After the months of planning and negotiations, the UPass for the summer of 2011 is at risk. After the referendum passed in first semester, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) promised students a summer UPass.
According to UTMSU the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, the organization based at the St. George campus that represents the interests of part-time students at the University of Toronto, threatened to sue the union for acting on behalf of part-time students. Due to legal issues, UTMSU could not proceed with the summer UPass that had been promised to all students enrolled in summer school, including part-time students. Upon receipt of this information, Mississauga Transit withdrew their commitment to the summer UPass. Considering the majority of students enrolled in summer school are part-time (the minimum credit requirement to be full-time during the summer is 1.5 credits), it would not have been profitable for Mississauga Transit to provide a discounted bus pass without the inclusion of part-time students.
The UTMSU insists that every measure was taken to contact APUS and include them in the negotiations, including email, phone calls, and visiting their office in person. During the referendum in November, APUS sent one member to help with the campaign.
UTMSU, with the help of city Councillor Katie Mahoney, attempted to resolve the situation with Mississauga Transit. When Mississauga Transit offered to provide a summer UPass at $200 per student, UTMSU persuaded them to lower the cost to $140— $55 dollars more than what students agreed upon through referendum. To compensate, the UTMSU decided to use funds from the contingency budget and executive salary cutbacks to subsidize the cost of the UPASS. The UTMSU receives its funding from levies taken from undergraduate student tuition. They estimate that the total cost of the subsidy will be nearly $100, 000.
The Board of Directors will be presented with the motion at their final meeting on Thursday, March 31. If the motion passes, the UPass will be subsidized for only the summer session of 2011.
The contingency fund is a reserve of money separate from the operating budget that is harvested in case of emergency. According to President Vickita Bhatt, the potential loss of the summer UPass constitutes as an emergency, justifying the subsidy. She insisted that everyday union affairs would not be impacted, such as funding for ministries and clubs. Over a three year period, the money taken from the contingency fund will be replaced through executive salary cutbacks and unused money from the ministries.
When asked about the amount that executive salaries would be cut, Bhatt was less clear. “That is up to the board and the budget committee, so I really can’t make a commitment right now,” Bhatt said at the Commission Meeting on Tuesday.
An announcement is expected after this Thursday’s board meeting.