Op-Ed

Photo: CC, Rama

On Feb. 9-11 the Student Federation University of Ottawa will be holding an election for various unfilled positions as well as a referendum asking students to vote on three different issues. There’ll be polling stations set up where students can vote on the price of a summer U-Pass, if the price of the dental and health plan will be increased and if students should make a larger contribution to help a third refugee student study U of O. We’ve broken down the issues around each question to give you our insight on this referendum.

WEB_OPI_SFUO-Referendum-Bus_Marta-Kierkus

Photo: Marta Kierkus

The price of the summer U-Pass

“Do you agree that each student registered full time in a summer session contribute $192.70 with a maximum increase of 2.5 per cent/year for a summer U-Pass, which will be valid from May 1-August 31, beginning on May 1 2016?”

The first Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) referendum question tackles the issue of a summer bus pass for full-time students. This offer would save students in the summer from paying more than they’d pay for passes through OC Transpo.

The price the pass is being offered at is significantly lower than students would pay if they had to cover the period using month passes from OC Transpo. The OC Transpo one-month pass is $103.25 a month for adults or $82.25 a month for students, (although you’re only eligible for that rate if you’re under 19.)

One problem with the summer U-Pass plan is that it only applies to students registered as full-time, while most students take a lighter load in the summer. This means that the 7,215 part-time students enrolled in 2014 were unable to take advantage of the U-Pass and made to pay more for transportation than their full-time peers.  This will render many students who are taking classes and need a U-Pass ineligible to acquire one.

While the plan has its drawbacks it’s certainly a start for something U of O students have wanted for several years. Students should vote “yes” on this motion so that full-time students have a cheaper transportation option in the summer.

WEB_OPI_SFUO-Referendum3-Refugees_Kim-Wiens

Photo: Kim Wiens

Increased fee to help WUSC sponsor a third refugee student

“Do you support each undergraduate student contributing an additional  $0.50 per semester to the student-run World University Services of Canada (WUSC) local committee so as to sponsor a third refugee student to resettle and attend uOttawa annually?”

For the last year and a half, everyone has been keenly tuned in to the travesties that face Syrian refugees attempting to flee their country in search of a better life, and the opportunity to receive a higher education.

The SFUO’s proposed referendum would allow a third refugee student to attend the University of Ottawa. Currently, undergraduate students pay $1.38 to help sponsor two refugee students; the proposed increase would bring that levy to $1.88.

This comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada fell below its target for admitting refugees, and there are still just over 18,000 refugees who have either been approved for refugee status and have not yet travelled to Canada, or have been fully processed and have settled in Canada.

It is a privilege to attend a school that cares about both the local and global communities, and to study among people who feel obligated to extend the privilege of higher education to refugees. Despite large tuition hikes and increasing incidental fees, a 50 cent increase will barely be noticeable to most people. Many students probably didn’t even realize that they were sponsoring two refugee students at the moment—such is the relative insignificance of the fee.

Here at the U of O, we should be proud to support such a progressive proposal in a time when some refugees face intense discrimination and harassment from their new host countries. Contributing to this scholarship fund shows that despite our different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and life circumstances, we can still rally together to help our fellow human beings.

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Photo: Jennifer Vo

Increasing the price for the health and dental plan

“Do you agree to allow the SFUO the ability to maintain current benefit levels of the Health and Dental plan, and to ensure financial sustainability of the plan, by increasing the Health and Dental Plan levy by $29 for the upcoming fiscal year, while maintaining the option to opt-out with full reimbursement and authorizing the SFUO Board of Administration to increase the fee up to 8% per subsequent year?”

The third question pertains to increases to the SFUO health and dental plan. A similar question was asked earlier in the year and was defeated by a narrow margin. The question has been reworded since then to be made more clear to students about the possible ramifications of voting “no”.

This increase is needed to maintain the current levels of services available to students, which includes coverage for common prescriptions, such as  birth control and anti-depressants, and examinations by campus doctors.

It’s not easy voting to increase prices, but this is still a cheaper service than you’d be paying if you had to get these prescriptions or services with the SFUO’s insurance. Even with an increase to $209 U of O students would continue to pay the second-lowest health insurance in the province according to a previous edition of The Fulcrum

Students who feel this service won’t benefit them during their studies can opt out entirely, while those that need these important services can still access them. This referendum is an opportunity for people to vote “yes”, and ensure healthcare is accessible on campus, even if its slightly pricier.