Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi made an appearance on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin on April 13.
He was joined by three other university presidents, Meric Gertler of the University of Toronto, Sara Diamond of OCAD University and Mamdouh Shoukri of York University, for a discussion on collaborative city building between the four Toronto-based universities.
The four main topics of discussion: improving transportation, Syrian refugees, affordable housing and the Liberal government’s free tuition.
A survey of 15,000 students was conducted by the four universities and found that one-third of students spend two or more hours per day commuting to and from campus. Data collected also showed that 25 per cent of respondents live 20 kilometres or more from their campus.
Lachemi said that this information was particularly important to Ryerson with over 80 per cent of its students identifying as commuters.
“If we understand the transit behaviour and how students are using the system, we can really work with the city of Toronto in enhancing services. But also look at alternatives — how we can support better students while they’re on campus,” Lachemi said.
Between the four universities, Ryerson was the leader in responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. In the beginning, Ryerson’s initial target was to sponsor around 10 families. However, after reaching out to sister universities, they were able to help 75 families and raise $3 million in total.
For non-commuters, Lachemi said Ryerson is working on increasing its residence capacity. Shoukri also said that there have been talks between the four universities about accommodating staff with affordable housing as well.
Lachemi called the Liberal government’s initiative to provide low-income families with free tuition “brilliant.” He believes that the move will simplify the application process for students.
“From the perspective of implementation I think it’s going to be challenging for universities, but that’s a price to pay in order to facilitate the participation of students,” Lachemi said.
For the full segment, you can watch here.