On Jan. 16, the students of McMaster voted in overwhelming support in favour of continuing the relationship with the HSR when it comes to the bus pass contract. The first round of voting had only 574 votes out of 7,231, not including abstentions, against any form of bus pass in the McMaster Students Union referenda. The Graduate Students Association had a similar result with only 18.3 per cent of students against their HSR referendum.

The result was the most expensive option available with the fall-winter and summer passes and expanded service of route 51 for increased frequency and later service. This was specified to be until 3 a.m. This is also what the level of service was prior to this new contract.

While the card used to cost $138.65 per student in 2015-2016 and $150.80 per student in 2016-2017, this continues to increase with the MSU agreement to $187.67 this year, $206.17 next year and $225.55 in the final year of the contract despite no additions being made to the level of service.

The card used to cost $182.70 in 2015-2016 and $198.66 in 2016-2017 for the GSA, and continues to increase to $232.70, $257.39 and $284.40 over the next three years respectively with the Presto integration included.

These costs might be justifiable if the service ever lived up to its potential. It does not take a trained eye to note the near daily outrage on Twitter or the lack of response about topics such as the operator shortage, busses, including the 51, skipping stops due to being over packed and inconsistent arrival times.

Students respect individual drivers, the GoFundMe campaign for “Friendly Frank” being the best example of this, but it is difficult to advocate in favour of the bus service as the level of service appears to be decreasing. This will only continue to be an increasing negative as the number of students increases at McMaster in addition to the costs.

It is difficult to put a positive spin on prices increasing $86.90 per MSU student and $101.70 per GSA student from 2015-2016 to 2019-2020. It is even more difficult to place pressure on the service with the hard commitment of a binding contract. This is a city-wide issue that has a great deal of influence on how McMaster students commute from any distance from the university, and one that will likely continue without external intervention or pressure. It would be a poor bet to hope for anywhere close to the same amount of student support in the future.

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By: David Philpott

It has been over a month and a half since the first Pulse & Recreation Expansion Referendum failed and we are already voting on it again. Though to be fair, there are two changes between January’s referendum and this one.

First, the university has increased its financial contribution by $10 million, which would reduce the proposed increase in student fees from $3.95 to $2.99 per unit. Second, instead of the three options in the first referendum, students will now have two: to build both a Pulse expansion and a Student Activity Building, or to reject all fee increases.

My main issue is that despite the failure of the January referendum, student concerns have still not been addressed. A fee reduction is obviously good for students. But we care not only about how much we will be paying, but how it will be spent.

Throughout the referendum campaign students brought up a variety of issues they had with the proposed deal. Despite this, the McMaster Students Union Board of Directors has not changed enough about the deal this next referendum offers. These issues include:

• A compulsory 12 month Pulse membership for all students, instead of the four, eight and 12 month options offered currently

• No opt-out option for the Pulse membership

• A minimalistic plan about what the space in the Student Activity Building will be used for

• An unclear transition plan for the Pulse and concerns of overcrowding

• A long-term payment plan that would have students paying for this expansion until 2060

None of these issues have been addressed in this referendum. However, what stands out the most about the first referendum is that over 60 per cent of voters chose options that did not contain the Student Activity Building. With a clear mandate like that, one would think the plan for this building needs to be reconsidered after more consultation with students. But that has not happened and the same flawed plan is now being proposed again.

Some say it is necessary we rush ahead with this plan. I understand there are some economic constraints on funding commitments and many groups are eager to move into new spaces. But, considering students will be paying for this new building for the next 43 years, we should not rush ahead with a faulty plan. We need to make sure student interests and issues are being addressed. How can we believe this been done when it has only been six weeks since the last referendum?

On Feb. 24, Ryan MacDonald, the MSU vice-president (Finance), said in a Facebook post that, “This (failure of the first referendum) sent a clear message that students wanted the university to contribute more to this project.” It is true that the university contributing more is a positive, but the referendum needs more adjustments than that.

So let’s send that message again. Next week, vote no and let the university and the MSU inner circle know we students matter. Our concerns need to be addressed, and that you can’t keep proposing the same referendum until you get the answer you are looking for.

