The Trent Part-Time Students Association (TPSA) will be holding an online referendum between March 9 and 12 to seek an answer from part-time students as to whether or not they want to merge with the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA).

As it stands now, the TPSA and TCSA offer students services separately and to different memberships.

While the TCSA provides student benefits, lobbying, and services to the full-time student body, the TPSA provides a limited number of benefits to part-time students as well as advocacy at governance meetings.

The executive staff of the TPSA is hoping to increase the entitlements of part-time students through this merger.

TPSA President Ashley Bonner met with Arthur for an interview on the proposed merger. She said, “Over the past five years there have been negotiations going on about holding a referendum to merge with the TCSA and there has been increased interest by part-time students in doing so.”

Conditions laid out by the TPSA for the merger are:

1) part-time students will not be charged any other levies than stipulated in the proposal;

2) two part-time positions will be added to Board of Directors which part-time students can run for;

3) a paid 10-hour-per-week position to represent part-time students’ affairs at the TCSA will be created;

4) the two directors and paid representative (laid out in points 2 and 3) will conduct evaluations following the merger after one year, two years, and five years to assess its success;

5) part-time students will pay the following TCSA-affiliated fees: a TCSA membership fee ($6.35), a clubs levy ($1.50), and a food bank levy ($0.31). The total of $8.16 would be charged per credit;

6) part-time students will pay $15.96 per year for membership in the Canadian Federation of Students at national and provincial levels;

7) students enrolled in two or more credits will be enrolled in the TCSA’s Health and Dental Plan at a rate set by referenda and will be eligible for opt-out procedures;

8) students enrolled in 1.5 credits or less will be able to opt-in to the TCSA’s Health and Dental Plan;

9) part-time students will be able to opt-in to the TCSA transit pass;

10) part-time students will have the same rights as full-time students under the TCSA except where stated otherwise.

The TPSA is currently in its Public Awareness Period during which it is running informative campaigns to educate part-time students about the merger and its benefits. This will last until March 6, after which the Campaigning Period begins when students can campaign for or against the merger.

This will culminate in the Election Period running March 9-12 and will be orchestrated over an online host. The TPSA is currently looking to hire a Chief Electoral Officer to oversee the referendum.

The referendum to merge will also ask the question of part-time students whether or not they would like to contribute to the TCSA’s proposed student center, and if so, how much the levy should be.

At the AGM, Bonner explained that the TPSA will be making a donation to the student center if students are not in favour of the pre-credit levy. This donation would come from the savings fund of the TPSA that is currently earmarked for a bursary the TPSA is aiming to set up for the next academic year.

Part-time students are defined as a Trent student enrolled in 3.0 credits or fewer. They pay tuition, ancillary fees, and a TPSA levy on a per credit basis. The TPSA currently offers a “Here to Help” service whereby students can seek help from the organization as they need it, in addition to regular programming and advocacy.

This past September the TPSA negotiated an opt-in option for part-time students to receive the health benefits offered by the TCSA to full-time students.

Bonner hopes to have health and dental benefits available to all part-time students next year regardless of whether or not the merger goes through.

Furthermore, in the upcoming year, the TPSA is aiming to get job opportunities available to part-time students without OSAP as a requirement as well as setting up a bursary fund specifically geared to part-time students.