At present, certain concerns about the governance of Trent’s Part Time Students Association (TPSA) have led to discussions about new directions for the organization in order to provide better support for Trent’s growing part time student community.
Currently, an executive board governs the organization, and executive director Helen Wallis looks after the day-to-day operations. However, TPSA President Ashley Bonner has a vision for the PTSA that goes much further than what the current organizational structure can provide.
With the retirement of Wallis in December, Bonner feels that there is an opportunity to reassess the role of the organization and look at expanding support for students.
Bonner said, “Benefits, events, development opportunities, and advocacy, that should be the role of this student group.” Bonner and the rest of the executive board are looking at two proposals for changing the organization in the coming year.
The first is a plan to reform the governance structure of the organization in hopes that this would create more support for students and more opportunities for engagement. This would involve reassessing the TPSA’s constitution and by-laws, formal incorporation, adding a number of paid positions, and expanding the presence of the PTSA in student life.
This restructuring would increase the capacity of the organization and permit it to expand into such services as health and dental benefits provision, professional development events, bursaries, and food assistance programs. In order to increase services in this way, the TPSA would have to consider a referendum for increasing per course fees.
The second plan would involve a merger with the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) that would give part-time students access to the TCSA’s services from which they are currently excluded.
These services include health and dental benefits, food assistance programs, among others. This shift could elicit a fee increase for part-time students, however, the amount of which is still under negotiations.
One service that Bonner feels is essential for part-time students is health and dental benefits. She said, “After we conducted the survey over the summer I knew that health benefits was one of the biggest needs for part-time students. So I have been working diligently to get students that opportunity.”
This year, the TPSA arranged an opt-in program for students to receive the services provided by the TCSA, and Bonner intends to secure part-time students health benefits program in the coming year regardless of which plan is chosen.
As part-time students represent a different demographic than the full-time student population, keeping the TPSA separate means that they could more easily offer programs addressing demographic specific issues.
For instance, Bonner said, “The typical average age of the TCSA membership is 17-21, whereas our typical average age is between 25-30, half of our students are in that range. Clearly we’re dealing with an older population. Many of the TCSA’s events are not as appealing to our population. So we would like to work on more professional development things, food assistance, bursaries, and our own health benefits. For what we can bring in financially we would provide as much as we could.”
A referendum will be held on this matter in the winter semester at the TPSA’s annual general meeting (AGM). They are encouraging students to weigh in on the issue and help in the process for creating an organization that best represents their needs.
Bonner said, “Now is the time for students to get involved and have their say. The association needs them right now, regardless of which option is chosen, we need their voices and their input.”