Graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Guelph have voted in favour of getting back to normal in a very specific way for the next semester. The results of a mid-term referendum overwhelmingly endorsed a new contract between the Central Student Association, the Graduate Student Association, the City of Guelph and Guelph Transit to bring back the universal student bus pass (Upass) in January.
The referendum, which was held online from October 4-8, saw a total of 7,830 votes cast between the CSA and the GSA; the CSA needed a quorum of 20 per cent of their student members to vote in order to validate the referendum, while the GSA needed 10 per cent.
A total of 6,703 undergrad students, or 31.7 per cent, voted in the referendum with 6,055 approving the new deal. Meanwhile, 1,127 grad students, or 36.5 per cent, voted with 881 casting their ballot to approve the new deal. All told, 6,936 or 88.6 per cent, voted to continue the bus pass with 851 voting against, and 43 declining to vote either way.
Why is this such a big deal? Because over $7 million in revenue for Guelph Transit comes from the fact that every U of G student purchases a Upass with their tuition every semester.
“[F]or students returning back to campus it’s essential for them to have that available transit and for us to have that revenue, because students comprises almost 50 per cent of our annual transit revenue,” said deputy CAO of public services Colleen Clack-Bush on the Guelph Politicast this summer. “Without the university students, our transit system would look different.”
The previous contract expired in April, and the CSA/GSA could not start negotiations until the previous deal concluded, especially because of the uncertainty around when exactly campus would re-open. For the fall semester, the City made a new post-secondary student pass available to U of G students offering a semester’s worth of rides for the cost of $272. The City had added a special post-secondary student rate since spring 2020 when the U of G shutdown due to the pandemic.
In the new contract, the UPass will be priced at $151 per semester, which was the last price charged in the Winter 2020 semester, with the City of Guelph freezing annual increases at two per cent or less for the next five years. The term of the new contract is indefinite, but if the City proposes an annual increase greater than two per cent it will have to come back to the student body for approval in a new referendum.
The fate of the City’s own post-secondary student bus pass is unknown because the City was also making it available to non-U of G students with receipt of their proof of enrollment.