This week, I received a letter from UTMSU President Vickita Bhatt regarding the campaign for a summer U-Pass, Ms. Bhatt says “vote yes in the upcoming referendum to keep the eight-month regular year U-Pass for $130.”
I then referred to the notice of referendum printed on page 2 of this week’s issue of The Medium which states “The cost of the 8-month Upass (fall-winter) is $130.00 September 1st-April 30th inclusive”.
A little puzzled, I decided to do my fact-checking. Sure enough, both on the UTM website and on my ROSI invoice, the cost for the U-Pass actually adds up to $99.14 not $130 as Ms. Bhatt suggests.
Considering that UTMSU is holding a referendum to increase the current 8 month U-pass fee from $99.14 to $130 this information has not been clearly advertised. In fact, I would say that the details of these increases have not been advertised at all. When Ms. Bhatt says she recommends you “keep the eight-month regular year U-Pass for $130” it is misleading because it does not suggest a fee increase when in fact there is a proposed fee increase of 30% for all students, not just summer students.
I hope it’s not intentional, otherwise it seems like students are being misled, and the referendum’s wording is trying to hide the fact that it includes a fee hike for the current eight month U-Pass. In any case, UTMSU certainly didn’t think it was worth mentioning.
Another issue that I had with the notice was that it states that for the summer U-Pass there is a “one -time fee of $85”. What UTMSU fails to clearly state is that this $85 (For students registered in summer classes) is on top of the proposed fee increase of $30, to the eight month U-Pass which is a total proposed increase of U-Pass fees of $115 for the summer U-Pass to be available and a total fee of $215 ($130 +85) for all students who plan to use the U-Pass for 12 months. Since the eight month U-Pass that all students are required to pay for is increasing by 30% I assume that this increase is to alleviate the cost of the summer U-Pass, and that all students are contributing to the overall costs of having a U-Pass for summer students. Instead of just charging summer students more, everyone will now have to pay $130 for the eight month U-Pass. The student union hasn’t shared how they got to these proposed fee increases and they also have not clearly shared what the fees are increasing from.
The actual text of the referendum mentions the increase, though it doesn’t say from how much, and uses the words such as “dedicated” and “mandatory”. It also turns out that the U-Pass fee would be subject to increases by 9% annually without notice or vote, which means up to an additional $11-19 annually.
Why couldn’t UTMSU just explain the facts? They are proposing a 30% increase on the eight month U-Pass and a 117% increase in U-Pass fees for the 12 month U-Pass more than doubling the cost of current cost of $99.14 for eight months to $215 for 12 months. The summer U-Pass is actually costing students more for four months in the summer than it cost students for eight months now.
I’m not saying you should vote no. I think the U-Pass is a great service but looking at the facts it will cost every student $130 instead of $99.14 for an eight month U-Pass and summer students are not really getting a deal when using the pass for an additional four months is costing them $85 on top of $130 for September-April, totalling to $215. I think you should know what you are voting for and hopefully this week’s issue of The Medium helped you understand.