SFU’s convo-mall construction timeline is cutting things too close

Photo by Chris Ho / The Peak

Written by: Zach Siddiqui, Copy Editor

If you’re a deep-cut Legend of Zelda fan, you might remember one of the game series’ 2001 instalments, Oracle of Ages. In this game, the wicked sorceress Veran advises (and later possesses) Queen Ambi, hijacking her big construction project.

Though Ambi was building her tower so she’d have a tall enough vantage point to find her lost love, Veran used the construction project to bring misery to the queen’s country. Her goal was not to finish the tower, but to force the builders to work on it forever, making it a permanent source of pain for the people. So the tower was built higher and higher, with no end in sight.

Though SFU Burnaby isn’t exactly the Black Tower, there are some similarities. SFU construction projects never end on time and they bring pain and misery to their students. We’ve seen this again and again.

Recently, project manager James Bremner talked to The Peak about the timeline of the ongoing construction in Convocation Mall and how that will affect this summer’s convocation ceremony. According to Bremner, the area in front of the stage will be finished early in June, prior to convocation. The stage itself will be filled in with temporary tiles for the ceremony.

To me, this is pretty horrid for any June graduates. I’m not graduating this summer myself, but the construction situation sabotages the summer 2019 convocation on several levels, and it does our soon-to-be grads dirty.

Don’t misunderstand: I trust Bremner’s intentions, and the work he and his team are doing is invaluable. But while I believe in their honesty and work ethic, the reality is that we just can’t take for granted that things will go according to plan. Haven’t we established concretely that campus projects don’t always stay on schedule? The student union building was projected to be finished in fall 2018; now it won’t open until summer 2019.

While this might have been due to understandable and unexpected barriers, unexpected things happen all the time. That’s why you need your projects to have a reasonable margin of error. Convocation is supposed to start on June 11; an “early June” projected completion date leaves only days of margin for if anything goes wrong. What will the school do if Convocation Mall isn’t ready in time?

On top of that, the stage itself certainly won’t be finished. It’s unclear what these “temporary tiles” will look like, so I’ll withhold judgment there — but I can only hope they make that stage look flawless.

Adding insult to injury, let’s also remember that graduates normally take their post-ceremony photos in the AQ by the water. While finding spots to pose away from the construction shouldn’t be too hard, the fact remains that if convocation does happen as planned, hundreds of grads and their loved ones will be congregating in a space that simply isn’t going to look its best. Admittedly, this would be a problem no matter what, given that AQ construction won’t be finished until November — but it exacerbates the other concerns.

Now I’ll admit it’s not easy to cast blame here. The construction team can only finish their job so fast. While it could be said that the planning was poor, they can also only work with the timeframe they’re given by the school.

Likewise, while SFU may have jeopardized convocation, the renewal project would have had to happen sooner or later. No matter when they did it, it’s unlikely they could have avoided disrupting anyone’s graduation.

But I’d hope to see some contingency plans arranged early on for if any complications arise closer to the date. Could convocation be held at another venue? Could the ceremony have been pushed to a later date? Though I understand SFU might not want to look further behind schedule than they actually are, I would rather see evidence of a backup plan than worry that things will fall apart last-minute. I think many students would feel the same.

Right now, just leaving students to trust that everything will go to plan is a little unfortunate. For now, I suppose we can only hope that this time, SFU gets things wrapped up on schedule.