SFU students narrowly approve $65M campus addition

The project would add about 100,000 square feet of student space, as well as a 2,500-seat outdoor stadium, to the existing facilities on SFU
The project would add about 100,000 square feet of student space, as well as a 2,500-seat outdoor stadium, to the existing facilities on SFU's Burnaby campus.
— image credit: YouTube Screengrab

Simon Fraser University students have voted in favour of a proposal to build a $65-million student union building (SUB) at the Burnaby campus.

The online referendum vote March 20 to 22, was a close one. It was part of Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) elections and voter turnout was only 11 per cent. Of that, 1,193 or 54 per cent, voted in favour of the project, dubbed Build SFU, with 1,003 against.

"We're ecstatic," said SFSS outgoing president Jeff McCann, who was elected to the position of university relations officer, in a press release. "There's no question that Build SFU will raise the profile of our school, but it will also make tons of social experiences possible that just weren't with the old campus. This facility will dramatically improve the student experience at SFU."

McCann said in an interview that the voter turnout was "pretty good" considering typical elections without major referendum issues generally attract a five per cent turnout.

Build SFU, proposed by the student society in partnership with the university, would add about 100,000 square feet of student space, and 2,500-seats of outdoor stadium seating for Terry Fox Field.

The project would be funded through a student levy, starting at $10 per semester in 2014 and increasing to a maximum of $90 per semester in 2022. The student society expects it will take 30 years to pay off the project with the levy. If all goes as planned, the SUB is scheduled for completion by September, 2017.

But not all students supported the proposal.

Kim Burgess, a fourth year communications and political science student at SFU was outspoken in her opposition to the plan.

"I think the SUB is a great idea but there's been very, very, little consultation," Burgess, 30, said Friday, adding she believes the consultation done has been inadequate.

She doesn't agree with students funding the stadium seating, something she considers a university responsibility, and the cost of the student levy on top of tuition and several other fees students have to pay.

Burgess hopes the newly-elected student society representatives will ensure the views of those with concerns about the project are heard, considering it didn't receive overwhelming support.

"More people voted no than voted for the president or the university relations officer," she noted.

McCann said the student society will be consulting with students in the design process, soliciting input on what they want to see in the facility.

In 1989, a similar referendum resulted in what the student society could afford at the time, its current space of one floor of four solidly-booked conference rooms sandwiched between two levels of administrative offices. It serves 25,000 students.

While a site has yet to be determined, the university is considering locating the new proposal in a repurposed Lorne Davies Complex, one of the original 1964 buildings designed by Arthur Erickson, that currently houses a pool, gym and administrative offices.

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