After nearly a century, McGill is selling the McGill Outdoors Club house in Shawbridge, an hour north of Montreal.
Morton Mendelson, Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning), said McGill considers the Athletics Board’s ownership of the house an inappropriate subsidy of a SSMU club. McGill has offered to sell the MOC house to SSMU, and negotiations for the sale are now underway.
“It’s a luxury we can’t afford, given our chronic underfunding,” Mendelson said.
The administration offered to sell the house to SSMU upon realizing the club’s lease on the house will expire May 31.
The MOC has rented the house from McGill since 1954, when the McGill Athletics Board – who had jurisdiction over the MOC at the time – decided to buy it.
Members may stay in the house for $3 to $5 a night, where they can access snowshoes, skis, ice skates, hiking, and ice-climbing equipment. As many as 60 may stay in the house at one time, as is often the case during New Members Weekend trips.
Mendelson said that liability concerns were a factor in the decision.
“We are certainly not in a position to keep the house,” he said. “We are not in a position to bear the risk.”
Despite the instability caused by the transfer, Liz Wanless, President of the Outdoors Club, said that the sale was appropriate.
“It does make sense for SSMU to be landlord instead of McGill,” Wanless said.
Marcelle Kosman, SSMU VP Clubs & Services, said the Students’ Society had hoped McGill would offer SSMU a price below the market value, since MOC has paid the University rent for 54 years.
But concerned with its financial situation, McGill will only offer market price.
“The University made it clear they wouldn’t accept a $1 symbolic gesture,” Kosman said.
To pay for the house, SSMU is considering taking out a mortgage on the property and dipping into SSMU’s Internal Renovations Endowment Fund, which allots $30,000 each year for renovations inside the Shatner building.
Kosman argued that the fund should be available for mortgage payments on the house, because the money would still be going toward student space.
But decisions about allocating money from the fund remain subject to administrative approval, and Mendelson was convinced that SSMU was financially capable of purchasing the MOC without using money intended for Shatner.
“This year SSMU received $1.875-million dollars from the administration in lieu of bookstore profits,” he said, adding that SSMU’s purchase of Haven Books was evidence of SSMU’s financial capabilities.
When asked how long SSMU would be making mortgage payments, Kosman responded, “I have no idea. We don’t even know how much the property is worth yet.”
Even if SSMU does purchase the huse, Kosman indicated that the MOC would retain autonomy over its operation.
“SSMU doesn’t know how to run their house, so MOC should continue to,” Kosman said.
To assess the condition of the house, McGill housing had already sent property surveyors to Shawbridge, and SSMU will hire appraisers to examine the house in the coming weeks.