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Suspension of city bus pass agreement due to COVID-19 takes Laurentian students by surprise

Student union rep says it doesn’t make sense to compel students to purchase discounted bus passes when only 1% of classes being held in-person

If you register as a student at Laurentian University in a normal year, that means that on top of tuition, you’re paying a number of student fees, including about $200 for a discounted GOVA city bus pass.

The bus passes are offered through an agreement with Laurentian’s student associations and the City of Greater Sudbury.

But because only around one per cent of LU’s classes will be offered in person this fall, the bus pass agreement between the student associations and the city has been suspended as of September. 

Eric Chappell, president of Laurentian’s Students’ General Association, said the student bus passes expire at the end of August — as a side note, students wouldn't normally have had bus passes through most of the summer, but they were extended after bus fees were waived by the city for a time during the pandemic lockdown.

As of the beginning of September, students are responsible for purchasing their own bus passes from the city.

The situation with the bus passes has been a hot topic of conversation on UMentioned Laurentian, a Facebook message board for Laurentian students, with several complaining about the cancellation.

But Chappell said it doesn’t make sense to continue to compel students to purchase bus passes, when so few will be going to campus, and some won’t even be living in Greater Sudbury.

“We have international populations that physically can’t return to campus,” he said. “It’s a real dilemma, ethically, to charge people who physically can’t access services for something.”

Because purchasing a bus pass directly from the city is much more expensive than the LU student passes, students in financial need are invited to apply to their student association for a bursary covering the cost of a bus pass for the semester.

“We’re still working with the financial aid office at Laurentian,” Chappell said, adding an email about the process will be sent out to members soon. “They’re going to be processing the applications based off of OSAP financial need.

“They’ll make determinations of who has the highest financial need, and those students will receive a cheque for us for the full amount of the bus pass for the semester. The students who are determined to have financial need will be actually be $100 ahead.”

He said Laurentian’s student associations are not alone in suspending their bus pass agreement. 

“The majority of schools across the province have done the same,” Chappell said. “This is very standard. To my understanding, Guelph has already done it, Queen’s has already done it, Western is in the works the majority of schools are going this way.”

Regarding Greater Sudbury's two community colleges, representatives from both Cambrian College and Collège Boréal say they don't have bus pass agreements with the City of Greater Sudbury.

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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