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Students’ Union makes MacHall ownership dispute public

By Fabian Mayer, September 16 2015 —

The University of Calgary is in a dispute with the Students’ Union over who owns MacHall. SU president Levi Nilson announced that negotiations over management of the building have stalled at this week’s Students’ Legislative Council meeting.

The SU held its first negotiating session of the year with the university on Sept. 9. Nilson said the meeting did not go well, prompting the decision to make the conflict public.

“It was clear that we’re kind of losing hope in getting a deal,” Nilson said. “We still want to go back to the table, but we don’t think that having it behind closed doors will be productive anymore.”

According to Nilson, the SU found documents, including the original building agreement, proving they have 55 per cent ownership of the building. He said the SU was pushing for a detailed and permanent deal that reflected this.

The 1969 operating agreement between the Students' Union and the University of Calgary, as provided by the Students' Union

The 1969 operating agreement between the Students’ Union and the University of Calgary, as provided by the Students’ Union

“Finding ownership kind of changed things in the way that we would get a deal,” Nilson said. “A lot of what the university is asking for would make our rights and responsibilities less within the building.”

Negotiations over management of MacHall started two and a half years ago. The current agreement expires on Dec. 9. Nilson isn’t sure what will happen if a deal isn’t reached between now and then, but said it would put the SU and the services it provides at risk.

According to the SU, they have invested $19,025,000 in the building since 1969 compared to the university’s $3,500,000.

Nilson hopes making the dispute public will give the university some perspective, forcing them to reconsider some of their positions. When asked if the SU would consider legal action, Nilson said it was an option.

“We have a pretty strong set of facts on our side as far as ownership goes and we think it’s fair that students know about it,” Nilson said.

The SU has managed MacHall for over 40 years with lease agreements being renegotiated periodically. Much of the union’s revenue comes from operating the building.

Provost Dru Marshall released a statement on Wednesday expressing disappointment with the SU’s position on the state of the MacHall negotiations.

The statement said that university administration received an SU proposal regarding MacHall last week and are preparing a response. Despite recent controversy, university administrators remain optimistic that a deal can be reached.

“The U of C will continue to negotiate with the SU in good faith, and is committed to achieving a fair and equitable agreement for the operation of MacHall,” Marshall said.

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