Looking back and forward at SFU’s 2018

Photo Illustration by Gene Cole/The Peak

Written by: Gene Cole, Opinions Editor

As we look back at the huge list of ridiculous things that happened at SFU in 2018, their contexts and future implications are worth keeping in mind.

Jas Randhawa is elected . . . and impeached

(Photo by Azat Bayandin / Peak Archives)

The leadership of the SFSS this past semester has been my go-to story to tell friends and family at dinner for weeks. It’s undoubtedly been one of the most eventful and engaging bits of student news this year. Everything, from the leaked audio that first appeared publicly on the SFU Dank Memes Gang Facebook page to the smoke bomb at the Annual General Meeting, feels nothing short of fiction.

Despite its surreality, I think the gravity of the situation is finally starting to sink in. The students of SFU had a student government leader that was accused of mishandling his job, and then lost his job to the tune of thunderous applause. This entire journey through the Fall has made for entertaining headlines, but they aren’t just silly things that happened in the background of our classes. They had real impacts on the trust we have in student government.

When the next SFSS elections begin, I’m hoping a lot of students have a greater understanding of just how important and real these elections are, because student government is more than just a series of memes.

 

Concerns raised around SFU’s health and safety policies

(Photo by Chris Ho / Peak Archives)

I don’t doubt that there’s still a lot of discussion going on within the school, security, and emergency services; there’s still a lot of real concerns about how we’re taken care of on the mountain, and I don’t think anybody is taking the fact that there was an assault and a death on the Burnaby campus in the same semester lightly. That said, I can’t help but feel that these headlines aren’t going to stay in the public consciousness for long despite being covered by CBC, because the crises that inspired them were mostly random occurrences.

I would definitely like to see more changes to how the school responds and provides support, but I can easily foresee our systems staying unchanged as we all forget what happened — at least until another crisis comes along to remind us how unsafe we are on an isolated campus like Burnaby Mountain.

 

Student groups and vendors criticize the SFSS for denying them space in the upcoming Student Union Building (SUB)

(Photo by Israrul Haque / Peak Archives)

Groups have been expressing concern and frustration for over a year, but the conflict between student groups and the SFSS certainly peaked in 2018. The eternally under-construction SUB has been an expensive eyesore at best, and a looming threat for groups without another place to go at worst.

It’s been nothing short of a battle for some of these groups — the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group, the First Nations Student Association, Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry, and campus radio station CJSF all expressed concerns at various discussions, such as the September 19 board of director meetings. The lack of certainty and security for these groups has been heartbreaking to see for all their efforts.

I want to have faith that the SUB will be finished and these groups will have their space. But until it’s here and these groups can rest easy, students are going to be in limbo.

 

SFU increases tuition, ensuing protests

(Photo by Srijani Datta / Peak Archives)

It’s slightly concerning that possibly the most serious and widely-affecting event of 2018 might go unnoticed by the majority of students. Between tuition, textbooks, school supplies, and just the cost of living, students spend enough that a 2% rise in tuition (or 4% for international students) adds up. More and more students face greater difficulty in pursuing an education as the costs rise.

We’ve already seen students arguing against and protesting this hike through SFU Tuition Freeze Now!, and one hopes that student groups like this continue growing and fighting to make SFU as financially accessible as possible. At the very least, their work is bound to raise student awareness of just how steep — and steepening — the costs of post-secondary are. If nothing ends up changing, though, I can easily imagine most students continuing to be passive and treating the cost of tuition as a meme of being a student.