The SFSS Council campaigns for student union meeting spaces following eviction notice

The campaign aims to give students permanent space and express the importance of common rooms

PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

by Kyla Dowling, Staff Writer

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Council launched a campaign to ensure student unions have accessible and permanent access to designated common areas. In an interview with The Peak, WeiChun Kua, SFSS Science Representative, explained that the SFSS Council is advocating for students’ rights to space, without fear of future evictions.

The campaign comes after the Environmental Science Student Union (EVSCSU) and Bachelor of Environment Student Union (BESU) received an eviction notice from the School of Environmental Science in October. Their common room was to be turned into a laboratory space by the end of the Fall semester, and neither student union was warned of the eviction. Despite plans to convert the room, the EVSCSU and BESU have not moved out, as their intended storage space is under renovation.

While the student unions are not facing any pressure to move out just yet, the evictions pose a unique problem, according to Kua. “They’re getting evicted in the middle of a pandemic when students are not able to be physically on campus to reclaim their space,” Kua said.

Though this is not the first eviction — Kua outlined the 1988 repurposing of English, archaeology, philosophy, and economics common rooms in his campaign — the SFSS aims for the EVSCSU and BESU eviction to be the last.

The SFSS Council is planning to write a letter signed by all faculty student unions (FSUs) and department student unions (DSUs) to send to all faculties and departments. That way, all FSUs and DSUs can set clear expectations about accessibility, security, and longevity of their common spaces.

“Common space is where students get together, get support from student unions, make new friends, kind of build a community around people who have similar majors and [are] in the same department.” Kua added that common rooms are necessary to “foster collaborative spaces outside the classrooms.”

In a statement sent to The Peak, BESU president Nathan Zemp explained BESU’s position on the matter. While they believe students deserve space, they do acknowledge that “the brusqueness of the initial eviction was mainly due to a lack of communication and knowledge regarding how we use our space” and its importance.

According to Kua, the letter awaits approval from the Council. It outlines clauses regarding permanency to ensure common rooms stay close to their respective departments and that student unions cannot be evicted. In the meantime, his recommendation to students who want to get involved is to contact their student union.