Written by: Michelle Gomez, Assistant News Editor and Gurpreet Kambo, News Editor
At their Wednesday, February 26 Board meeting, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Board of Directors resolved to enter into formal agreements that offer the Rotunda groups space in the Student Union Building (SUB).
The motion that was passed mandates that the Executive Director (Sylvia Ceacero) and VP Finance (Tawanda Nigel Chitapi) discuss and present two options for housing the rotunda groups in the SUB, and to enter into an agreement based on these options.
The Rotunda groups include: community radio station CJSF, the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG), Embark Sustainability, and Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry (SOCA). FNSA was guaranteed space in the SUB previously.
In one of the proposals, Configuration 3, CJSF, and SFPIRG receive an organizational suite on the 1000 level of the SUB, while Embark and SOCA share one suite that will be split in two with a divider.
Configuration 3a (see photo) is similar, except that Embark would also receive a storage room on the 1000 level, and SOCA would receive the space reserved for the copy centre — both of which are smaller than the organizational suites. In both configurations, two organizational suites are reserved for SFSS use.
Each of the Rotunda groups was able to deliver a one-minute statement to the Board before the Board’s discussion and vote.
VP Finance Tawanda Nigel Chitapi noted that “We are all compromising [ . . . ] space is there, but then we need[ed] to make sure we accommodate[d] everybody, so there was need to make a compromise.”
VP University Relations Shina Kaur said that “I would like to support configuration 3 and not 3a, because I think that 3 does again meet everyone’s needs.”
Environment Representative Julian Loutsik added that “This is a good compromise, I think, for everybody, and I think the Board should move forward with this.”
The motion was passed unanimously.
At the SFSS Council meeting that immediately followed the Board meeting on Wednesday, Council voted to withdraw a referendum question on the subject of space that they had previously submitted for the upcoming General Elections. The question asked students if Rotunda groups should be housed in the SUB.
A prior motion to house the Rotunda groups in the SUB at the November 1 2019 Board meeting was not carried by a 7–5 vote.
The conflict over space for the Rotunda groups has spanned multiple years. The groups were housed in the Rotunda on a sublease to the SFSS, who were leasing the space from SFU. The SFSS was required to return the Rotunda space back to SFU upon the completion of the SUB, thus displacing the Rotunda groups without assurance of space in the SUB until now.
The SUB is currently slated to open later this Spring.
Reactions from Rotunda groups
Magnus Thyvold, CJSF 90.1 FM Station Manager
“I think we were pretty pleased with how it turned out. You know, it’s been a pretty long experience so we didn’t really know what to expect. but certainly the feeling in the room was that the Board there was pretty supportive of the motions. So we’re pretty cautiously optimistic about the point of having resolution.”
“It’s a pretty good solution for us [ . . . ] it’s smaller than here so it involves some compromise. But you know it’s totally within the realm of being workable.”
Thyvold added that CJSF will be losing about 250 square feet in the move.
Craig Pavelich, SFPIRG Director of Communications
“We’re really heartened to see that the executive committee was recommending to the Board a configuration of spaces in the SUB that the Rotunda groups had proposed to the [SFSS] Board.”
“It means that the work that students have been doing for the last two and a half years (and longer) has not been for naught, that student activism works, that students can speak up for what’s right, and that space for student activism on campus matters and will continue to exist [ . . . ] student power will continue on campus.”
“We’re losing about 500 square feet of space which is not insignificant [ . . . ] We always understood that we would be likely to lose some space.”
Afia Poku, SOCA President
“It is a relief for SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry that the two-year battle to save Black space on campus has ended. Securing operational space is an assurance of our longevity, allowing us to continue building a sense of community on and off campus. Black space is vital for connecting students navigating experiences unique to Black students.”
“While Configuration 3 is a compromise for all parties involved, we are grateful that this is still collective growth in square footage for both of SOCA and Embark.
“We truly appreciate our members and allies who have advocated with us since 2018, or joined to support in the activism along the way.”
Alison White, Executive Director of Embark
“I think we’re feeling really optimistic about it. Still, there’s nothing written or signed or agreed on [ . . . ] to determine how exactly it’s going to work. But we’re feeling optimistic and looking forward to everyone having adequate space and in a more collaborative space in the SUB.”
“Each office is supposed to be 150 square feet, and so the proposed space that Embark would be in has three offices and a smaller lounge area. So it would be significantly larger than what [we] have now.
“Which is why I was content with compromising and not having a large organizational suite, because I think it meets our needs — and it’s more important to me that SOCA and all the other groups have space as well than for us to just have this massive space.”