U of T is participating in a collaborative transit study to examine student travel to schools from across the GTA.

Collecting data from students at York University, OCAD, Ryerson, and U of T, the study is to examine if commutes to and from campus influence participation in campus activities, class attendance, or course selection by looking at student responses to survey questions. The survey was delivered over a 64-day period last fall.

According to preliminary results of the survey, 20 percent of students who live within 20 minutes of their school and 70 percent of students who commute over an hour answered yes when asked if their commute affected their likelihood of attending class or being involved on campus. Researchers behind the study are suggesting that schools use this information to adjust class scheduling.

“This project arose from my invitation to the other presidents of the other universities in Toronto to come together to address issues that affect all of our students, faculty, and staff, so that by working together, we might improve the quality of their daily experiences,” said U of T president Meric Gertler when presenting the initiative in front of the university’s Governing Council meeting held last Thursday.

Professor Matti Siemiatycki and doctoral candidate Chris Harding are heading the project, which has collected a reported 15,000 student surveys across the four institutions. According to Gertler, the project “was one of the largest surveys of student travel behaviour in history”.

In the survey, students were asked to write a log entry pertaining to their daily commutes, including weekend travel, which, according to Harding, is virtually nonexistent in the Toronto region.

Seeking to implement change not only across the four universities, but also across the region of Toronto, the study focuses on students’ commutes to class and personal transit experiences outside of the classroom.

“This is active research. This is meant to inform change,” said Siemiatycki. “StudentMoveTO is one of these unique initiatives that brings together the four universities to really model and understand travel behaviour across the entire region.”

With plans to publish study findings at an undisclosed date, Harding and his team hope to expand the initiative to include college statistics, and eventually, provincial and national data.

Also on the agenda at Governing Council, the university’s highest decision making body, a motion was passed by governors to establish a VP international position responsible for international communications, initiatives, and global strategies on behalf of the university.

According to a report presented to Governing Council, current VP international, government, and institutional relations Judith Wolfson is ending her yearlong term this June. Last February, Gertler appointed Professor Janice Stein as senior presidential advisor on international initiatives to conduct consultations across the university pertaining to the university’s international outreach, which resulted in an indicated need for a dedicated position.

It is currently unknown who will fill the VP international position.

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