A “high” number of students are choosing to opt in to ancillary fees for campus services says Jen McMillen, Ryerson’s vice-provost, students, but as September is a period of fluctuation on campus, final numbers are not yet available.
“Students are still enrolling or de-enrolling,” McMillen said in an interview with the Ryersonian. “We’re pleased in terms of the trends. We’re seeing a high number of students opt in and support the services and programs that are offered.”
She said she expects final data about the opt-in numbers to be released by “early to mid-October.”
The Student Choice Initiative, implemented earlier this year by the Doug Ford-led government, targeted Ontario post-secondary schools and changed the funding formula for non-essential campus services and groups. These fees were previously determined by democratic votes on campus, but following the SCI’s implementation, students can now individually choose which services and organizations to support.
Affected organizations went through a consultation process with the university earlier this year aimed at helping groups stay viable through the SCI transition. McMillen said that Ryerson is committed to keeping open communication with these organizations.
“But, there’s not a specific plan around replacing any funding,” she said. “We remain optimistic that we’re going to be able to have those organizations continue to operate.”
Among the annual fees deemed non-essential for full-time students are the Ryerson Students’ Union ($24.44), the WUSC Student Refugee program ($4.69), and CJRU Ryerson Radio ($3.73). Fees going to the student union partially support its equity groups, including RyePride and the Racialized Students Collective.
McMillen said the short blurbs on the RAMSS opt-out portal explaining what each service provides were written by representatives of those organizations. A check box at the bottom states: “I understand that by opting out of some or all of these fees, I may be refused service if I attempt to access services that I have opted out of.”
As for the RU-Pass, McMillen said that Ryerson is not in conversation with the TTC about the issue. The SCI states that mandatory transit fees must be based on a plan that was ready and executed by Jan. 17, 2019. The RU-Pass, if implemented, was meant to provide Ryerson students unlimited TTC travel for $282 per semester, but the plan was mired in controversy during a school-wide referendum last fall. The Ryersonian reported that volunteers with the RU-Pass campaign were spreading inaccurate information during the referendum. Some incorrectly asserted that a GO Transit pass with Metrolinx was in the works. An agreement with the TTC was never reached.
Some students on campus are preparing to voice their opposition to the Ford government’s SCI and other government-led changes to OSAP funding. A general assembly and vote for a student strike is scheduled for Sept. 25.
“Student voices are important,” said McMillen, in response to the campaign. “I think students who want to share what their perspective is around current policy and current environments should be free to do that.”