Students vote on the U Pass referendum

Reporter: Shane MacDonald

Between the hustle and bustle of the regular school week, students took time out to have their say on the UPASS over social media, online voting and in vendor’s alley in front of the computer commons at a voting station setup by student volunteers.

The UPASS, included in students’ ancillary fees, costs $77 and is increasing 16 per cent per year for the next three years. The referendum was held to determine if students would like to keep the pass next year despite the increase, or abolish it. The 16 per cent increase means that in September 2014 the UPASS will cost $89, in September 2015 it will be $103, and in 2016 it will be $120.

A steady flow of students stopped by the voting station to cast their vote, Chantel Curry, a student in Broadcasting for Contemporary Media, uses the bus every day to get to school and travel to friend’s houses.

“I voted yes because I think it is really beneficial for a lot of people who live far away. You don’t have to spend that extra three dollars or extra four dollars to get on the bus,” said Curry.

An infographic on the Durham College website, and posters around the school, show a savings of almost $540 with the UPASS as opposed to buying monthly bus passes.

Money is definitely a factor for students. Some who drive don’t feel they should pay for a service they don’t use, and currently there is no way to opt out of the UPASS.

“I said no because I’m broke and most students are (too),” said Melanie Neil, a student in Practical Nursing who drives to school.
For others, the money doesn’t really seem to bother them. James Barker, also in the Practical Nursing program, and a driver voted to keep the pass. “It’s like paying taxes, all for one, one for all.”

Many students depend on the bus to get around and without the UPASS life would become much more difficult. Michelle Williams, an Advanced Law Clerk student, said she uses the pass for everything, not just to get to school.

“I think we still get it at a great rate, if we we’re to get the UPASS outside our tuition, it would cost us triple the amount, so a slight increase is OK with me. It’s still a lot better than the alternative,” said Williams. “If there weren’t a UPASS I wouldn’t have the same flexibility I do now. It’s expensive to travel to and from school. There’d probably be less chance of me coming to school every day.”