As the Humber College student body prepares to vote next week in the Humber Students’ Federation election, first up is Ahmed Tahir, the incumbent who has held the position of HSF President since May 2015.
Tahir, 24, has successfully introduced several new initiatives this past year, including a fall reading break and on-campus sleeping lounges, which will be launched on March 14.
A large part of his platform is the adoption of a universal transit pass, or U-Pass, which students can use when travelling on any bus in the GTA.
“I think about 80 per cent of our students take transit to school, so for me it makes a lot of sense to pursue it,” said Tahir in an extensive sit-down interview with the Et Cetera editorial team.
“These students come from all over the place and we’re right in the middle of the GTA.”
Tahir praises the PRESTO card, which will soon become a mainstay on TTC vehicles and will replace tokens, tickets and Metropasses.
“That Presto card is a huge game changer for me because without it, I would not be pursuing this whatsoever…that ability for students to use the same card, that’s now going to be ingrained in students.”
The initiative may label Humber as “trailblazers,” said Tahir.
Humber is currently in talks with Metrolinx about the proposed plan. While a fee has not yet been established, prices may range between $200-$250 per semester, about half the cost of the current Metropass. Students will have the final say on opting in to the plan during the fall referendum.
Making it easier for students to get to campus will indirectly help with the ongoing parking problem, Tahir said.
Students who live outside the city often have to ride several different buses, and Tahir highlights the Lakeshore campus as being particularly problematic.
“For Brampton to Mississauga and then TTC just to get to school and then pay all three of those just to get home again, it’s ridiculous,” he said. Students have to pay separate fees for each bus, costs which add up.
Tahir also cites student housing as a concern. “A lot of student housing is really poor…and landlords have been taking advantage of students as well.”
Tahir said that the HSF wants to purchase student housing, which would then be rented out to students. With the help of several interns from various backgrounds, Tahir aims to create a ‘Know Your Rights’ Campaign.
“They’re going to look at landlord and workers’ policies…to let students know what their rights are proactively,” he said.
HSF is set to undergo a massive rebranding this fall, at the cost of $400,000. “What’s confusing to us right now is HSF, the logo and what we stand for…it seems really corporate,” said Tahir.
“But all the things we do, the events we throw are very fun, very lively…and that’s what we want our rebranding to be like as well.” Making the HSF rebranding more relevant to students is key.
“I think we need to do a better job in telling [students] what we do and advocating for them.”
The project will include a revamping of the website set for August 2016, HSF signs and internal office material.
But Tahir wants to hear student input. To gather student opinions, the organization will employ methods such as focus groups and discussion boards.
“One of the things we want to make sure (with) our new name, new image, new logo is that it resonates with students,” he said.
Tahir is running against Joel Caldarola, 20, a third-year film and media production student.
“My belief is that students should be getting the most for their money,” said Caldarola in a separate sit-down with Et Cetera staff.
“I believe that we should be spending these HSF funds as inclusively as possible.”
Caldarola uses the student health plan as an example, and it is something on which he intends to focus.
“It’s a plan that’s great for people who need it, but it doesn’t exactly apply to everyone, he said. “I think those people should have the option to opt out at least partially, and get some of their money back from something they’re not using.”
Caldarola also emphasizes the need to have a wider variety of events on campus, as some events, such as frosh parties, may not appeal to everyone.
“We should spread out events so that there’s something for everyone…certain people are being left on the sidelines,” he said.
Timing is also an inconvenience. “A lot of events aren’t always at a convenient time for students to attend, we have to mark them over the schedule so that there’s something for everyone.”
Asked about the issue of transparency with the HSF, Caldarola stressed the importance of student’s awareness of where their money — the over $10-million in student activity fees that HSF works with each year — is going.
“Not everything is available online and that stuff should be open and provided to students,” he said. “There should be a specific breakdown on where that money’s going.”
“I think we’re very open and transparent. I think what makes it difficult for students is that our website is littered with too many different things,” he said.
Caldarola questioned the $35,000 HSF president’s salary and the organization’s planned increase to $40,000 in September 2016 (vice-presidential salaries are to rise from $24,000 to $27,000).
Caldarola remained unsure as to how knowledgeable the student body is on financial matters pertaining to HSF, including executive salaries.
In contrast, Tahir found the $40,000 presidential salary to be fair for the work required for the job.
“It think it’s important that we do compensate these people because we need them to focus on these roles,” Tahir said.
“$40,000 is an absurd amount of money for someone to make [in that role],” Caldarola said.
It creates a problematic situation where students are motivated to run for presidency for the paycheque, rather than the genuine desire to participate in student government, he suggested.
The polls are set to open on March 7 and will close on March 11