By Abby Wiseman [coordinating editor]
On a damp and cool Monday, fall casts its grey shadow over Kwantlen’s stark courtyard. Students shuffle from building to building, and a few take notice of the humble tent standing in front of Surrey Main.
“Free food” is scribbled on the canopy with a felt marker, and a homemade sign saying “Friends 4 Food” flaps in the wind.
This is home base for one of Kwantlen’s first independent student-initiated food vendors. It’s also the source of Kwantlen’s latest controversy.
On Sept. 15, Eva Botten and Stefanie Leonard received $615 in fines from the Fraser Health authority for operating without licence. The not-for-profit vegan vendor was created to give students another option than Sodexo, Grassroots and Tim Hortons.
F4F accepts that they were operating out of bounds, but are frustrated with the school and believe it was the university that called Fraser Health. Jody Gordon, vice-president of student affairs, denies that anyone on her end made the call. She says it was an article in The Province that caught Fraser Health’s attention.
Sitting under the tent handing out bowls of vegan soup to students and faculty alike, Leonard, Botten and Kari Michaels express their frustration with what they consider to be the school’s stifling red tape.
“It really squashes any organic initiatives that students have,” says Michaels. “Even if they weren’t serving food, they just wanted to set up a tent and talk to students about their issue. They have to go through this room booking procedure, and then the process drags on and it just sort of takes the wind out of their sails.”
The campus isn’t really public, and everyone–external or internal–must get approval from the Dean or student services to set up an event.
The rule comes from a 1988, revised in 2004, policy called Student Events Held on University Premises. An event can be classified as setting up a table on the lawn, says Leonard.
F4F feels that this lack of flexibility is a way of policing students while protecting private interests.
“It seems to be arbitrary,” says Michaels. “It’s like ‘oh this isn’t in our interest, it’s private. This isn’t affecting us, it’s public.’”
Gordon says that the procedures are in place to aid students in event planning and ensuring that space does not get double booked.
She also says that if a student group hasn’t booked space, they usually have no problem filling out the forms. If F4F stays without permission and another group reserves the space, they will get priority, but are not likely to be asked to leave.
“If you’re asking me if we’re going to send in police and the security, no, because I feel like then that defeats the purpose of trying to work with people, to get them to work with our procedures and our policies,” says Gordon.
To comply with Fraser Health, Botten–who has her FOODSAFE certification–says they found a restaurant in Richmond where they can prepare food. In the meantime they are continuing to operate on campus without the school’s permission.
After last month’s controversy involving student Emery Warner, who was kicked off campus for not identifying himself when approached by security while handing out anti-Sodexo flyers, F4F feels that Kwantlen has a communication problem.
“It seems to me like there is an absolute disconnect between administration and all the way up to the top to where students are,” says Botten. “They haven’t come by, they haven’t talk to us. They’ve emailed.”
Gordon says that they have communicated with F4F, and had contacted them in August, but can’t comment on an overall student-administrator communication problem.