On Jan. 25, the McMaster Students Union added a new survey to their website as part of a recommendation by the Student Representative Assembly Standing Committee on Bylaws & Procedures. While there are a few different parts to this, including the minimum per cent of population needed to launch a referendum and to reach quorum for a referendum, the focus is on if there should be a minimum time limit before similar questions can be asked at referendum again.

There are a few problems with this survey. The first response to this question is, “One academic year, September through August (including the remainder of the year in which the question was asked)” with options for two or three academic years as well.

opinion_madill_survey_march2This could easily be interpreted as there being no clear option for only the remainder of the academic year. It is unknown at this point whether the remainder of the year is included as one academic year or if it is included seperately in the total time limit. Wording such as, “The rest of the academic year,” and “The rest of the academic year and one additional academic year,” would have helped clear up any ambiguity.

The survey also mentions the 2016 referendum that was conducted twice in the calendar year, but in different academic years. The questionnaire does not mention that this is the MSU Constitutional Referendum about electing vice-presidents at large. The assumption that everyone taking the survey either already knows this or that it is not important to the survey is odd considering that first-year students would be unlikely to know what referendum was conducted twice and upper-year students can easily miss out due to a turnout of 44.5 per cent in the 2016 MSU presidential election when it was first voted on.

Retires shortly after these close calls would be impossible if term limits are introduced, and would limit your ability to advocate on the affirmative side for topics you think would benefit McMaster students.

The only reason for including as little context as possible would be to bias voters towards time limits by emphasizing voter fatigue, de-emphasizing anything that may remind people how close the referendum was and reducing the incentive for responders to do external research. It gives off a fearful impression that attempts to guide people away from how bizarre it would have been to wait a significant amount of time for another round of voting after the first failed by so little in 2016.

This doesn’t even get into the fourth response to this question that reads, “I already said, no.” Not only is this redundant when “No time limit” would have made more sense to the question being asked, but the wording could be interpreted as a more aggressive tone than what is necessary. Second guessing yourself over not wanting to seem hostile is a real possibility, and introduces even more response bias to the survey in favour of time limits.

This survey sucks. It is understandable why there’s bias though. If I were part of the SRA, I wouldn’t want to talk about the vice-president referendum for a while too after dealing with it two times in 12 months, especially after taking neutral and negative stances for the first and second times respectively. A pro-time limit response could allow an extended break if implemented immediately and would guarantee the same status quo internally for years to come.

However, the willingness of the SRA to put a changed version of the Athletics and Recreation Space referendum back up for voting March 28 after failing on Jan. 26 by 10 votes in the second round of voting, one day after publication of the survey, represents a want to change policy based on good feedback without time limits. Retries shortly after these close calls would be impossible if term limits are introduced, and would limit your ability to advocate on the affirmative side for topics you think would benefit McMaster students. Don’t let survey bias dampen the voice of the people.

Students will be heading back to the polls for Student Representative Assembly elections, and for the third time this year, they will be met with a referendum question.

The Pulse expansion and Student Activity Building are back on the ballot because the university has committed to spend $10 million on the project.

Via email, dean of students Sean Van Koughnett explained that the funding is coming from money that “exist[s] for strategic priorities.” Originally, the university was spending $1.1 million per year for the operating costs of the building.

Provost and vice-president (Academic) David Wilkinson wrote a memo to the SRA about the increased funding. There are a few parts that have me scratching my head.

Wilkinson writes “[w]e also understand from student feedback that cost is a concern.”

Uh, yeah. Cost is at the heart of every student issue because post-secondary costs continue to rise and employment prospects are only getting worse for many students. The university obviously knows this because it has been a talking point for at least the six years I have been at Mac.

It is disingenuous for them to issue this memo because they had to know that the doubling of a fee is going to be the reason this project doesn’t happen.

McMaster students have voted down cost increases when given the chance in recent years.

The memo also states “the results of the failed referendum points to strong student support for space expansion.”

The need for more space has been documented for years, and for the university to pretend that this referendum result does more to cement that is an insult to both research done by the university and students who took the time to submit feedback.

