The upcoming Students’ Union general election at the University of Calgary is about more than just hallways plastered with posters and grown men running around in Minions costumes. The election will present the opportunity for student politicians to bring up and debate “the issues.”
These issues include everything from federal advocacy to free pizza days. This year, one of these issues is something you may not have heard about in a while — MacHall.
Though it may feel like old news, the SU is still locked in a lawsuit with university administration over majority ownership of the MacEwan Student Centre — more commonly known as MacHall. Since the SU lost their injunction application and, subsequently, control over operation of the building in October, everyone seems to have forgotten about the lawsuit.
But with the election, candidates — whether it’s in the scope of their position or not — will likely bring up MacHall. Or at least they should, because the SU has relied on the profits from operating MacHall for years. Our SU is one of the wealthiest in the country, and revenue from MacHall is central to this success.
But don’t assume a student politician to will be able to “fight for MacHall” because the fight for MacHall is basically over.
U of C students need to start preparing for a post-MacHall world and the SU election is the perfect place to start. The biggest issue of this SU election isn’t going to be saving MacHall — it’s the lack of MacHall.
The current SU executive inherited the lawsuit. The next executive we elect in March will inherit either a case settled out of court or a lawsuit that — based the injunction ruling — has grim prospects.
Reading the injunction ruling from October, it’s evident the SU’s case has holes. While it’s important to note that the injunction is separate from the larger lawsuit, many of the SU’s arguments are the same for both. Justice Kim D. Dixon, in her injunction ruling, noted that “the SU’s arguments about the harm it could suffer are based on a misunderstanding of the Governors’ intentions on expiry of the [previous agreement].”
Coupled with former SU president Levi Nilson’s sworn affidavit, which Dixon ruled “not substantiated by the evidence presented,” the injunction did not make the SU’s case look all that strong.
Prospects weren’t always this grim. The initial push from the SU last fall had momentum. In November 2015, it felt like the SU was ready for war and the student body was rallying around them. But they lost that momentum as soon as they entered closed-door mediation last January and any remaining bits of passion were lost with the injunction ruling.
The injunction ruling claims that losing operation of MacHall won’t cause “irreparable harm” to the SU. But it does create a new reality.
The SU has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from a “MacHall Defence Fund” and full control of the revenue from operating the building. This year’s candidates need to understand that reality.
The SU must accept that they’ve made mistakes with this lawsuit and move on. The people we elect to the SU this year must have a realistic perspective on the future of MacHall and the fact that majority ownership of the building — barring a major legal development — is now a distant pipedream. To believe anything else is naïve.
This probably sounds repetitive. Every year, student journalists and SU hacks remind you of the importance of voting in the SU election and bemoan the dying art of caring about student politics. We remind you that student politicians have a lot of control over important things, make big decisions and represent you directly.
But whether you believe it or not, your student politicians do have a lot of influence over your U of C experience. Whoever is elected this year will have the opportunity to start shaping what a post-MacHall world will look like.
I’m not going to tell you what the right approach to that world is. But demand that your SU executive candidates plan for something. It’s time to start living life after MacHall.
Melanie Woods, Gauntlet Editorial Board