By: Gabrielle McLaren, Editor-In-Chief
Editor’s note: this piece will be followed by more in-depth coverage on the discussions surrounding both motions and concerns voiced about accessibility, feasibility, and financial responsibility. Other business from this meeting will be discussed in a future piece.
A motion originally proposed by SFSS president Giovanni HoSang to house SOCA, SFPIRG, Embark, and CJSF in the Student Union Building (SUB) was defeated on November 1’s SFSS Board meeting. Another motion was adopted to renovate Forum Chambers and the Undergrounds in Maggie Benston Centre to house SOCA, SFPIRG, and CJSF instead — though SFU community members expressed concerns regarding this resolution. The other groups currently housed in the Rotunda — The Women’s Centre, Out on Campus, and the First Nation Students Association — have space guaranteed in the SUB.
Three guests spoke on this issue prior to the Board’s discussion: a student who had been involved with SFPIRG, Matt McDonald (Director of External Relations for the Graduate Student Society), and Magnus Thyvold (CJSF Station Manager).
From the Board of directors; Jennifer Chou, Tawanda Nigel Chitapi, Osob Mohamed, and Shina Kaur spoke spoke in support of the motion. Simran Uppal expressed feedback she had received from students and departmental student unions executives who wished to see space in the SUB allocated majoritarily to students. Giovanni HoSang read an open letter supporting the motion signed by himself, Jennifer Chou, Shina Kaur, Fiona Li, and Osob Mohamed.
HoSang’s motion, printed below along with vote results tallied by several Peak staff members, was originally proposed and postponed at the May 30 and October 18 Board meetings.
Following the first motion’s rejection, the Board elected to take a break given the tension and emotion in the room. Many SFU community members left the meeting at this time or took advantage of the break to discuss frustrations and reactions to this decision in the hallway.
After the break, the Board passed a motion to renovate Forum Chambers and the Undergrounds at a projected cost of $320,000 to house SOCA, SFPIRG, and CJSF.
The last item before the Board went in camera was a question and answer period for guests in attendance. Of the 10 questions asked (five of which by The Peak), Board members answered five. As the last question of the Q&A period, The Peak asked Board members which independent student society’s services they had used or activities they had participated in, one group at a time. Less than half of the Board had used each service.
Many speakers at the meeting reacted to the motion in the meeting itself. During the meeting, The Peak invited attendees to submit comments and concerns before 6:00 p.m. (due to our publication schedule). The Peak had the opportunity to talk to Giovanni HoSang, Jesse Wentzloff (CJSF’s Public Affairs Coordinator) and Robin Erikkson (Programming Coordinator).
Wentzloff voiced disappointment at both the Board’s decision “to evict us and the other student groups by denying us space in the SUB.”
He was also disappointed by “the cowardice of the Board members who voted against the proposal that would have housed all the groups [ . . . ] in that they uniformly refused to answer questions or provide any concrete reasoning for their decisions and were disrespectful throughout the process — not paying attention to speakers and checking their phones…”
CJSF’s disappointment is compounded by the fact that a move to Forum Chambers/the Undergrounds had already been discussed and deemed unsuitable for their society’s needs. Erikkson also discussed concerns regarding the financial feasibility and responsibility of this plan. Board members discussed this issue during the meeting and the Q&A, with VP Finance Tawanda Nigel Chipati explaining that the SFSS’ Space Expansion Fund would cover these renovations. The briefing accompanying the motion notes that CJSF has also been saving funds in preparation for a potential move.
“Why would the SFSS choose to spend that amount of money [ . . . ] to renovate space when they have a brand new building that they’ve already spent millions of dollars on?”
HoSang too was disappointed by the decision.
“It’s very disheartening that the vote went this way, but let’s see what happens in the next couple of months.”
He reminded students that they could reach out to Board members and vote with this issue in mind in the next election.
The issue of space in the SUB has deep roots on campus. Following a consultation period in 2013–2014, rotunda groups found out in December 2017 that they were not being given space in the SUB. Since, they have reacted with a variety of presentations, discussions, educational workshops, petitions, letters, and awareness campaigns.