In May, University of Waterloo’s Imprint newspaper received a lease termination notice from the student union for the campus office space it has published in since 1979.

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Two months ago, University of Waterloo student newspaper Imprint received a notice of lease termination from the schools student union on the campus offices in which it had operated since 1979. 

It was a shock,said Imprint executive editor Aliyah Kanani. We had heard rumblings that our rent was going to be increasedbut it was a shock to have it terminated completely.” According to the May 1 letter, paper will have to vacate the space by October 31 of this year.

Kanani said the notice indicated that university administration had changed the way in which office space rental fees were calculated in the schools Student Life Centre building, and therefore charged.  The building, which two years ago became the responsibility of the Federation of Students union, also houses residence and housing offices, restaurants, study rooms and a range of student services. Until now Imprint had been paying approximately $11,000 a year for 1,800 square feet of space, which included 13 computer stations, a central production table, an editorial and ad office and storage lockers for camera equipment. 

We had asked that what the new calculation was for our space, and we were given a bizarre explanation with a list of room numbers that were included as belonging to Imprint,Kanani said. Staircases leading to the Feds[Federation of Students] offices, and a hallway thats not even near our entryway.” 

Over the next two months Kanani and Imprints board of directors met with the Federation to discuss what the papers next options were: to increase the rent by $11,000, move to another campus building or relocate to a basement office about half the size of the current one. Feeling it was at an impasse, on July 2 Imprint staff published a news article and editorial, alleging that the Federation had been unhappy with coverage it had received from the paper over the past year, and decision to relocate it was politically motivated.

The Federation has had little to say about the dispute, and declined to confirm whether any other tenant in the building had been served a similar termination. Anything that was said in negotiation sessions, were obligated to keep confidentialthats out of respect to the tenants,said Carly McCready, vice-president of operations and finance. Even if a tenant has decided to share it.In the time since the Federation had taken over lease management of the building, McCready said, it had been reviewing leases as they expired, and making decisions based on a recent space audit that solicited feedback from students.

If I can make one thing clear is that were not out to shut down Imprint,she said. The Federation thinks that the Imprint is important and we recognize their role on campusI would think we share a lot of common goals of being in the interest of students and keeping people accountable.

Student union and press flareups, however, are not an uncommon occurrence in post-secondary campuses. In 2013 the University of Western Ontarios Gazette newspaper also found itself in an office space scuffle when the schools University StudentsCouncil announced plans to convert the Gazettes 1,900 square foot office into a multi-faith centre, a decision that was later reversed.

Its almost like a boom-bust cycle. Some years its really friendly and productive and positive, and others its really confrontational,said Julian Uzielli, who worked as an online editor at the Gazette and the time, and as its editor-in-chief the year after. The year they tried to kick us out of the space there was a strong sense in the newsroom that it was at least partially personal, because the president of the Council and our EIC did not get along.

That same year the The Lance newspapers print edition was almost cancelled when the University of Windsor StudentsAlliance voted to convert paper to online-only due to an operating deficit. This was shortly after the paper ran front-page coverage highly critical of the Alliances most recent student election.

Over the past year, Imprint itself had reported on fees the Federation had been charging for takeout containers and a lack of transparency about meetings and minutes for the Federations board of directors. In the months since, said Kanani, Imprint staff had experienced a significant reduction in advertising space purchased by the Federation and an increased difficulty in contacting Federation councillors for stories. There have been instances where we dont hear back from interview requests for days or even a week, or where weve requested an in-person or phone interview, and weve been told wed only get answers by email or a predetermined statement. And this is bizarre, because were in the same building.

The Federation, said McCready, is making these decisions in good faith. This new board started on May 1; its a brand new board except for two members, and its their first experience with Imprint. I dont think theres any bad blood.

Regardless of the outcome, negotiations over space will have to wrap up soon, said Jesse McGinnis, chair of Imprints board of directors. From our perspective, we have to have this sorted out by the beginning of August, he said. If were switching spaces, we have to be in the new space by the time September rolls around.

Theres a lot of history in this space,said McGinnis. We like where were at. If [the Federation] just completely says no and theres no room to work something out, thats when well start pushing harder with university administration itself.