The fact that the Trent Part-Time Student Association (TPSA) is moving forward with its plans to merge with the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) should come as welcome news to those striving to eliminate unnecessary divisions within the Trent community (for more information on this story see Ayesha Barmania’s article on page four).
Indeed, the idea of this merger seems like a win-win for all those involved. Having a single union represent all of Trent’s undergraduate student community will give existing and incoming part-time students access to the important services and programs offered by Trent’s largest student union. Indeed part-timers are already enjoying a few of these benefits thanks to a landmark deal struck earlier this academic year that extended the TCSA’s health benefits coverage to TPSA members on an opt-in basis.
From the TCSA’s perspective, the addition of a significant amount of new members will bolster its status as the largest representative of student opinion within the Trent community. Furthermore, the extra bump in levy money gained will hopefully be used to extend existing programming and services or begin planning new initiatives.
However, above and beyond the concrete benefits this merger brings to both sides, I hope that its dialogue will kickstart another important conversation within the Trent community: that of the importance of student levy funding.
Even if this merger goes ahead part-time students will still not individually contribute to the 36 student levy groups currently listed by the TCSA. According to TPSA president Ashley Bonner, there is good reason for this: the part-time student community has never had the ability to vote in the TCSA’s levy referenda and have therefore never actually approved these levies.
But while this is perfectly sound logic, I can’t help but think it unfortunate that part-time students will still not be able to contribute to levy groups equal to the full-timers. The vast majority of levy groups, including (but not limited to) Arthur, Trent Radio, Absynthe, OPIRG, Walkhome, The Seasoned Spoon, and Sadleir House are accessible to all Trent students and community members, not just the full-time undergraduates.
Furthermore, the very existence of these levy groups at Trent enriches the entire community through the creation of unique grassroots programming, student jobs, and skill-building opportunities.
In fact, there are numerous examples of full-time students who have become so passionate about contributing to the Trent community through a particular levy group that they elect to switch to part-time in order to make room for this work within their busy school schedules.
In short, part-time students are no less Trent community members than full-timers. Now that the TCSA and TPSA seem on the path to merger I would encourage both sides to find an ancceptable, transparent and democratic way to allow the part-time students to gain a financial stake in student levy groups.