by Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer
It seems like SFU follows a blueprint for addressing student concerns. Most of the time this consists of broken communication through emails, administrative statements, and social media posts. Occasionally, students even get to ask questions at Senate meetings or voice concerns at town halls. However, more often than not, it feels like students are left to their own devices and need to vocalize their concerns through letters, petitions, or social media campaigns. This lack of connection needs to change and it starts with working harder to include students in decision-making processes.
SFU’s lack of Indigenous inclusivity regarding reconciliation efforts, such as with the upcoming First Peoples’ Gathering House project, shows exactly how little the administration truly acknowledges its student voices. Other than two First Nations Student Association (FNSA) members and a guest, Indigenous students were not permitted to attend this past November’s Aboriginal Steering Committee (ASC) meeting. It is significantly counterintuitive that a project intended for student use is being discussed without student input. This general lack of Indigenous consultation is a recurring issue with the administration. How can the SFU administration promote inclusion with students when the very voices that need to be heard are blocked from speaking?
It’s also important to mention that SFU’s tuition hikes have been a major concern for students, but these concerns have yet again been poorly addressed or dismissed. As a result, student-led initiatives like Tuition Freeze Now and the C19 Coalition have emerged to advocate for concerns that the administration seems to neglect.
Because of the administration’s failure to properly communicate with students, the burden falls on students themselves — the ones who pay thousands of dollars in tuition fees and have to shoulder uncompassionate administrative decisions. Student tuition money fuels the administrative staff’s paychecks, so better communication and inclusion feels like the absolute bare minimum. Especially considering that all decisions the administration makes directly impact students.
Taking into account these facts, there’s no question that the connection between SFU’s administration and students is poor and needs to improve. While I understand that remote learning can make implementing virtual communication tricky, there has been plenty of time for improvement in addressing student concerns with two online semesters having passed. Additionally, discrepancies in digital communication would not be so inefficient if SFU had implemented the proper infrastructure in the first place.
As a student impacted by this disconnect, I can see that there are many things that should change. One of them includes staying away from performative statements (like SFU-wide emails) that do very little to genuinely alleviate student concerns. There should also be increased inclusion of student voices before final decisions by admin are made. Student concerns could be avoided altogether if SFU could take on a more equitable approach and view students as equals rather than thoughtless funders.
Including students in conversations regarding administrative decisions through methods such as referendums, online polls, or more open meetings is a step in the right direction. After all, where is SFU’s community without its student voices?