Here come the hard hats

By Mary Chan

The Ford Edsel that is MacEwan Hall expansion is up and running. Again.
The project was cancelled in mid-December when the university administration failed to meet the construction company’s deadline and approve the tendered bid. This came two weeks after the Students’ Union pulled out of tuition consultation, though University of Calgary officials denied any connection between the two events.

However, in a letter addressed to SU President Paul Galbraith dated Jan. 27, 1999, U of C President Terry White stated, "You should be aware that the University will be unable to commit to the major construction project relating to the MacEwan Hall expansion until all pieces of the University’s finances are comfortably in place. You can appreciate, I am sure, that tuition decisions have the potential to impact significantly on fiscal planning and the two cannot be viewed independently."

At the Board of Governors’ meeting on Fri., Feb. 5, Galbraith discussed the expansion issue during his presentation to the BoG, which is the university’s decision-making body.

"Every meeting he’s expected to do a report," said BoG Student-at-large representative Jodi Swidzinski, "And this time he was incredible."

According to Swidzinski, Galbraith had extensive documentation showing various aspects of the expansion process. The SU had already come to agreements with the BoG over aspects of the expansion, such as the site and the name, and had approved the funding. When the university decided to cancel expansion, it overrided the BoG decision.

"It [the decision to terminate expansion] is beyond the university’s power," said Swidzinski. "As a Board member, it’s disturbing. It’s obvious the Board members felt that way, too."

"We’ve had a long discussion at the BoG about it," said Galbraith, "And the BoG was convinced the SU had acted responsibly and that this expansion should definitely not be used as a political tool."

A motion was worded on the spot at the BoG, which rarely happens.

"The essence of the motion said that the university continue with expansion and their efforts with the SU," said Swidzinski.

The Board voted in favour of the motion, and expansion is now proceeding again.
"We’re at the point now where all we have to do is get the operating agreement and financing for MacEwan Hall," said Galbraith. The operating agreement includes security, utilities cost and management issues.

Given recent events, Galbraith is reluctant to give a definite timeline or date of completion, though finalizing operating arrangements with the university is expected to take two to six weeks.

"Our goal is to have construction started by the time we’re out of office," said Galbraith. "And we’re going to work our hardest to make sure that happens."

As for whether or not tuition will impact expansion, Galbraith sees expansion and tuition as two completely separate issues.

"The issues should never impinge upon each other," said Galbraith. "There are areas of agreement and disagreement and it’s up to both parties to keep those areas distinct."

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