As we wrote in a news piece in the Feb. 2 issue, a 2011 campus capacity study cited data from 2008-2009 that classified the need for more student “lounge and service space” as a top-five priority.

According to the presentation made to the SRA in Nov. 2016, 80 per cent of students identified student space as their top priority.

That number comes from a 2015 McMaster Students Union space survey. 90 per cent of students identified unprogrammed space in their “top ten student space wishlist” in student focus groups run by the MSU in 2016. The McMaster University Student Affairs logo is on the front of this presentation, so they know about these numbers.

The optics are not good. In the span of a month, McMaster has decided to spend $10 million to contribute when this project has been in the works since the summer of 2016 and the need for the expansion and new building have been apparent for much longer.

Prior to the failed referendum, the university was comfortable with saddling the students with a near doubling of a student fee. Was this the plan all along? Highball students with the full price, drop in with a cheaper rate if it fails and see if they will take that?

On the other hand, the politics of this are fantastic. The university can say they spent $10 million on a student building that is completely controlled by the students. That contribution could carry into future negotiations about who should bear the cost for certain projects. And the university will get something they really need: a new student building to put in their marketing materials.

This $10 million is not free; students just don’t know what the cost down the line will be. The money should have always been on the table as the need and want for the building has existed for years. Students should not celebrate that the university is contributing the money, they should ask why it was not there in the first place.

The original version and print version of this article states that the university was spending $1.1 million for operating costs. In fact, the university is spending $1.1 million a year for operating costs. 

By: Gabi Herman

This year’s referenda ask students to make decisions about the HSR pass, a syllabus repository, and major expansions of student space. In order to succeed, a referendum must receive at least 50 per cent of popular vote. Voting will open on Jan. 24 at the same time as presidential votes.

Hamilton Street Railway Pass 

The terms of the student bus pass are renegotiated with the HSR every three years. Right now, all MSU members pay $150.80 for an HSR bus pass. This fee covers unlimited bus transportation and extended late-night service. It covers all 12 months of the year; as a reference point, a one-month HSR bus pass costs $101.

To maintain current service levels, the fee for next year would increase to $187.67. The only change in fee structure is a $5 fee for Presto card integration. The ballot will also include options for an eight-month bus pass and no extended route coverage. Students will be asked to rank the following options:

Ryan MacDonald, vice president (Finance), said that McMaster still remains below the $230 Ontario average for post-secondary bus passes. The 2013 HSR pass contract received widespread praise for its 12-month coverage and extended service. Results will show whether students are willing to foot the bill this time.

Syllabus Repository 

Currently, professors are not required to share course outlines or syllabi in a centralized, accessible location. In recent years, students have protested a lack of transparency in the courses they are paying for. This referendum asks students if the MSU vice president (Education) should advocate to the university for an open database of course outlines. It will have a simple yes/no option.

Athletic & Recreation Expansion and Student Activity Building 

With student concern about the high cost of university contrasting the growing need for student space, this referendum will likely be the most contentious. It asks students whether they want to fund an expansion of the Pulse and construction of a Student Activity Building. These expansions were both central to MSU president Justin Monaco-Barnes’ election platform, and he has taken a leave of absence in order to campaign for the “YES” side.

The options are as follows:

Option A 

This option is a vote for both the Student Activity Building and the Pulse expansion. The associated costs are: a $95 increase in the Athletics and Recreation fee next year, another $10 increase in the fee once the building is complete, and $3.95/unit (up to $118.50) once the building is complete.

The Pulse expansion proposes a 60,000 square foot expansion to the Pulse including extended hours, a women’s only fitness space, and a membership for all full-time students. The Student Activity Building would be 40,000 square feet and include multi-faith prayer space, study space, and multipurpose event and club space.

Option B

This option is a vote for just the Pulse expansion. The associated costs are: a $95 increase in the Athletics and Recreation fee next year, another $10 increase in the fee once the building is complete, and $1.97/unit (up to $59.10) once the building is complete.

The proposed 60,000 square foot expansion would include extended hours and a membership for all full-time students.

