Part-time students to vote on joining the UTM Students’ Union

The UTM Students’ Union and the Association of Erindale Part-Time Undergraduate Students intend to hold a campus-wide referendum for part-time UTM students to vote on whether they want to become fee-paying part-time undergraduate members of UTMSU.

“Over time, members of EPUS and the EPUS Class Assembly have come to feel that the financial and representative structure of EPUS was not capable of meeting the needs of part-time students at UTM,” said Chris Thompson, the president of UTMSU, in an emailed response to questions. Thompson said that UTMSU has advocated informally on behalf of part-time students and that members felt it was time to formalize this representation so that part-time students could have access to the services UTMSU provides to full-time students. “The greater benefit to all students is that UTMSU is in a stronger position to advocate on behalf of all students at UTM, which benefits part-time students in a manner not previously possible with EPUS,” said Thompson.

Throughout all three semesters, all U of T undergraduate part-time students are also represented by the Associate of Part-Time Undergraduate Students. APUS agreed that EPUS is not adequately fulfilling its members’ expectations under the current structure.

“Our members at the UTM campus have indicated that the current structure of representation through EPUS is not meeting their needs,” said Susan Froom, the vice-president internal of APUS. “In response, APUS is pleased to have worked with EPUS and UTMSU to develop a representative model which we feel will better serve part-time students at UTM. Working together, UTMSU and APUS will ensure that part-time students receive all of the services and resources to support their undergraduate experience.”

From March 26 to 28, part-time students will be able to vote on whether to dissolve EPUS, to take effect on August 31, and become members of UTMSU, to take effect on September 1.

“The implementation of the proposed structure will eradicate the potential redundancy [of] running two organizations with the same objective simultaneously,” said Abhinab Chakraborty, the president of EPUS.

Currently, part-time undergraduate UTM students pay fees to both EPUS and APUS.

EPUS members pay $76.35 per  semester in fall and winter. For the summer, they pay $93.95. This fee will cease to be administered should the referendum pass, and instead they will be charged a UTMSU membership fee of $90.49 per semester in fall and winter and $107.84 per summer session, beginning this fall.

The EPUS membership fee for summer 2013 would be administered by UTMSU, because this summer would be a “transition period” for this change in representation, according to Thompson. During this transition, EPUS would collect membership fees but they would be jointly administered by EPUS and UTMSU.

The proposed fee to UTMSU is higher than the fee paid to EPUS. When asked about the increase, Thompson said, “UTMSU as a whole offers a wide range of resources to students, including services like clubs funding, funding of academic societies, the Blind Duck, the food bank, [and] the on-campus first aid response team. As members of UTMSU, part-time students will also be asked to contribute to the funding of these services in order to ensure they are available to all students, which accounts for the difference in membership fee[s].”

Thompson acknowledged that part-time students have been accessing the benefits of UTMSU membership without being formal members. Thompson said that by contributing to these services, part-time students will help ensure that UTMSU will be able to continue to provide the services it provides to its members.

EPUS previously disbanded when the Student Administrative Council (located at both St. George and UTM) and the Erindale College Student Union (located at UTM) merged to become UTMSU in February 2008. At the same time, the two organizations attempted to merge with EPUS to represent and collect a levy from part-time students. This was done through a campus-wide referendum. Following the amalgamation, APUS took UTMSU to court because, as cited in APUS’s policies, UTMSU was not within its authority to hold such a referendum. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in favour of APUS, saying that UTMSU had acted against the authority of APUS.

EPUS reformed in the summer of 2011 after part-time students were promised a summer U-Pass, but at the last minute were ruled ineligible because APUS—which has jurisdiction over EPUS—decided the U-Pass would not be useful to a large enough portion of part-time students.

“This referendum is distinct from the previous [ones] in that it does not seek to change representation of part-time students at UTM by APUS centrally. Collectively, EPUS, UTMSU, and APUS recognize the value of having all part-time undergraduate students being represented by the central students’ union,” said Froom. “APUS advocates on behalf of part-time students to the central administration and at bodies like the Council on Student Services and Governing Council. By having strong advocacy on the campus level through UTMSU, and strong central representation across the three campuses by APUS, the voices of part-time students will be effectively represented at various levels of decision-making inside and outside of the university.”

During the fall/winter session, any student taking fewer than three credits is considered part-time. Over the summer session, the threshold below which a student is part-time is 1.5 credits. A student who is full-time in the fall/winter session does not automatically carry full-time status into the summer session.

“In a nutshell, this referendum is put in place with the vision to restructure the representation model wherein UTMSU [would] be locally representing UTM part-time undergraduates and APUS would be centrally representing part-time students,” said Chakraborty.

Thompson said he too believes the change “will better serve the needs of part-time students”.

All current part-time UTM students will be eligible to vote.

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