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Students’ Union plans to create $500,000 ‘MacHall defence fund’

By Fabian Mayer, March 1 2016 —

The Students’ Union is finding out just how expensive lawyers are. At last week’s Students’ Legislative Council (SLC) the organization proposed the creation of a $500,000 legal fund to pay for the legal costs of its dispute with university administration over MacHall’s ownership.

According to vice-president operations and finance Sarah Pousette, the SU has starting receiving its legal bills from the fall. She said those bills total $150,000–$175,000 so far.

The extra-budgetary expense must go through two readings at SLC. If passed, the money would be taken out of the SU’s reserve cash. The SU has dubbed it the ‘MacHall defence fund.’

“Since MacHall was constructed we invested $19 million and wanted to have certain rights in the building because of it,” Pousette said. “This fund is really about preserving those rights.”

Science Students’ Association president Keean Bexte has concerns about the transparency of the proposed fund.

“What the motion actually does is it gives operations and finance committee unilateral power to disperse $500,000,” Bexte said. “There’s absolutely no oversight to this money.”

The SU and university extended the mediation over MacHall’s ownership until March 21 last week. Both sides have agreed not to speak publicly about the mediation while it is underway.

The fund will also cover the costs of mediation. While Pousette wouldn’t go into specifics, she said the costs of hiring a mediator are being shared between the SU and university.

Pousette said that no matter what comes after mediation — either a legal fight or negotiations on a new operating agreement — it will incur further legal costs.

“The fund is designed to leave open any opportunities for this SLC and next SLC to really do what they need to do to protect students’ interests,” Pousette said. “This fund is really about creating options.”

If less than the $500,000 is used by the SU in this dispute, the remaining money will be put back into their reserves.

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