SFPIRG’s Campaign for Space in the SUB

The SFSS is at it again!

Did you know? The SFSS has always provided space to other student organizations, including the Rotunda groups. In fact, SFPIRG has been housed in the Rotunda by the SFSS since our establishment in 1981! The SFSS’s historical commitment to supporting marginalized communities is well documented, both in policy and in practice.

In 2011, SFPIRG and the SFSS highlighted the increasing space crisis at SFU. In response, the SFSS formulated a plan to create new student space by collaborating with SFU and campus stakeholders on a student union building project. A former SFSS President even wrote to SFPIRG, promising to recommend a lease extension for SFPIRG’s current space in the Rotunda “until both organizations move into the new student union building.”

In 2012, SFU undergrad students voted to establish the Student Union Building (SUB) levy for the project – a $65 million project! The SFSS acted transparently and inclusively for years, hiring an architectural firm to design the building in consultation with students and with all of the Rotunda groups, to specifically assess our organizational needs.

The results of those consultations? The SFSS delivered building plans that promised students a SUB with over 100,000 square feet of new student space: a home away from home, a real community hub. They promised us a building with a whole array of different amenities, including dozens of event spaces, meeting rooms, workshop spaces, and more! The building plans explicitly make space for organizational suites for campus student groups, such as Rotunda groups like SFPIRG, SOCA, and others.

Even SFU understood that all of the Rotunda groups would be housed in the SUB.

But now?

The SFSS refuses to house all of the Rotunda groups in the SUB.

Certain members of the SFSS Board are pretending that their predecessors never acted like they intended to house the Rotunda groups in the SUB. Instead, Board after Board has publicly claimed that they could not make any decisions about space allocations in the SUB, even though previous Boards had already included the Rotunda groups in the consultation and design process. When previous Boards toured other student union buildings as part of that process, they even asked questions about how to house a radio station. Ultimately, they directed the architects to specifically include organizational suites in the plans.

In the email invitation to SFU student organizations for the focus group session with the project architects, the BuildSFU team even asserted that there would be “eight suites in the SUB for student organizations; three have been allocated to SFSS departments and the remaining five will be assigned to student organizations”.

Students, student organizations, and the University had every reason to believe the Rotunda groups would be housed in the SUB.

In Fall 2017, the SFSS opened an Expression Of Interest process for campus groups to apply for the suites in the SUB. It reasonably followed that the SFSS actually intended to house campus groups in the SUB.


Behind the scenes, going back at least as far as 2015, SFSS Board members have been told by SFSS management that they shouldn’t lease to the Rotunda groups, and were warned that if they did provide space to campus groups, the SFSS would “never get them out”. It seems to us that the Expression of Interest process was designed to create the illusion that campus groups would be housed in the building, all while the SFSS Board was operating with the understanding that they shouldn’t give space to any campus groups.

That’s called acting in bad faith.

It’s worth saying this clearly: acting in bad faith is wrong.

But there is still hope!

The space crisis on campus can get better. We can transform SFU from a Commuter campus into a Community campus! Groups like SFPIRG, SOCA, and CJSF are the kinds of places where students can find and build community, and housing all of the Rotunda groups in the SUB is what will nurture a Community campus.

But, if we allow the SFSS to continue dismantling student communities, SFU will stay a Commuter campus. The SFSS Board has been acting in secret, and with no consultation with students or campus stakeholders. The Board is implementing a “shared space model” in the SUB – a model where no one gets space. What’s worse, despite telling the Rotunda groups to our faces in September 2018 that they would continue talking with us about space, they have since refused to even meet with us.

Students deserve better!

Students are paying millions of dollars for a new SUB, and students deserve the building they were promised. They deserve a home away from home, and a home is more than tables and chairs – it’s the community and the heart that fill the space! When the SFSS consulted with students, students asked for the SUB to be filled with programming, services and resources. SFU students need the Rotunda groups in the SUB!

It’s really quite simple – fill the organizational suites with the campus student organizations. The SFSS doesn’t even have to think too hard about it – students have already designed a floor plan that allocates space to all the groups!

Demand that the SFSS house all of the Rotunda groups in the SUB!

How can you help?

  1. Sign and share our petition!
  2. Send emails to the SFSS Board of Directors and demand that they put the Rotunda groups in the SUB! Ask them to use the students’ floor plan!
  3. Pick up a green scarf and a Campus Super Hero button from SFPIRG, and show your support while you walk around campus!  Scarves and buttons are available for free at SFPIRG, or from our volunteers while tabling.
  4. Volunteer with our campaign and help make SFU a real Community campus!