According to University of Manitoba Parking Services, “There are no students receiving free parking passes due to special circumstances.” However, there are a few exceptions to the rule.
According to Sid Rashid, University of Manitoba Student Union (UMSU) president, “As part of the UMSU policy, parking or [ . . . ] bus passes are provided to all full-time employees of the organization.”
Three other students who sit on the U of M Board of Governors also receive free parking passes.
Parking Services sell parking passes to approximately 3,500 students at the cost of $467.29 for the school year (Sept. 1-Apr. 31).
While UMSU executives have argued in the past that transportation is one of the biggest challenges students have to deal with, some students at the U of M feel that the bus passes are giving union employees advantages that the average student doesn’t have access to.
Rachel Wood, a second-year arts student said, “I do not think this is fair because [ . . . ] while the executives of UMSU do have responsibility and power in regards to the university, as a ‘union,’ and in the name of equality, they should have the same basic rights and privileges as the whole of the student body.”
She continued, “If anything, this creates a larger gap between the executives and the everyday students.”
“If the UMSU executives claim to be advocating on behalf of the students, they need to be roughly at the same level as the students in order to understand their needs and rights.”
Robin Nguyen, a third-year Asper School of Business student, held similar views.
“I think it is unfair for UMSU executives to have free parking passes. [ . . . ] The pass will most likely not be used solely for UMSU activities. When executives go to class they are receiving the benefit of free parking from their position on the council.”
“I believe a better and more just alternative is to offer UMSU executives a discount and have them pay some fee for the passes,” she continued.
However, some students recognize the long hours UMSU executives put in at school in order to benefit the rest of the student population, and therefore support the usage of free parking or bus passes to employees.
Becca Klass, a third-year arts student, said, “Assuming that the UMSU executives volunteer their time to make campus life better for the rest of the student body, I think receiving special privileges is appropriate.
Receiving a free parking pass or a free transit pass is not a “reward,” but a convenience for those people who voluntarily spend extended hours of time at the school for benefit of others.”
However, she feels this convenience should be extended to all on-campus volunteers.
“Free or discounted parking should also be extended to those who have circumstances in which parking is a necessity, such as students with disabilities, or those who live outside the scope of the city’s public transit system.”
Rashid said, “All salaries and benefits for the UMSU executive are set through the annual budgeting process that UMSU undertakes each year.”
Rashid continued, saying the UMSU executive are more than full-time employees and that the executive are constantly working overtime on behalf of the students at the U of M.
“We need to have the ability to do our job. Unless [students] want us working from home, we need to get to campus. We’re elected to work on behalf of these students so I don’t know how you can see [a free parking or bus pass] as a perk.”
“If people want that to change it would obviously go through council and that can be changed like anything else,” said Rashid. “It’s been a long standing policy.”
When asked if he thought if this was fair to students who work more than the average full work week at school, Rashid said, “They’re not working on behalf of the majority of the students, they’re working for their degree. We’re here working for all students.”
He continued, “This process involves full budget consultations with students and groups on campus, with open surveys being conducted and meetings being held to discuss priorities.”
“Ultimately, the executives are accountable to all undergraduate students at the University of Manitoba through the bylaws and policies of the organization.”
The policy manual is available for review by any member of the organization and can be found in the UMSU offices.