On January 16, SFU Students of African and Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA) published a letter on their Facebook page directed at the SFSS, regarding the issue of space in the new Student Union Building (SUB).
The letter includes a quote of support from 1997-98 SFSS president Joey Hansen. “I urge the SFSS to continue to find and supply space to the various groups on campus engaged in [anti-oppression activism],” Hansen wrote.
Previous Internal Relations Officer Panther Kuol allegedly stated, “I am saddened by the news that SOCA has been given notice to vacate its long held space. I find it highly disturbing.”
In the letter, SOCA writes that “we hope that this letter brings a heightened understanding of the need for a safe space for the Black community on this campus and is followed with a shift in priorities within the SFSS board.”
This letter follows the statement SOCA released to the public on December 13, calling on the continued support of their fellow students to advocate for space in the SUB.
Along with SOCA, the other Rotunda groups who have not been granted space in the SUB are campus radio station CJSF and Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG).
On November 23, 2018, the SFSS announced that they would allow CJSF, SFPIRG, and SOCA to stay in the Rotunda on a month-to-month basis until the SUB opens, as opposed to being evicted in April. They confirmed that the groups would not be getting permanent space in the SUB.
Giovanni Hosang, president of SOCA said in an interview with The Peak that the last time they officially met with the SFSS was at a board of directors’ meeting on September 14, 2018, which the group left feeling good about. Since September, they had asked for more meetings; however, they had been “categorically ignored, then finally denied, on November 23.”
Craig Pavelich, director of communications at SFPIRG, said in an email interview with The Peak that they “have attempted to engage the SFSS through formal letter communications, by meeting directly with them, and by attending their Board meetings,” however are consistently “met with attempts to avoid dialogue and accountability.”
Magnus Thyvold, station manager at CJSF, said over email that CJSF hasn’t “been given much opportunity to interact or have contact with Board members regarding this matter of space.”
Samer Rihani, acting president of the SFSS said, “We’re still discussing alternate methods, we want to look into other options with the university, and so we felt that [sic] it was just going to be a similar dialogue to the September 14 meeting, which was a lot of history [ . . . ] As it’s been stated, we politely declined because we’re still in the works of figuring out how is it that we want to do it.”
Former SFSS president Jeff McCann wrote to SFPIRG in 2012 discussing the SUB and promising to recommend a lease extension for their current space in the Rotunda. McCann finished the letter by stating that “I will personally recommend a lease extension until both organizations move into the new student union building.”
In response to this, Rihani said “based on asking our staff, I’ve never gotten a document that had written anything in stone.”
He acknowledged the email sent by McCann in 2012, but added that “from Jeff McCann’s time into our time, we’ve had a lot more clubs come up, a lot more interest [ . . . ] so for us it’s difficult.”
Rihani also elaborated on the SFSS’s decision making process, explaining that “we don’t want to prioritize anybody, regardless of the background of the club, how long you’ve been here, the services that you do. Clubs and student unions on campus all offer something different and we want each student to feel like there [is] available to them a safe space and an open space for them to access.”