By Jason Herring, February 7 2018 —
With files from Matt Hume and Justin Schellenberg
After a lengthy legal dispute between the University of Calgary and its Students’ Union over the ownership and management of MacHall, the parties reached an agreement on the building’s ownership and management late on Feb. 6. The Students’ Union will take full management of MacHall by May 1, 2018 while the U of C will retain sole ownership of the building.
The agreement consists of two documents — the Stakeholder Rights Agreement (SRA) and the Management and Use of Space Agreement (MUSA). The former agreement outlines the SU’s perpetual rights for the life of the building, including the right to manage MacHall and to operate their businesses in the building. The latter is a 10-year agreement that governs the specifics of the building’s management.
SU president Branden Cave said the agreement is important because it secures investments made by the SU into the building.
“It’s an agreement that is perpetual for the life of the building and it enshrines those rights that the SU has that come out of the investments that we have in the building, the over $20 million that we put into it,” Cave said.
The SU went public with the dispute over the ownership of MacHall in September 2015. Shortly after, they filed a lawsuit against the U of C that aimed to establish the SU as the building’s majority owners. In October 2016, the Court of Queen’s Bench ruled against the SU’s injunction to maintain control and operation of MacHall through the length of the lawsuit.
The agreements over MacHall also serve to settle the lawsuit. Neither U of C president Elizabeth Cannon or Cave could provide numbers on how much each party spent on the lawsuit, but the SU approved an $850,000 fund for the MacHall legal defence.
“Every dollar the students have spent on this has been worth it,” Cave said.
The primary focus of the SU’s lawsuit was establishing their legal ownership of MacHall. However, the SRA specifies in section 5(a) that “the parties acknowledge and agree that the university is the sole owner of the MacEwan Building and the lands upon which the MacEwan Building is situated.”
Cannon didn’t go into specifics about the importance of the U of C’s ownership of the building, but she said it’s important for the institution from a legal standpoint.
“I won’t go into all the legal details but it is a university building, it’s been acknowledged by the SU that this is the university’s building and it’s to everybody’s benefit,” Cannon said. “What we wanted to ensure through this agreement is that our respective rights as owners of the building, [the rights of the SU] as managers of the building are fully acknowledged, documented, and in the best interest of students.”
Cave said that the SU doesn’t require ownership of the building, given the terms of the new agreement.
“Ownership is no longer necessary with the rights that we have in the building,” he said.
The agreement also includes allocations for all the spaces in MacHall. Each area is designated as a common space, a building service space, a U of C space or an SU space. Space allocations, as well as other disputes, will be handled by the newly formed Joint Liaison Committee (JLC), which will be comprised of three U of C representatives and three SU representatives, including two SU executives. If the committee is unable to resolve a dispute, an arbitrator will resolve the issue. The SU will receive revenue directly from the building’s third-party commercial tenants.
“Any issues on the future of MacHall will go through that committee and through the regular approval processes at the university and of course the SU,” Cannon said.
Cave said the agreement was a long time in the making.
“We’ve been negotiating since March 2017 and finally, after consultation with SLC throughout the process, we arrived at a solution last night and the agreements were signed,” he said.
The Students’ Legislative Council discussed and approved the agreement in an in-camera session of their Feb. 6 meeting.
The SU expects to take full management of MacHall by May 1, 2018. Cave says students shouldn’t be impacted by the transition period.