Future of MacHall up for grabs

By Fabian Mayer

The Students’ Union’s current MacEwan Student Centre lease agreement with the University of Calgary will expire in December 2014. The process to renegotiate the agreement is set to start within the next few months.

The almost 15-year-old lease divides up space and management responsibilities in the building, which is owned by the university but operated by the SU. The SU controls roughly one-third of the space, which it uses for businesses, SU offices and other services.

SU president Hardave Birk said a majority of the SU’s revenue comes from running businesses and other services in MSC that are then used to fund student services. He said that the most important part of the negotiations is keeping MSC in students’ hands.

“It’s very important to students, both from a perspective of advocacy and having a strong SU that can advocate on their behalf and also from a perspective of providing those campus services that are so crucial to the student experience,” said Birk.

Vice-provost student experience Susan Barker will help lead the negotiations for the U of C. According to Barker, the administration has not created any formal committees for the renegotiations but will look to do so this spring.

“The only conversations that we’ve had at present is that this is something that we need to have on our schedule for next year,” said Barker.

Barker said students should not be worried about the possibility of the university looking to deal with some of the recent cuts to post-secondary education by taking over more space in MSC.

“I’ve been part of the general budget conversations and that has never entered the discussion,” said Barker. “I don’t know why students would be concerned, I don’t see anything sinister about this. MacHall is a great facility for students.”

Barker mentioned that more formal discussions and meetings will take place once the new SU executive take office.

Birk also outlined what he believed was necessary for successful negotiations as well as some goals for the SU going into the process.

“I think it’s safe to say the SU wants to maintain the space it has in the building right now, at a minimum,” said Birk. “We just need to come to the table with the university and have an open, honest discussion about the way the building runs.”

Birk will play a key role in setting up the negotiations in order for a smooth transition to the next SU executive.

Fifth-year kinesiology student Sohan Fonseka said he hopes no large changes will be made to the management of the MSC.

“I prefer the money going towards the SU and them running the businesses in [MSC],” said Fonseka.

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