Court date set for University of Calgary MacEwan Hall dispute

MacEwan Hall at the University of Calgary, April 18, 2016. Global News

The next step in a legal battle over the main hub of student life and operations between the University of Calgary and its Students’ Union (SU) will be an injunction hearing at 2 p.m. on May 5.

The SU’s injunction is part of the group’s ongoing effort to prevent the university from taking control of MacEwan Hall and the revenue it generates, though administration said it has no plans to “confiscate” revenue from the student group.

This comes as the next step in a process that began when the SU said it received, without warning, a letter from administration that unilaterally terminated the ownership agreement effective Dec. 9, 2015. The deadline was extended when both parties entered into mediation on Dec. 3, 2015. Mediation broke down on April 15 of this year and the deadline is now set for May 6.

READ MORE: U of C student’s union plans next steps after Mac Hall mediation breakdown

SU president Levi Nilson stated that this case is “precedent setting,” not just for them, but for students’ unions across the country.

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“It’s not something that’s normal,” Nilson said. “Obviously I’m pretty ashamed of my university that we’re going down this road and having to have this fight, especially considering that this injunction is just to keep things the way they are and to keep them status quo.”

Nilson said the university could extend the agreement at any time if they so desired, but he suggested they have decided to terminate it four years early, despite a statement issued by the university Monday, which reads: “the university is not terminating the operating and management agreement four years before the end of its term.”

University administration said it has documentation proving 50 years of ownership but Nilson said he has yet to see it. The SU, however, has been able to produce documents backing their 55 per cent ownership of the building, which provides the SU with the bulk of their financial means to operate.

“They (U of C) ran over a $50 million surplus last year. We operate a budget of $18 million and a big chunk of that would potentially be lost if the university was to take over the building” Nilson said. “To us that’s everything but to them it’s nothing, so we don’t see the need for it.”

However, in their official statement, the University of Calgary said:

“If the university assumes management and operations of Mac Hall the building will remain fully open and operational for students and the campus community. As has been stated repeatedly, the university will not ‘confiscate’ SU revenues. The SU will continue to run all of the businesses it owns and operates in Mac Hall, and collect the revenues. This includes the MacEwan Conference and Event Centre, Bound and Copied, Stör, The Den and Black Lounge, and the MacEwan Hall concert venue.”

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The release also reiterated that the current License of Occupation, Operating and Management Agreement (LOOMA), that was signed in December 1999 by both the SU and the university, refers to the university as owner.

Nilson said the university has said in the past the SU is doing a great job managing the building which adds to his confusion and frustration.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to us,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s about power and control and that the university doesn’t like that we have some power and control on campus.”

Nilson is confident approaching the court date.

“The students and the broader public are pretty clear about where the facts lie and whose side has the truth on their side, so as soon as they recognize that, or as soon as they could extend the current agreement, we could end this.”

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