Hopping on the bus
By Sabrina Carinci
The Society of Graduate Students are waiting at the bus stop just like everybody else, except they haven't got a bus pass yet.
Since early September, some graduate students have been left wondering why they weren't included in the University Students' Council's agreement with the London Transit Commission for a universal bus pass.
According to SOGS President Kelly Barrowcliffe, when discussions started with the LTC two years ago, the SOGS president at the time decided to pull out of the negotiations when it was made evident there would not be an opt-out clause. "It may have been a rash decision. [We] could have at least stayed and listened to the negotiations," Barrowcliffe said.
Graduate students have been enquiring about the universal bus pass since early September when full-time undergrads began picking up theirs. "Some students thought they had paid for a pass," Barrowcliffe said. She added there was a certain degree of confusion which left many grad students upset and interested in obtaining the pass.
On Wednesday afternoon a pre-referendum question, in the form of an email, was sent to all graduate students, said Laura Hudson, executive assistant for SOGS.
The question asked students to reply either yes or no, as to if they would be interested in supporting a referendum on the issue of a mandatory bus pass for graduate students.
By Thursday afternoon, Hudson said she had received over 600 responses but was unable to release any information regarding the responses.
The pre-referendum email told graduates to respond based on a non opt-out contract and an approximate cost of $100 or more per term for either eight or 12 months. "We anticipate LTC will not give us the pass for the same cost because graduate students are on campus for 12 months a year," Barrowcliffe said.
Barrowcliffe later added if the response to the pre-referendum question is high, then SOGS may decide not to hold a referendum and instead, begin negotiations with the LTC right away.
John Ford, manager of planning services at the LTC, said although he had only spoken to Barrowcliffe once in early September, he was confident the LTC could come to an agreement with SOGS. "We're willing to discuss anything. We don't want to close any doors," he said.
Ford said he was unaware of the pre-referendum which is being presently held by SOGS, but if the two organizations decide to negotiate, then the same process used to decide the undergraduate cost would be followed.
"It would be revenue neutral," said Larry Ducharme, general manager of the LTC. "That means we get the same amount of money from a larger group of students. We don't make more, we just lose less," he said.
Ian Armour, president of the University Students' Council, said he is confident a referendum would pass. "The approval rating is high. Even people who voted 'no' in the referendum [held in February] are happy with it," he said.