By: Gene Cole, Peak Associate
The new Student Union Building (SUB) has been in construction for the entire time I’ve been a student at SFU, breaking ground in 2016 and continuing development ever since. Its delays have essentially become a meme to students, with new estimated dates seemingly dropping every few months — the most recent pushback being to Spring 2020. To many, this probably comes across as a big waste of money — especially to students like myself who will be graduating without getting to spend any time in the SUB.
This is definitely not to say we all need to accept or feel good about these delays — they add another $60 to your tuition each semester, the construction is an eyesore, and it’s certainly disappointing to not be able to enjoy something after being told over and over that it’ll be done soon. More immediate problems include the fact that many student groups located in the Rotunda were unexpectedly told in 2017 that there would not be permanent student group space in the SUB for them. Groups like SOCA and SFPIRG have been fighting hard the past few years to make sure they don’t lose their offices, a problem that’s still being worked on and made worse by yet another delay.
But the fact is, a piece of your tuition in any post-secondary institution goes to pay for toys and infrastructure that you don’t get to use. It sucks, but investments in lengthy building projects are a relatively natural part of an expanding university campus – and it’s maybe not the best hill to choose to die on.
While many students won’t get to use the fancy new SUB, they are already using the new features that past students have paid and waited for. Even during this round of building upgrades we’ve gotten more than plenty to play with: we have gorgeous new lecture halls across the AQ (including the Images Theatre); Harbour Centre got some desperately needed (and gender-neutral) bathrooms to replace its perpetually dirty and cramped ones; and we’ve seen the opening of the successful Study Public House, after its space had remained empty for ages.
Students now, as then, are just doing their part — paying for and waiting patiently for a building they may not see, but others will. Eventually, as comically long as this particular project has been, the school will get its new SUB. Students further down the line will get a new stadium — a similarly large project that I wouldn’t be surprised to see subject to just as many delays over the next several years. Along the way, SFU is going to get repairs and renovations to existing buildings, on top of tons of other services and rooms that individual students might not even notice or care about.
Yes, it feels bad to pay for future students’ toys, but that’s just the cycle of school construction.
If you want to be mad about the delays to the new SUB, don’t let it be because you don’t get to use the nice new facility. Paying for subsequent cohorts’ spaces is something we all need to do as students. Instead, be frustrated that we’ve had to pay for and put up with a project that has posed a risk to student groups, and has been more costly because of the unusually slow speed this construction has taken — those are the things that we shouldn’t have to put up with as students.