Caring about the RSU and its elections is not something I’ve ever done – until now.
For the first time in years Unite Ryerson has actual opposition: Transform Ryerson. This new opposition comes with real options and choices for students to get involved in choosing their on-campus representation. Personally, I am excited to see some actual competition.
But what exactly does the RSU do for students? As it turns out, they do quite a lot. But these services, even the so-called free ones, aren’t really free. We pay to have a student union through our tuition and we should care about how they spend our money. Not only that, but they’re our main tool for change and our link to our academic overlords.
The RSU adds $60 onto everyone’s tuition, not including the Health and Dental Plan. For the 2014/2015 school year the RSU expects to get $1,780,000 in revenue from membership fees. This income will make up almost 92 per cent of their expected revenue for the year. Nearly a fifth of all revenue collected by the RSU will go to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
- Live blog: McGill grad students in referendum to cut from CFS
- Transform RU runs against Unite Ryerson in RSU elections
The RSU chooses to be involved with CFS because it offers the RSU strength in numbers when protests happen, taking issues beyond the local level. They also help the RSU save money on things like the Health and Dental Plan and the free day planners the RSU hands out at the beginning of the year.
Some of the services offered by the RSU are well known, such as the health and dental plan, but others surprised me. I had no idea RSU members got free legal advice from a lawyer that comes on campus twice a week – it’s just not the kind of thing I ever thought the RSU might cover.
They also have an emergency bursary program for students in severe financial need who require short-term assistance. It gives me a sense of pride knowing I go to a school that cares if tuition fees could leave me living in a box on Yonge Street.
Speaking of my future financial situation, RSU members can get their taxes done for free. Students have the option to attend an in-person tax clinic in March or use Ufile, an online tax-filing service.
For those of us who would rather save our hard earned money but are far too inept to file our own taxes, this is a great service offered by those who actually understand numbers and how they can turn into a fat cheque during tax-return season.
The RSU also saves commuters nearly $20 a month with discounted TTC passes – that’s the equivalent of ten $2 pizza slices at Metro. The extra cash I have left in my pocket makes commuting, which is a headache on a good day and an absolute cattle-car during rush hour, a bit more bearable.
However, the pass is only available to full-time students, leaving out a huge chunk of the Ryerson community. What I didn’t realize is they also offer a second discounted option, the Adult (VIP) Metropass. It won’t buy you as many pizza slices at Metro, but it’s available to everyone, including faculty and staff.
For commuters this is a big deal, because the idea that I am paying to be jammed into a metal box underground with a hundred strangers, who have no choice but to touch me with their germs, makes me wonder about the definition of torture on a daily basis.
Students also get massive discounts on things like movie tickets and admission to Wonderland, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Science Centre. I am suddenly booked every weekend from now until graduation – guess where my TTC savings are going.
Offering these opportunities is the RSU’s job. We pay them to stick-up for our rights and save us money. We should ask more from our union, and this Election Day we have a chance to do that.
With competition brewing there is real accountability placed on the government – make it work for you. Demand the things you need as a student and go to the polls to make yourself heard. The time for being silent is over. If you want something, speak up.