While 2016 has been an eventful year globally, SFU has experienced some major controversies and changes this year. Here is a rundown of the top SFU news stories of 2016.
On April 1, former SFU basketball head coach Virgil Hill stepped down from his position. This came after a series of allegations from some players of the men’s SFU basketball team, many of whom left the team earlier in the year. SFU has since hired Steve Hanson; in May, the former lead assistant coach was promoted for the spring 2016 season.
The Highland Pub – Debt, debt, and more debt
In May, The Peak reported that the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Highland Pub holds a $3 million dollar deficit, which lead to the closure of the Highland Pub for the 2016 summer semester. Later in the year, the pub re-opened in September with a slow start. SFSS CEO Martyn Wyant revealed that he would be unveiling a new business plan for the pub to try to reduce some of this deficit. The plan would also combat the competition from the recent openings of restaurants and the BC Liquor Store on campus, including the potential to allow minors into a closed off area of the pub. Later in October, The Peak reported that the pub was $60,000 behind schedule following only a partial opening in September with reduced kitchen staff and shorter opening times.
Deepak elected at SFSS president
In March, Deepak Sharma won over the majority of SFU students and was elected SFSS president over his opponent Darien Lechner. This was only just the beginning of a string of controversy within the SFSS and with their elected president for 2016–17. In June, Sharma resigned as president as he did not receive membership eligibility status due to failing to enroll in courses for the summer 2016 semester. Larissa Chen, former VP student services, stepped in as interim president (as is required of the VP student services) and announced that an official byelection would be held in October 2016.
. . . actually, Larissa elected as SFSS President
Chen had the chance to take on the role of president of the SFSS for the rest of the fall 2016 to spring 2017 term when she was initially offered the interim role. Instead, she resigned from her position as interim president, only to run in the official byelection alongside former president Deepak Sharma and independent candidate, Darien Lechner. However, Chen was voted in as official SFSS president with a 55.8% majority by 6.1% of the student body.
Cancellation of the stadium project
Other notable scandals and controversies from the SFSS include the cancellation of the SFU stadium which caused a huge backlash from SFU athletic teams students. Roughly 70 athletes stormed the SFSS board meeting at the end of August. While the project came in at $20 million dollars over budget, the SFSS was questioned on their transparency over the project. No word, as of yet, to potential options for the future of this project.
Sexual violence policy at SFU by May 2017
The student body is awaiting the draft release sexual violence policy on January 4, 2017. In 2016, it was made clear that SFU was in need of such a policy following the alleged mishandling of three sexual assault allegations at SFU residence. Since then, SFU has held sexual assault policy consultations at each campus with various SFU audiences. The university intends to finalise a policy — like all other post-secondary institutions in British Columbia — as mandated by the provincial government.
Upgrades to SFU infrastructure
Two major announcements were made this year post SFU’s 50th anniversary. In July, The Peak reported a $10 million renovation to the infrastructure running from the Trottier Observatory to the SFU fountain, in order to replace some deteriorating materials which may cause leaks and other issues. In October, SFU also announced a $126 million project to expand the Surrey campus, building a five storey building for the new Energy Systems and Environmental Engineering Program, SFU News reported. This announcement was welcomed by a visit from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Burnaby Mountain tank farm expansion
On November 29, the Federal Government approved the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Throughout the fall of 2016, The Peak has reported increasing safety concerns over the expansion of the Burnaby Mountain tank farm located just a mile below SFU’s Burnaby campus. While students such as Grayson Barke spoke out about the safety risk the expansion poses, SFU formally announced their stance on the pipeline project with a detailed report, which outlined its risks, just one day before the federal government’s announcement of its approval.