By: Amneet Mann, News Editor
This story has been updated as of July 20 to reflect the comments of the vice-provost students and international Nancy Johnston on behalf of SFU, and AMS.
The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) has announced that the annual Fall Kickoff concert will not be held on Burnaby campus this upcoming fall.
In a press release, the SFSS board of directors reported that the student society “ran into considerable challenges in our conversations with SFU” which revolved around determining the date that the concert would be held.
The SFSS originally requested the date of Friday, September 21 to hold the concert in Convocation Mall. After this request was made on June 7, the board was reportedly “given notice that our request for the date of the concert – Friday, September 21st – had been ‘pencilled in’.” However, they were informed on July 9 by SFU that the university had already booked the space for another event.
“We sincerely hope that the event that SFU has planned on September 21st that ‘conflicts’ with the concert brings the same type of student engagement that we know the concert would have provided,” reads the student society’s statement.
The SFSS followed up, asking to hold the concert on Friday, September 29, but SFU reportedly denied them that date as well. SFU offered two alternative dates: Friday, September 14, and Thursday, September 20. However, these dates were not deemed suitable by the SFSS, ultimately resulting in the event’s cancellation.
The board of directors discusses negotiations leading up to the decision
A discussion regarding the state of negotiations between SFU and the SFSS over the concert date took place during the board meeting held on July 6.
As previously reported by The Peak, the board of directors expressed concerns over holding the concert on September 14, as UBC was reportedly holding their annual fall concert on the same date.
Holding the concert on Thursday was also ruled out as a viable option due to the possibility of lower attendance, which would lead to a greater deficit than the SFSS had originally anticipated.
According to vice-president university relations Jackson Freedman at the Board meeting, holding the event on either September 14 or September 20 would “cost too much money to the student society.” Vice-president student life Tawanda Masawi agreed with Freedman, stating that “the thing we need to focus on is that if we look at the Events Committee Budget, we won’t be able to host any other events throughout the year if we assume this deficit.”
Masawi reported that, in a meeting held between the SFSS and SFU on June 7, the SFSS was notified that there was another event SFU had booked for the September 21 date. “The problem there is that when we checked the booking schedule, the only event that’s going on now is a job fair,” said Masawi. “So based on that — I haven’t confirmed it — but I think the only event they’re afraid of us colliding at the same time with are a job fair. [sic]”
Masawi supported the SFSS taking a strong stance when negotiating with SFU, where the SFSS would move to “push SFU and send them an ultimatum telling them that, ‘Hey, we want the event on the 21st. We booked this date, you guys owe us this date. We told you this date and you decided to book an event knowing that we’re going to host Fall Kick-off. We’ve hosted it for the last four years.”
“We have to be prepared to walk away,” cautioned Masawi in the event that SFU did not agree to the September 21 date.
SFU comments on event cancellation
“SFU was very supportive of the 2018 fall concert and specifically hired the previous fall concert coordinator to work with the SFSS to ensure a successful event for all students,” said vice provost students and international Nancy Johnston in an interview with The Peak.
“We were very disappointed to learn that the first choice date was not possible — and by we I mean the people at the student services that are working with the SFSS — and later we were disappointed that none of the alternate dates for Convo Mall were deemed acceptable by the SFSS who then chose to move the event off campus.”
According to Johnston, the original “pencilling-in” of the September 21 date that the SFSS press release referred to was prior to an official proposal being submitted on behalf of the SFSS. “That’s completely separate to the process of approving a large-scale event,” said Johnston. “There are many things that get considered when you’re doing these large scale events: one is whether the venue is available, another is whether something else is going on at the same time, the simple availability of certain services at the time.
“That process of looking at the larger picture doesn’t start until you get the proposal and you look at what’s proposed.”
While the exact details of the nature of the event that has been booked on the 21 in unknown to Johnston, she was able to confirm that the conflicting event was an independent Meeting, Events, and Conference Services (MECS) event being held adjacent to Convocation Mall.
“I know that the MECS event is not happening at Convo Mall. That’s why it would not have shown up when they opened up the MECS planner. It didn’t get known until the consultation process started,” said Johnston.
As far as Johnston is aware, it was MECS and Safety and Risk Services that made the assessment that the large Fall Kickoff event would not be possible to host at the same time as the MECS event.
Johnston mentioned that SFU had also offered a couple of Saturdays for hosting the Fall Kickoff, but the SFSS had expressed that they did not feel enough students would attend the event if it were held on a Saturday.
Johnston commented that this experience could be taken as a learning opportunity the next SFSS board. “If you know you want [an event] for the third Friday of September, then [the previous board] should pencil it in and make sure the next board knows that, ‘hey, plan one is to sit with the event planning folks and get that going April and not June or early July.’”
She acknowledged that “it is a difficult thing to plan a fall event when the new board just starts and just only gets its feet wet [. . .] but that would probably be one kind of learning we could take away so the next board is not in the same position.”
A change.org petition titled “Bring Back Fall Kickoff 2018” has been started by SFU student Junho Kim and addressed to SFU and the SFSS. At the time of publication, the petition had garnered 163 signatures.
SFSS partners with AMS Events for Welcome Back BBQ
Following the announcement of the Fall Kickoff cancellation, the SFSS made public a second press release announcing that the student society is planning to partner with the Alma Mater Society (AMS) of UBC to host AMS’s Welcome Back BBQ.
The barbecue will be held on September 14 at the AMS Nest Plaza on UBC’s Vancouver campus.
The statement acknowledged that, while “this event is not the same as the concert experience we could provide here on Burnaby campus, this partnership was the best alternative for our members given the circumstances.”
In an interview with The Ubyssey, UBC’s student newspaper, AMS programming and events manager Asad Ali has stated that UBC “will still manage pretty much the whole event itself. It’s just a partnership collaborating [. . .] bringing more people out to the event.”
The new development will result in an increased number of tickets being sold for the Welcome Back BBQ, with the original ticket cap of 5,000 being increased to 6,500 and some tickets being reserved for SFU students.
The ticket price for SFU students is expected to be higher than the price for their UBC counterparts, which is subsidized by AMS Events. Prices are still being negotiated, but Ali estimates tickets for SFU students will be sold at $37 for general tier and $45 for final tier.
Ali stated that he views this collaboration between the student unions as first step to “an overarching goal if we ever want to do a Block Party or Welcome Back for 10,000 people.”
“This is a great example and the first push to ensure that we can make something like that [sic] happens,” he said.
The SFSS echoed this positive outlook on the collaboration in their statement, reading that “we look forward to this great opportunity to work with AMS Events and are excited that we can still offer a fantastic concert experience to students this coming fall.”