SFU Student Society closes SUB as added safety measure for return to campus
The closure will take place from Jan 24 to at least Feb 18.
The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) has voted to temporarily close the Student Union Building (SUB), as safety concerns grow around the return to in-person learning on Monday.
During a Friday press conference, the SFSS outgoing president Gabe Liosis announced the closure will take place from Jan 24 to at least Feb 18.
The SFSS is an independent organization responsible for running the SUB, and it also employs nearly 50 people who work there.
“Our philosophy here is not the philosophy of the public health office, which is treating COVID is like an endemic already, even though we are very much in the pandemic phase,” said Liosis, adding that it was not an easy decision to make, as the debate around the SUB’s closure went on for hours
However, with growing concerns around an uptick of students and staff returning to campus, and the increase of traffic in the SUB, SFSS said they felt this was the best course of action in order to try to keep members of the school community safe.
If cases improve before Feb 18, SFSS will consider reopening the SUB sooner. Until then, all of the building’s services will be accessible remotely, with some essential services remaining in person.
The SFSS has been calling on delayed in-person learning since late December when Omicron cases in the province began to soar. On Dec 23, the school said it would be pushing the start of in-person learning until at least Jan 24. On Jan 11, the school confirmed in-person learning would resume on that date.
However, SFSS and other student groups (such as the SFU Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance) have repeatedly been calling on SFU administration and the province to delay the start of in-person learning and bolster its health and safety measures on campus, including making rapid testing accessible to all symptomatic and asymptomatic students and staff, and easy access to PPE and health measures like masks and on-site testing. Over the weekend, students announced they would also be holding a walkout on Monday to demand a delay to a full return to in-person learning and rights to a safe learning environment at SFU.”
But not all students are in support of the SUB closure. A petition titled Open the Student Union Building argues the SUB shutdown means students will lose access to an important space that allows them to take breaks, study, eat and relax between classes.
“Therefore, the closure of the SUB will force many students to cram into other spots around campus and thus, increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission between students and staff. … The decision made by the SFSS to close the SUB treats students and staff like pawns and puts their lives in greater danger,” states the petition.
At the time of writing, the petition has garnered over 400 signatures.
This story was updated with new information on January 23.