Students and SFU community members often ask some of the same questions when we’re petitioning and tabling around campus. We thought it’d be a good idea to share some of them with you!
Why does SFPIRG need space on campus?
SFPIRG is a student-led and student-funded organization that serves SFU students and community by engaging them in social and environmental justice. SFPIRG does this through education, action, resources, and community-building. By educating students about intersectional anti-oppression, we empower them to feel confident in articulating their experiences and challenging the oppressive systems they encounter every day. Many students walk into SFPIRG to find community that is grounded in intersectional anti-oppression. If SFPIRG is forced to relocate off campus, SFU students will lose access to one of the few social-justice-dedicated spaces on campus that supports them in their day-to-day lives.
Why is SFPIRG at risk of losing space?
The current SFSS Board of Directors are refusing to house all of the Rotunda groups in the SUB, including SFPIRG.
Why is the SFSS refusing to provide SFPIRG organizational space in the SUB?
After lengthy and expensive consultations, the architects designed a building that would serve clubs and student unions and ALSO provide space for other student organizations. Clubs and student unions will have access to event spaces, meeting rooms, workshops, and so much more. Housing the Rotunda groups in the SUB’s organizational suites does not take away any space from clubs and student unions.
Claiming to be serving students, the SFSS has discussed implementing a “shared space model” for allocating space in the organizational suites in the SUB. This completely ignores what students asked for during consultations, and the architectural plans from which the SUB is being built.
A “shared space model” sounds nice – why is it a bad idea?
A shared space model was developed in the corporate, for-profit realm. The “shared space model” refers to a practice wherein office spaces are open spaces shared by employees with the goal of maximizing employee workspace. This means that there is more space for employees to be productive, thus increasing the company’s profits.
The SFSS is a non-profit society, and the SUB is a community space for students and student organizations, not a corporate office space. The SFSS is attempting to apply a for-profit corporate model to a non-profit community space. This means that no one gets the long-term space needed to run an organization – they just get more bookable space, and more tables and chairs, which already exists in the SUB. Ultimately, using this model means students will lose access to the essential programming, resources and services they need to succeed.
Why should the SFSS provide space to SFPIRG?
The SFSS claims that they can only take care of SFSS-controlled organizations, such as clubs and student unions, and that they have no responsibility to the other student societies on campus, such as SFPIRG, CJSF, Embark, and The Peak. This is factually and historically incorrect.
The SFSS’s lease with SFU for the Rotunda states that the space will be used for the purposes of “offices for the Society and other non-profit organizations whose primary function is to serve students of the University” (emphasis our own).
Since our establishment in 1981, SFPIRG has always subleased space in the Rotunda from the SFSS, and our sublease agreements have always contained language committing the SFSS to providing SFPIRG with equivalent space if ever the SFSS evicted SFPIRG from our space. The sublease agreement also contained language acknowledging the institutional relationship between the societies, acknowledging “their unique roles in representing the students of Simon Fraser University”, and committing to cooperation with each other.
In 2015, the SFSS and SFPIRG renegotiated our sublease agreement – four years after it expired in 2011. It was during the negotiations of this agreement that the SFSS removed all language referencing the institutional relationship between our organizations, as well as the language committing to provide SFPIRG with equivalent space if the SFSS ever evicted SFPIRG. SFPIRG only allowed this language to be removed because we believed the SFSS was negotiating in good faith, but we now know better.
The SFSS Board of Directors has been operating in a silo, as though they are only responsible to themselves; in reality, they are a part of the campus ecosystem and their actions affect everyone else, including student communities. Preceding SFSS Boards have collaborated with other campus organizations, but the current SFSS Board has refused to even meet with the Rotunda groups. That’s not how your elected campus leaders should behave.
Why is SFPIRG also asking SFU to help?
Despite student efforts to meet with the SFSS and call on them to honour their commitments, the SFSS has refused to meet with the Rotunda groups. We’re asking SFU to support us because they have a direct working relationship with the SFSS, and they are in a position to leverage that relationship to push the SFSS to honour their commitments and agreements.
Who are the Rotunda groups?
The Rotunda groups are an informal community of student organizations who collaborate on joint initiatives, campaigns, and projects. Some of us are currently housed within the Rotunda, others are not. Not all Rotunda groups participate in every joint project, but we all support each other’s work and missions, in the spirit of community and collaboration.
The Rotunda groups include:
- CJSF 90.1 FM
- First Nations Student Association (FNSA)
- Hi-Five Movement
- Out On Campus (OOC)
- Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG)
- Students of Caribbean & African Ancestry (SOCA)
- The Peak
- The Women’s Centre
Why aren’t CJSF and The Peak on the proposed SUB floor plans?
The SFSS has told CJSF and The Peak that they could be housed in the MBC, in Forum Chambers and The Peak’s current offices, respectively. Our proposed SUB floor plans suggest that the SFSS should act in good faith and house CJSF and The Peak in the MBC, as they’ve been negotiating for nearly a year.
However, we also suggest that any necessary renovations be paid for using the Space Expansion Fund – a fund that students are already paying into for renovations to SFSS-controlled space. As of April 30th, 2018, the Space Expansion Fund had $2,326,112 available – nearly three times the renovation costs quoted by the SFSS. Asking CJSF or The Peak to pay for any necessary renovations is asking students to pay TWICE for the same costs, wasting literal hundreds of thousands of student dollars.
What do the Rotunda groups have in common?
- All of our organizations are student-led!
- All of our organizations have had space on campus for over 20 years – and some for even longer!
- All of our organizations serve equity-seeking groups and provide space for students to find and build community.
- All of our organizations support students in developing skills for advocating for themselves and for creating social change in their communities – both at SFU and out in the world!