SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

December 02, 2015 16:21 ET

University of Calgary corrects the record on Mac Hall

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - December 02, 2015) - A great deal has been written in the media about the dispute between the Students' Union and the university concerning the ownership of MacEwan Hall and MacEwan Student Centre (collectively "Mac Hall") since the Students' Union (SU) sued the university on October 21, 2015. Unfortunately many of these articles and posts have contained significant factual inaccuracies and misinformation. Accordingly, the university wishes to set the record straight.

First and foremost, the university has never expressed an intention or desire to evict the Students' Union from Mac Hall, annex Mac Hall or foreclose on Mac Hall and take control of the Students' Union's commercial activities in the buildings. This, quite simply, will not be done.

The SU Wellness Centre, which is a university run service, will remain fully operational and continue to offer health services regardless of the legal proceedings.

The businesses which the SU owns and operates in Mac Hall, including MacEwan Conference and Event Centre, Bound and Copied, Stör, The Den and Black Lounge, and the MacEwan Hall concert venue, will not be affected by the university assuming the operation and management of Mac Hall upon the expiry of the License of Occupation, Operating and Management Agreement (LOOMA). According to the SU's 2014 Report to the Community and audited financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2014 these businesses appear to represent approximately 85 per cent of the SU's operating revenue for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014. To be clear, the SU will continue to run the businesses and collect the revenues generated by them without having to pay any rent to the university.

Similarly, the entities which rely on the SU for space in Mac Hall, such as The Gauntlet, NUTV, CJSW, TicketFly and others, will remain at liberty to conduct their activities in the usual fashion. Any suggestion to the contrary is completely false.

It has been reported that the SU will be unable to fund and run student programs, activities and services when the university assumes management and operation of Mac Hall. This is also untrue. The university has no desire whatsoever to have student programs, activities and services jeopardized for any reason. The university remains willing to work with the SU to support student programs, activities and services upon the expiry of the LOOMA through the utilization of net proceeds received from the management and operation of Mac Hall.

As the current LOOMA expires on December 9 the university will assume management and operation of the building on December 10 -- and the university will only be collecting rent and operating costs for those identified in existing commercial leases and occupancy agreements that are the SU's responsibility as the current building operator. As stated above, the university will work with the SU to support student programs, activities, and services through the net proceeds received by the university from the management and operation of Mac Hall.

These points have been clearly communicated to the SU on numerous occasions, including letters on October 8, November 9, November 16, and November 26th. Unfortunately it appears the information has been misinterpreted.

We note that the SU has applied to the Court for an injunction to allow it to continue managing and operating Mac Hall upon the expiry of the current LOOMA on December 9. The injunction application will be heard on December 4, 2015 and we will advise the campus community and others if the court decides the SU should continue to manage and operate Mac Hall.

By way of background, the dispute between the SU and the university arises out of the imminent expiry of the LOOMA. Although the LOOMA clearly states that Mac Hall is owned by the university, it gives the SU the right to manage and operate Mac Hall on certain terms and conditions. It also gives the SU the right to occupy and control portions of Mac Hall under a license of occupation on very generous terms.

The LOOMA was signed by both the university and the SU on December 9, 1999. It contains renewal provisions which were exercised by the SU that allowed the agreement to be extended to December 9, 2014. The university agreed to a further one-year extension.

From July 2013 through September 2015, negotiating teams for the university and the SU met at least 34 times to negotiate a new operating agreement and discuss the various issues in dispute regarding Mac Hall. In addition to these meetings of the full negotiating teams, there were numerous one on one meetings throughout this period. Although these negotiations did not result in an agreement, the discussions were positive and considerable progress was made.

At all times, the university remained ready and willing to commit the necessary resources to negotiate a detailed and legally binding agreement that appropriately reflected the longstanding cooperative arrangements between the university and the SU with respect to the management and operation of Mac Hall. As the discussions went on, however, the SU began to raise new and additional issues, and in January 2014 raised the issue of ownership.

This is not the first time the Students' Union has asserted a claim to an ownership interest in Mac Hall. In fact, it actively did so in the 1979-80 timeframe. The debate at that time was much the same as the debate we are having now. Rather than resorting to the courts, however, the SU chose to negotiate a series of operating agreements outlining a number of rights in recognition of their investments in the construction of buildings with the university regarding Mac Hall (in 1981, 1989, 1991 and 1999). Over the past 35 years, these agreements have provided the SU with extensive rights and privileges with respect to Mac Hall. All of these agreements recognized that these rights had been conferred upon the SU in return for the monetary contributions it had made to the construction, redevelopment, renovation and maintenance of Mac Hall from time to time since the 1960s.

It should be noted that during the course of the current negotiations the university proposed in part an agreement that the SU be named as building operators in perpetuity, i.e., that a separate agreement on the issue of building manager be signed with no time limit. This agreement would have been legally binding, guaranteed the key role that the SU has played over the past 50 years, and guaranteed revenue streams for programs for students. Unfortunately, this offer was rejected. It is also important to note that as a gesture of good faith, the university offered to extend the current LOOMA to May 1, 2016 so that the parties could continue working towards a mutually beneficial Operating Agreement. This offer was predicated on the SU not pursuing legal action. Rather than taking the university up on its offer, however, the SU decided to sue the university.

The university and the SU have worked together for nearly 50 years for the benefit of all on campus. Although differences between the parties have arisen from time to time, these have always been overcome and the university is confident that this will also be the case with respect to the present dispute regarding Mac Hall.

About the University of Calgary

The University of Calgary is making tremendous progress on its journey to become one of Canada's top five research universities, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.'

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