Volume 96, Issue 82
Thursday, March 6, 2003

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Waterloo student group sues university for $11 million

By Chris Webden
Gazette Staff

For students at the University of Waterloo, nothing says "stick it to the man" like handing him a huge multi-million dollar lawsuit.

On Monday, the Federation of Students at Waterloo launched legal action against the university's administration, seeking $11 million in lost revenue and damages.

According to Chris Di Lullo, VP-administration and finance for the Federation, the organization decided to proceed with legal action after Waterloo's administration decided to close Federation Hall and The Bombshelter, two student-run, on-campus bars.

Following an incident early New Year's morning where a student was assaulted in the parking lot outside the bar, Di Lullo said the administration decided to investigate the two establishments and evaluate their management and safety.

"[Administration] came back and gave us a report that said we were being run extremely well and very safe," Di Lullo said, adding, at that point, it was the Federation's belief that the issue had been resolved.

However, according to Di Lullo, the administration soon returned to the Federation and said they were going to take over the operation of the bars. It became apparent that the issue at stake was not one of safety, but of the administration's liquor license, he said.

"We have been in discussion with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and they say that, because the license is in our name, administration has to be in direct managerial control of the bars and that is what we are trying to do," said Martin Van Neirop, director of information and public affairs at Waterloo.

When Waterloo's administration learned of the AGCO regulations, they attempted to take control of the bars, while at the same time working with the Federation to come up with a joint long-term plan for the bars' operation, Van Neirop explained. He said it was at this point that the Federation began to protest the administration's involvement with the bars, forcing administration to remove their liquor license altogether.

Di Lullo said the Federation wants the administration to allow them to obtain their own liquor license, or enter the current license in conjunction with the administration.

Jerry Levitan, the Federation's lawyer and author of the lawsuit, said the Federation did attempt to resolve the problem with administration, adding the two sides simply could not agree on the terms.

However, according to Van Neirop, the university's administration offered to engage in discussion with the Federation several times and were refused. "The students decided to proceed with a lawsuit, which is really a step in the wrong direction," he added.

"[Ineffective talks] left the students with no choice but to issue a lawsuit," Levitan explained. "[The Federation] cannot generate revenue, student jobs are being lost and students on campus have to leave to get a drink, which is very unsafe."

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2002 THE GAZETTE