Updated March 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm:
To no great surprise, the TTC Board today endorsed the staff proposal to do away with Post-Secondary Student Passes for part time students. This was done after a few hours of well presented, cogent deputations from a variety of speakers who, for their troubles, were greeted with a Blackberry wielding board who spent little of their time paying attention. In one case, a presenter was finishes, but Chair Karen Stintz was so busy with her email that she didn’t notice for some time.
The common thread through the deps was that the concept of “part time student” is not consistently defined either between institutions or even programs within the same university or college. About 20% of students today are “part timers” mainly for economic reasons (they cannot afford to pay the fees for a full time program in one go) or because the program they are in is defined as “part time” (regardless of its actual course load). This cohort of students is growing, and they are also penalized by being ineligible for various loans and grants offered to “full time” students.
Yet another group not covered by the policy are those who are in “certificate” programs which may have just as heavy a course load, but don’t lead to a degree.
As one speaker put it, “students are students”, but the convoluted definitions and practices lead to artificial distinctions between them.
At the end of the deputations, Commissioner Palacio put forward a motion in the best tradition of appearing to be supportive while doing precisely nothing. He wanted the Commission to reiterate that part time students have access to the “VIP Pass” discount program, and wanted the staff to write to university and college administrators urging that they extend their current VIP Pass program for staff to the part time students.
This proposal, which passed, of course, insulted the speakers who know perfectly well that a VIP Pass (which costs about $10 more than a student pass) was available, provided that their institution actually was part of the VIP program. The problem is that this is not universal, and depends on an institution (or a group like a student union) setting itself up as a VIP Pass vendor.
Finally, Chair Stintz thanked everyone for “making their voices heard”. “Heard” is not the word I would use, as “listen” was certainly not what much of the Commission was doing most of the time. If she had really “heard”, she would have acknowledged that there is a problem with definitions, not to mention the larger issue of other groups who make claims for discounted fares, and sent the whole issue off for a detailed report. This change won’t have much effect until fall 2011, and there was no need for a definitive decision today.
But no, that’s not what happened. Mayor Ford’s minions were in and out of the meeting to ensure that the vote went the right way, and the students didn’t have a chance.
[The original article from February 28 follows the break below.]