The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) is once again poised to change the way students are represented at UTSC. Less than three months after SAC and SCSU agreed to all but eliminate SAC’s involvement at Scarborough, part-time students will soon decide whether the Scarborough organization will take over the job of representing them. The UTSC Students’ Representation Referendum will ask part-time students to vote on whether they want to stop paying the $32.14 they currently pay to the Association of Part-Time Students (APUS), and pay it to SCSU instead.
The referendum will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 20 and Wednesday, Jan. 21, from 9 am to 7 pm in UTSC’s Meeting Place. In order to inform voters on the issues involved, the UTSC Students’ Representation Referendum Committee is also holding four different forums on the Wednesday and Thursday before the week of the referendum.
If the ‘yes’ vote wins, the $10.76 per session that UTSC part-timers currently pay to SCSU will be increased to $42.90, and they will no longer pay fees to APUS. If this is done, these students will retain their part-time distinction with the presumed added benefit of having their unique needs as Scarborough members better recognized.
APUS President Chris Ramsaroop doesn’t see the overall benefit of this change for part-timers. “It will have negative consequences,” he stated. “It will mean the diminishing of their voice.”
According to Ramsaroop, the SCSU is not well-equipped enough to take on the specific needs of part-time students. “I first want to see a concrete plan from them [about this issue] before any decisions are made,” he said. APUS was not made aware that the referendum was occurring until this past Monday, even though it was decided on Dec. 19. Because of this, APUS’s board members have not had a chance to deal with the issue.
“We want to have a partnership with SCSU, but this isn’t fair,” Ramsaroop claimed, giving the example of APUS’s successful relationship with UTM’s part-time student union, EPUS. He emphasized the need for the inclusion of part-timers in the process. Due to APUS not being informed about the referendum, their ability to prepare a campaign for the ‘no’ side has been severely hampered. Despite this, a ‘no’ campaign does exist on the campus.
Ramsaroop states that APUS was told in December by the SCSU that a referendum on this issue would not be pursued at Scarborough. “We’re investigating the question of whether this process is even legal,” he said.
The referendum marks a continuing trend in U of T’s student governance away from a primary distinction that groups students according to their course load, and towards grouping them according to which campus they belong to. Scarborough has been at the forefront of this trend lately, most notably since SAC, which used to represent full-time students at all three campuses, changed to represent only St. George and UTM. “There has been an overall decline in part-time representation at this university,” said Ramsaroop.
SCSU President Dan Bandurka has made it clear in the past that students at a tri-campus university would be more effectively represented by a campus-based system rather than one based on course-load category. Otherwise, he says, UTSC students’ needs get pushed aside by the overwhelming vote of downtown students.