By Fabian Mayer, September 29 2015 —
After a week of back and forth on the ownership of MacHall, both university administration and the Students’ Union say they are willing to return to the negotiating table. Negotiations for a new operating agreement started over two years ago.
The university responded last week to the SU’s public comments on the conflict and offered to extend the current Dec. 9 deadline for reaching a new deal until May 1, 2016.
Provost Dru Marshall said she was surprised by some of the SU’s demands and believes there are more issues than who owns the building.
“I don’t think it is just about ownership actually. I think it’s broader than that,” Marshall said.
The SU filed a statement of claim regarding the ownership of MacHall with provincial courts in April, but have yet to serve it to the university.
Marshall said in an open letter to the SU that she is disappointed with the SU’s “threat of legal action.” She claims the university wants to focus on creating a positive experience for students.
“In order to do that, we have to have a discussion at the table around this agreement and it means both parties have to come to the table to talk,” Marshall said.
SU president Levi Nilson said his predecessor, Jarett Henry, filed the statement of claim only to preserve legal action as an option.
“We’re hoping to get back to the table to see what potential compromises there are,” Nilson said.
He is unsure when negotiations might resume.
Nilson is encouraged by the university’s offer to extend the deadline, but said he was disappointed it came only after the SU made the dispute public.
“The only time they’ve changed their tune is since we’ve gone public. It’s frustrating to see that that’s the only way we can get progress,” Nilson said.
Marshall said the SU and university have a different version of the facts surrounding ownership. She argues the best way to resolve the issue is through further negotiations.
“There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation right now that probably should stay at the table before an agreement is finalized,” Marshall said.
The SU stakes its claim on the original 1969 agreement that gives them 55 per cent ownership of MacHall, while the university points to the 1999 License of Occupation, Operation and Management Agreement that identifies the university as the building’s owners.
According to Nilson, he has not had any discussions with administration on the issue since their first negotiating session on Sept. 9.
The SU responded to the university’s Sept. 22 e-mail on Sept. 29, but they have yet to make their response public. Nilson claims they plan to do so in the coming days.