TGSA Student Life Fees – Second Notice of Referendum
- When to vote
- How to Vote
- Additional Information
- Referendum Description & Question
- Yes Campaign Statement
- No Campaign Statement
When to Vote
Voting opens Friday January 20th at 8:00am and closes Friday February 3rd at 11:59pm.
How to Vote
Voting will take place online at https://voting.utoronto.ca where eligible students will log in with their UTORid. Students may only vote once and will not be able to change their vote once it is cast. Should you have any difficulties with the voting system, please contact our Returning Officer, Carla Marcoccia, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). She will supply you with a paper ballot that must be submitted in person in a sealed envelop. Paper ballots will be counted once the student’s eligibility has been verified with TST administration.
For more details on this referendum please visit http://tgsa.sa.utoronto.ca/referendum
For information on what happened at the Town Hall on January 12th, visit:
Referendum Description & Question
Currently TST Graduate Students’ Association (TGSA) members do not pay University of Toronto non-academic incidental fees and do not have access to corresponding services. Due to Ontario Law we cannot be compelled by TST or U of T to pay these fees, but conjoint students can as a group opt to begin paying them. Paying these fees would enable access to Athletics, Hart House, and 12 Student Life offices. This vote will not impact access to Student Residences, Accessibility Services, or Crisis Response. 2016-2017 fees were: $416.17 per session for full time students, and $83.25 per session for part time students. These fees are governed by student majority boards and historically have had marginal annual increases. Quorum for this referendum is 50 votes and requires a two-thirds majority to pass. The outcome of the referendum is binding on the TGSA Board. TGSA will forward the voting results as well as official student feedback to the University Affairs Board at U of T for ratification.
The choice in this referendum concerns whether TGSA members enrolled in conjoint programs (MA, ThM, DMin, ThD, PhD) will pay the U of T non-academic incidental fees and receive full access to the corresponding services, or continue to not pay these fees and decline access to these services.
__ Students SHOULD pay the non-academic incidental fees
__ Students SHOULD NOT pay the non-academic incidental fees
Yes Campaign Statement
Not Just a Gym! Paying non-academic incidental fees opens the door to many services across the U of T campus for TGSA students. These services include not only access to the fitness and athletic services at Hart House, Varsity Centre, and the Goldring Centre, which include intramurals, drop-in fitness classes, and women’s only athletic programming; but to a wide variety of services including, but not limited to, bookable athletic and academic spaces, access to Hart House Farm for retreats and outings, graduate mentoring, art classes, nutrition and dietary instruction, First Nations House, the Career Centre, subsidized day care, international student services, housing services, community partnerships, and funding for various student-led initiatives. For out of town students, benefits such as the online career centre and online mental health tools are not location dependent. Moreover, with residency requirements and stricter timelines on the newer conjoint programs, it is likely that most TST students will be in a position to use the on-campus services going forward. These services are designed to support student development and are governed by student-chaired boards. Because the U of T is committed to equal access, these incidental fees cover access to all services (Student Life, Hart House, Athletics) even though individual students may only elect to access a smaller spectrum of services. This means no user fees and so ensures that all students have access to the services they need. By voting in favour of paying these fees, not only do you get access to a wide variety of services across campus, but you also enable your fellow students to access services they may be in need of and unable to afford outside of these benefits.
No Campaign Statement
There are several reasons why TGSA students SHOULD NOT vote to begin paying these fees.
1) In the new PhD degree structure upper year students are unable to drop down to part time status after they complete their course work. While this was a matter of course in the old TST system, this new structure results in students paying full time fees for the duration of their enrollment regardless of whether they are physically present on campus. This could mean paying to access services which geographic distance makes impossible to access regularly.
2) TGSA has not sufficiently investigated whether students are unjustly being denied access to services which legal protections dictate students must be able to access. For example, the Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act, 2004, S.O. 2004, c. 5 states: “A physician, practitioner or hospital shall not refuse to render an insured service to an insured person or refuse to continue rendering insured services to an insured person for any reason relating to an insured person’s choice not to pay a block or annual fee.” The U of T has not yet given a satisfactory answer as to how denying OHIP-insured students access to an OHIP-funded clinic is in keeping with this provincial stipulation.
Further, various colleges of TST provide a customized array of services for students under the umbrella of U of T Student Life. It is not clear whether TGSA members are being unjustly denied access to these services based on our refusal to pay Student Life fees. For example, Trinity College students have access to an embedded counsellor through the Anne Steacy Counselling Initiative, which is privately endowed, however appointments must be booked through U of T Health and Wellness. It is unclear whether Trinity students are unjustly being denied access to this service. There are similar concerns about access to programs at the Multi-faith Centre, some of which are endowed by campus chaplains, which TGSA members are currently unable to access.
3) Increases to the proposed fees are determined by the Council of Student Services, which lacks TGSA graduate student representation. Our voice on COSS would be represented by four undergraduate UTSU representatives. However, it remains unclear what input TGSA members would have to future increases in the proposed fees.
4) Opting to pay the proposed fees would contribute to the escalating cost of graduate education, ultimately making graduate education less affordable. A common argument is that because School of Graduate Studies members pay these fees, as “good corporate citizens” we should too. However, this masks the reality that TGSA members do not have access to the same funding sources as SGS, notably the $17, 000 guaranteed stipends to which SGS members are entitled.
5) The referendum process has been excessively rushed, due to both TGSA policies and procedures and external deadlines, calling into question the ability of TGSA to adequately represent its members in a transparent way. For example, TGSA only this week submitted the referendum ballot to the Office of the Vice Provost, Students for feedback. The OVPS has replied with significant modifications to the ballot as it currently stands. However, the TGSA board has not met to incorporate these changes.
Ultimately TGSA has insufficiently investigated alternate remedies to student inability to access services, failing in its obligation to advocate for students. There are too many unknowns to be asked to opt in to (not inexpensive) fees that would have lasting implications for TGSA students for years to come.
Thank you for reading this far! As always if you have any additional questions or concerns, please get in touch with us through tgsa[at]utoronto.ca or by reaching out to our Returning Officer Carla Marcoccia at carla.marcoccia[at]mail.utoronto.ca