Option C 

No expansion.

If the referendum passes, these fees would continue until the year 2060.

Voting starts on Jan. 24 and ends on Jan. 26 at 5pm.

By: Justin Monaco-Barnes

January is an exciting time of year for student politics at McMaster. MUSC tables begin to overflow with excited students in bright colours, so full of passion for student life that they can barely contain it. Over the course of my time at McMaster, I’ve heard some great ideas come out of presidential candidates. I find that the mark of a great platform is one that blends tangible ideas with a unified vision for the union. In 2014, Teddy Saull was elected with his vision, “Community Matters.” The following year, Ehima Osazuwa was successful with his equity-focused platform, “Forward Together.” Then in 2016, students elected a nerd in big, round glasses, focused on health, sustainability and wanting to “Be the Change.”

greenguy1Community, equity, health, sustainability — each important themes that the MSU has worn over the past three years, each pillars that students here at McMaster have voted for. However, each year, some of the tangible pieces of these platforms have gone uncompleted. Community kitchens, more lounge space, multi-faith prayer space, larger athletics space and sustainable infrastructure are all great ideas that haven’t yet come to fruition. And it all comes down to one thing: space.

Enter this upcoming referendum. There are essentially two pieces to it: Athletics/Recreation space, and a student space expansion that we’re calling the Student Activity Building.

Let’s talk first about the Athletics/Recreation space. This plan is calling for an expansion to the Pulse that would increase the space by 60,000 square feet, more than doubling the space of the current facility, and some immediate upgrades to existing space and programs. These include a female-identified only fitness space, funding for club teams, a 50 per cent discount on intramurals, yoga, pilates and extended hours. The biggest change that students would see immediately is the inclusion of a 12-month Pulse membership within their student fees at great value.

To put this in perspective, a 12-month Pulse membership is currently $192, and an 8-month membership is $144. For students who purchase these memberships currently, approval of this project means immediate savings of $97 for compared to a 12-month membership and $47 for the 8-month. This means giving you the extra cash in your wallet to buy a lot more delicious slices of banana bread from Union Market.

Onto the Student Activity Building. This new building would be an expansion to the Ivor Wynne Centre, and would be a 40,000 square foot space designed by students, for students. Multi-faith prayer space is a priority for this building, and beyond that, the possibilities are endless. Food collective centre, permanent local, fresh food grocer, movie theatre, event space or a new cafe; it’s up to you, but all of these are possible with the Student Activity Building.

While not every student may use a prayer space or access a food collective centre, the space will be designed with the principle that everyone can use it for something.

pinkguy1To fund this project there would be an immediate $95 increase for next year, giving a 12-month membership to the Pulse among other benefits to students in starting in September. The cost for the expansion to students would only kick in when the building would be completed in 2019/2020. If students vote in favour of the Pulse and the Student Activity Building, current ancillary fees will rise by $3.95 per unit capped at 30 units, which works out to $118.50 for students taking 30 units.

Again, if you’re a full-time student, this means you’re paying an additional $95 starting next year to cover the Pulse membership and additional Athletics and Recreation benefits.

In September 2019, when the new Pulse and new Student Activity Building would open, fees would rise by an additional $128.50 consisting of the $3.95 per unit increase to the building fee and an additional $10 to the activity fee.

Let’s be clear, the fees here are not low, and students at McMaster are already paying high costs to attend this institution. I understand that. However, for many students who already purchase a Pulse membership or another gym membership, well over half of the student population, accepting these changes will cut their costs rather than add to them.

Even for students who don’t use the Pulse, this project truly is meant to have something that all students can find value in. By having cheaper food options, or more accessible multi-faith space, or discounted intramurals and yoga, this is a plan not just designed for one type of student, but for all.

This January, you have the opportunity to vote for next year’s MSU president, but you also have the chance to say yes to the dreams and ideas of all the students that came before you. Let’s say yes to “Community Matters,” and to “Forward Together,” and to “Be the Change” and to whichever lucky slogan may be crowned the winner this year: let’s build the space to make this campus a place where student life and leadership can really happen.

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