flick, it always seems as though the first person the main character meets is destined to become their BFF or soulmate. For normal people like you and I, who reside in the real world and not some filtered TV-screen fantasy, this is not typically the case.

In university, the friends you make in many classes sometimes do not persist into the following semester, which is often when you no longer see one another due to lack of classes together. Having this expectation that you only have one chance to make friends can make you feel frustrated and lonely. Remember that the first day is not always the most important day. You can find friends any day of the year! Sometimes, you just don’t “click” with the first few people you meet. – JL


  • When SFU’s first ever pub opened in 1973, beer cost 45 cents and a cup of coffee was only 25 cents. The good ol’ days, huh?
  • As more mothers started attending SFU, a demand for child-care on campus grew. In the summer of 1968, SFU administration “swiftly denied” the request for daycare services, so a group of mothers set up their own. Each mother volunteered four hours a week to watch the group of children in the AQ. – VL




Myth #4: Making friends at SFU is impossible because it’s a commuter campus

SFU is filled with diverse, talented and friendly people, but there is always the concern that SFU lacks opportunities to allow people to meet one another. While it is true that SFU does not have the same volume of students living or staying on campus as other universities, it is possible at any university to simply travel to and from class without engaging in any sort of socializing. It is truly up to you.

Making friends could be as easy as sitting next to someone in lecture, asking someone to be your partner for an in-class assignment, or just saying “hi.” The quality of one’s student experience at any university is dependent on the level of effort you are willing to put in. SFU has an abundance of social events, like the SFSS’s most well-known and anticipated event: the Fall Kickoff. One of the best ways for students to become engaged in their SFU community is by joining clubs. If you’re interested in a specific subject, developing your career, or want to become part of an activism, volunteer, spiritual, sport or hobby club, SFU has it all.

Clubs Day can often be a daunting time for a new SFU student, but the SFSS has got you covered with a fantastic directory of clubs that links students to short descriptions of the club as well as contact and website information. So whether you’re into League of Legends, public speaking, dance or even competitive dragon boating, SFU has a club for that. And if it doesn’t, you can always apply to start one. – JL


  • The SFSS oversees about 350 clubs and an additional 50 student unions.
  • According to SFU, the university currently boasts 30 000 students divided amongst the three different campuses. Its alumni count is around 130 000 alums.
  • SFU originally had two student newspapers, The Tartan and The SF View. Each published only a few articles before they merged into a single paper, The Peak, on October 6, 1965. Upon creation, there was no name for this new newspaper, so students were asked to pick and vote on a new name.
  • Since a March 1966 referendum, where students voted overwhelmingly against having fraternities at SFU, frats haven’t been recognized by the SFSS as official SFU organizations.
  • The first-ever protest at SFU was in 1966, over the construction of a Shell gas station on campus. It was coined the “Shift Shell’ rally. I haven’t seen a gas station on campus anywhere, so the thousand students who showed up must’ve made a convincing argument.– VL