It’s that time of year again. With a new group of first year students and a fresh team of reps, Welcome Week is once again in full swing. The difference this time is that every first year student has bought a MacPass.
Halfway through the week, MSU President Siobhan Stewart is already happy about the results. “I would say it’s better,” said Stewart of this year’s Welcome Week. “I think it’s too early to say one hundred percent, but my perception at least is that it’s better.”
This positive response comes in the wake of last year’s MacPass policy change. In a campaign run by former MSU president Matthew Dillion-Leitch, quorum was reached at the MSU general assembly, where students voted in favour of a motion to impose a universal Welcome Week levy on first years.
Rather than paying separately for the ticket to Welcome Week events, all incoming students are now charged the $110 though their student accounts with no chance to opt out.
The intentions behind this change were both “financial and philosophical,” explained MSU Vice President of Administration David Campbell.
In previous years, Campbell said, some students who wanted to purchase MacPasses on site were turned away.
“[Dillon-Leitch] saw that this wasn’t right,” he said.
Furthermore, he described the prices of years past as being “artificially low,” due to a subsidy from another university source.
“The problem that we were faced with…was do we want to jack the prices up, or are we going to find another solution? Because we need some sort of sustainable model.”
The new MacPass levy has translated to increased registration for Welcome Week. Although the fee is automatically applied, students were given the opportunity to register online in advance, explained Michele Corbeil, First Year Transition Program Coordinator at the Student Success Centre.
She described the response as “positively overwhelming,” citing an increase of 500 students in registration before the week began.
By Sunday, a total of over 4600 students had picked up MacPasses—roughly 800 more than in previous years and still rising throughout the week.
“The majority of that increase happened in off-campus students, which is really key,” said Campbell. “We were really pleased with that, because that was one of our big targets.”
Though the registration overall was up, it was difficult to say if attendance increased at specific events.
“It’s a growing year for SOCS,” said Stewart. “They’re really motivated and…excited about it.” Both Campbell and Stewart emphasized the expansion of programming for off-campus students, as well as other marginalized groups. “The programming is fairly diverse…and we’re always looking to expand that.”
The no opt-out policy doesn’t appear to be a major issue, for either off-campus or residence students.
Said Stewart, “I haven’t heard any complaints from any first year that I’ve talked to, but that’s just my experience thus far.”
Campbell notes that the no opt-out policy is something the MSU is still working on.
“In my ideal world, it wouldn’t be that we’d introduce an opt-out, but it would just be that every student was getting something out of it,” he said.
And in the end, that’s what Welcome Week is all about, said Stewart. “My sincere hope is that students find something to connect to during this week.”