Board Shorts — October 30, 2020

The Board discusses the closure of the Student Union Building

Image: Irene Lo

Written by: Karissa Ketter, News Writer 

An update on the SUB closure 

Recent CDC updates on the rising COVID-19 cases in British Columbia have prompted a reaction from the SFSS regarding the Student Union Building (SUB). They passed a motion that the SUB should stay closed to all but essential personnel and Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Board of Directors members. They will review the situation every few months. 

VP Finance Corbett Gildersleve exclaimed that “as much as [he’d] love it for students to see the building, it’s not a good idea right now.” The building has been closed and SFSS President Osob Mohamed noted that now that they have a safety plan, they “don’t have any justifiable reason to phase out” of it. She concluded that it is “a difficult decision to make, but I think the right one.”

The Ban the Bottle Initiative presentation

Three of SFU’s Ban the Bottle (BTB) members presented and discussed their plans to end commercialized bottled water selling at the SUB “and seek endorsements of SFU’s commitments in this area.” BTB is an SFU club that works “to advance sustainability and promote water security and environmental justice,” according to its President. 

They aim to encourage a bring your own bottle culture at SFU. Their priority is to ensure water accessibility all across the SFU campus. Part of this includes their water fountains that “provide extremely high quality water,” according to their presentation. They noted their efforts to “increase the accessibility of water refill stations across campus.” 

They began their presentation with the importance of eradicating plastic bottles. Their Vice President noted that “the plastic containers that bottled water is sold in [is] hugely problematic for ocean health and environmental pollution.” They explained that 91% of plastic produced isn’t recycled. Encouraging students to recycle their plastic bottles or providing them with recycled-plastic bottles, “isn’t much of a solution,” according to BTB. They noted that instead, it’s more effective to remove plastic consumption altogether. 

Bottled water can have quite “far-reaching social impacts,” according to BTB. They noted that British Columbia allows commercial water bottlers to continue exploiting water from communities during droughts and boil water advisories. 

This is true for the Six Nations of the Grand River Indigenous community in Ontario, where commercial companies are extracting water from their water resources while the community remains on a boiled water advisory. They noted that this disproportionately affects Indigenous communities and people of colour. 

VP Student Services Matthew Provost noted that there are “633 First Nations communities and the majority of them, including [his] reserve, are under bottled water advisories.” He explained that bringing more awareness to Indigenous communities struggling with water security while commercial companies are unaffected is an important part of the campaign because communities of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour are the most affected. 

Gildersleve questioned the continuation of this initiative into other soft drinks like pop, which also uses single-use plastics. BTB noted that SFU has plans to end the sale of all bottled drinks from vending machines by the end of March 2021. The details of this goal are still being considered, although BTB noted the success of banning plastic water bottles may affect their further plans. 

BTB was appreciative that the SUB’s goals of phasing out plastic bottles is aligned with SFU’s sustainability goals. BTB noted that the next step is to generate support from SFU and having the SFSS endorse the decision to phase out plastic bottles from the SUB on December 31, 2020. The SFSS decided to continue the conversation and vote on a motion at the next meeting to endorse the decision. 

BESU common room to be converted into lab space 

Environment Faculty Representative Anuki Karunajeewa brought a discussion to the Board Meeting that the Bachelor of Environment Student Union (BESU)’s common room is going to be changed into a lab space — and did not consult its students. This is planning to take place on December 1, 2020. Mohamed noted that the abrupt decision to revoke the space makes it seem as though the university is trying to push the relocation with as little student pushback as possible. 

Karunajeewa noted that the BESU and the Environmental Science Student Union are meeting on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 to discuss the possibility of petitions or campaigns in resistance. According to Karunajeewa, this highly utilized space is important to students. Mohamed noted that while there’s little they can do to force SFU’s hand, “with enough push back” the university might consider changing their plans.

Mohamed voiced that the Board is in support of the student unions and they need to “let the university know that this is super inappropriate [to snatch] up common space that has been used by students.” 

BESU president Nathan Zemp also attended the meeting to note that they are aiming to circulate a petition and “gather [ . . . ] voices to send a message.” According to Zemp, they will consider refusing to participate in future events within the Faculty of Environment if SFU won’t honour a fair negotiation for the future of the room.