Written by: Serena Bains, Staff Writer
The Environmental Science Student Union (EVSCSU) and Bachelor of Environment Student Union (BESU) recently learned of the School of Environmental Science’s plan to repurpose their common room and convert it into a lab space for environmental science research. Neither the EVSCSU or BESU were consulted regarding the eviction of the groups from the common room, according to the student unions.
Initially, there was no replacement for the common room nor a rationale given for what prompted the decision. The EVSCSU and BESU were given the suggestion to use the bookable rooms in the Student Union Building. However, this would require constant relocation and provides limited storage space.
According to Nathan Zemp, President of the BESU, and Paolo Orosa, webmaster of the EVSCSU, the School of Environment assumed that the common room was underutilized, were unaware of the community the room provided, and didn’t know of the investments made by the EVSCSU and BESU into the space. Furthermore, the faculty was unaware that BESU was one of the resident student unions of the common room, meaning that it was BESU’s only common space for events and gatherings. Zemp expressed that “the common room is [their] second home” and that “it’s a meeting space for all of the students in our majors, it’s a place where you can always go.”
As detailed in the annexation statement put out by the EVSCSU and BESU on November 13, the BESU remains unnotified of the eviction, which was three weeks away at the time the statement was written. The School of Environmental Science conveyed that the common room was meant to be a temporary space, where this decision was being contemplated for the last five years however, this was not communicated, as expressed by Orosa.
B-Jae Kelly, the Associate Director of Facilities and Technical Operations of the Faculty of Environment, remarked that there is a solution in the works. Additionally, Kelly stated that they are happy to consult with student unions in the future to prevent any further miscommunication.
“In more recent communications, they have appeared more supportive and understanding. The initial notice was quite blunt. Since they’ve heard how important this room has been to us, they are open to some dialogue,” said Zemp.
In terms of an alternative space, the EVSCSU and BESU have been provided some options. All options, however, would be approximately a 50% reduction in size compared to the common room because “given the size of the student unions, [the faculty] can’t justify giving [them] a larger room,” as noted by Zemp.
While the EVSCSU and BESU acknowledged that the School of Environment was unaware of the significance of the space to either student union, they do not blame any individual for this disconnect. They hope that with continued dialogue with the faculty, all parties can come to an agreement for a feasible replacement of the common room.
Kelly stated that the faculty is also committed to finding a solution that is suitable for all parties. The faculty believes that there is currently a solution in process — a tentative solution is that student space would be administered out of the Dean’s office to fit the needs of the student unions currently housed in the common room.
The EVSCSU and BESU also acknowledge that the School of Environment is under fiscal pressure by SFU as there is a shortage of lab space for professors, as there is no greater funding being provided to the school. Zemp explained that, “SFU is now charging them for potential space. So, if they don’t utilize the space that they have they won’t be able to get anything else.
“We are hopeful, we’ve seen some good signs that the faculty is listening to us [ . . . ] It’s not hopeless, if you get evicted there are things you can do and there are ways to stick up for yourself and if you engage with the faculty in dialogue and act respectfully, you can achieve positive results — we’re hoping.”
For more information on the EVSCSU and BESU and their negotiations, visit their Facebook page.