The current RU-Pass opt-out option is only available to students who require accessibility needs, Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president Ram Ganesh told the Ryersonian in light of students’ confusions about the pass’ opt-out process.
Although this is what the TTC’s U-Pass policy framework states, Ganesh said the RSU will still renegotiate with the TTC to expand the list of exceptions under the opt-out provision.
“As soon as the referendum passes, that’s our first order of business,” said Ganesh. “We are going to go back and say, ‘Hey, these are the things that we need included in your opt-out process. How are we going to get this done?’”
Ganesh said the RSU will ask the TTC to give opt-out exceptions to students who do not have a direct purpose to use the TTC. He said this applies to students who are out of the country doing research, those who only come to school one or two days a week and those who live in student residence.
“I can’t think of promises to how [negotiations] will go down because there are way too many variables in this scenario, but we’re going to do our best,” said Ganesh.
The RU-Pass will be offered to Ryerson students at a price of $70 per month, accounting for an additional $282 – $280 for the RU-Pass and $2.00 for Ryerson’s administrative fee – of tuition each semester. If it passes, the RU-Pass could be offered by September 2019.
Ganesh said while the RSU negotiates with the TTC, students may apply for travel grants in the meantime. Over half a million dollars worth of travel grants are available to students, especially those who use GO Transit, don’t use the TTC often, and live very close or walk to campus, he said.
Applications for the university’s commuter bursary are available through the student financial assistance website and will open in the winter term. The RSU also budgeted $20,000 for this year’s travel grant, said RSU vice-president education Salman Faruqi.
Last March, the University of Toronto rejected its referendum on TTC’s proposal of the U-Pass, which was targeted for students from Ryerson, U of T’s St. George campus, OCAD University, and George Brown College.
The current TTC framework says mandatory student participation – where there are no opt-outs – is needed to ensure the financial impact of the U-Pass to the TTC is cost neutral.
However, students may request to opt-out if they have needs related to the Ontario Human Rights Code that restrict their ability to use the TTC, according to the framework.
“Participation is mandatory, but there is an opt-out provision that can be offered and will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by Ryerson University,” said TTC spokesperson Hayley Waldman.
Meanwhile, students enrolled in the spring or summer term would have the option to opt into the RU-Pass.
In a statement posted on Oct. 25, the RSU said they have contacted the TTC to remove a statement from their website that says, “Once approved, students are not able to opt-out of the U-Pass.”
This came after students questioned a post on the RSU’s Instagram story that explicitly stated, “You can opt-out.”
“I remember hearing before that you need a reason, such as a physical inability, to use the TTC to opt-out,” Jeff Leun posted in a Ryerson Facebook group. “If that’s the case, this is false advertising.”
Meanwhile, RSU volunteers have been encouraging students to vote in favour of the pass because of the opt-out option.
Second-year business management student Shahryar Ali, who is a member of the RSU, commented on the RSU’s Instagram post, “Even if it doesn’t benefit you directly, you can just opt-out and help out the rest of your friends and classmates.”
He added, “It says that it’ll be assessed on a case-by-case basis, not based on having a ‘legitimate disability.’”
Daniel Lis, one of the students who negotiated on the U-Pass with the TTC last year, said the RSU’s Instagram post was “confusing.”
“I think they posted that because they have a reason for it. I was unclear on what they meant on that as well,” said Lis. “I think that the RSU’s been having conversations with the TTC.”
Voting for the RU-Pass referendum will take place on Oct. 29 at 8 a.m. until Nov. 1 at 4:30 p.m. at my.ryerson.ca.