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Fight for MacHall resumes after talks break down

By Kate Jacobson and Fabian Mayer, April 15 2016 — 

The fight over MacHall’s ownership has reignited after the mediation between the University of Calgary and its Students’ Union broke down on Friday, April 15.

The SU will now seek a court-ordered injunction to prevent the university from seizing control of MacHall’s operations. SU president Levi Nilson claimed negotiations broke down after the university refused to recognize the union as owners of the building.

“They aren’t willing to recognize ownership and that’s fundamentally the problem,” he said.

U of C vice-president university relations Diane Kenyon said she is disappointed the sides were unable to reach a settlement, but was unable to go into details due to a confidentiality agreement.

“What I can say is that we worked really hard and we are extremely disappointed that we weren’t able to reach an agreement,” she said.

SU vice-president operations and finance Sarah Pousette said in late February that the SU had spent between $150,000–175,000 in legal fees on the dispute. Nilson was unsure when asked if he regretted the decision to enter into mediation.

“I think fundamentally I trusted the university to be able to come to the table and respect our position and respect the investments that students made and I was wrong,” Nilson said. “I’m still young and idealistic and maybe that was taken advantage of.”

Kenyon believes the university has recognized the SU’s investments in the building.

“The SU has been compensated and will continue to be compensated for the contributions they’ve made to the building,” Kenyon said. 

Nilson said he was hopeful when the two parties entered mediation.

“At the end of the day we weren’t really that close,” he said.

Negotiations to replace the current 1999 operating agreement began over three years ago. Attempts to reach this agreement stalled in 2015 after disagreements over which party owned the building. In October 2015, the SU sued the university over the ownership of Machall, serving the university with a statement of claim that aimed to establish the SU as majority owners of the building.

After being served with the lawsuit, university administration announced their plan to seize control of MacHall’s operations from the SU when the current operating agreement expired on Dec. 9, 2015. The SU was seeking a court-ordered injunction to prevent this.

On Dec. 4, 2015, the SU and university administration agreed to enter mediation in their dispute over MacHall — just hours before a court was set to rule on the injunction.

The original mediation period began on Jan. 18, 2016. It was initially extended until Feb. 26, and then again on March 21 and 24.

This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

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