The financial situation of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has become more complicated after the McGill administration announced that they would stop paying the entirety of the utility charges for the Shatner building.
After two years of negotiations and two terms of SSMU executives, McGill and SSMU have not yet reached an agreement on the lease for the Shatner building. The students’ society has been the building’s tenant for the last 47 years, but negotiations concerning the lease’s renewal have stalled since it expired a year ago.
During negotiations, the administration expressed that it will no longer continue to pay for one hundred per cent of the building’s utilities.
Although SSMU would begin to pay for utilities according to a sliding scale, SSMU President Josh Redel emphasized that this was a “huge, huge hit to [SSMU’s] budget.”
“Frankly, what it means is that we’ll have to increase our student fees,” he said.
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson commented on the administration’s decision in an email to The Daily, stating that “the utility charges of hundreds of thousands of dollars is an amount the University can no longer afford to subsidize.”
“SSMU executives understood this and have been willing to take on their share of the costs with the understanding that this will help promote energy conservation,” said Mendelson.
SSMU will start sharing the cost of utilities this financial year, although an agreement has not yet been reached as to the percentage amount each party will pay. Utility charges for the building amounted to roughly half a million dollars last year.
The executive committee does not yet know by how much student fees will have to increase, and any fee increase would have to be approved by the student body in a referendum.
According to Redel, such a referendum may take place in the winter semester, after SSMU can conduct research and determine final costs once the lease is signed. He also stated that SSMU is looking into other “creative solutions” to the problem but could not yet disclose what these might entail.
McGill and past SSMU executives reached an agreement on the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) in November 2011. However, the lease was not among the terms of the agreement.
Mendelson said that the lack of agreement on a lease came as a surprise to the University, although he is “optimistic that we will conclude a new lease with the current SSMU leadership in a short time.”
Redel also told The Daily that the student union used to pay one dollar for rent as a symbolic agreement between the student society and the University. One dollar “symbolic leases” are common to universities across Canada. SSMU paid $127,000 in rent to McGill last year, a number which is expected to increase this year.