By Annie Hyder

The past four years for me have been a toothache. Literally. In addition to juggling part-time work and studies, I’ve had to make countless visits to the dentist for fillings and extractions. And the interruptions and pain would have been much more tolerable if they weren’t compounded by stress about the expense; as if tuition debt wasn’t enough to keep me up at night, I’ve been shelling out hundreds on minor operations and prescription medication.

Unlike full-time Ryerson students, those of us who are studying part-time have no access to health and dental benefits. There’s no legitimate explanation for this – part-time students need basic health care coverage, like everyone else.

This is the simple premise of the CESAR plan to hold a referendum on health and dental benefits this year. Since taking office several months ago, the current CESAR Executive team has launched a health and dental survey to collect information from part-time degree students, and, based on the feedback, has prepared a referendum proposal to submit to Ryerson’s Board of Governors.

In the proposal, CESAR recommends Greenshield Canada, a not-for profit insurance company that has been working for more than 20 years with other student unions in Ontario, including those at the University of Toronto, York University, University of Windsor and, here on campus, the Ryerson Students’ Union.

If the referendum passes, the new combined coverage will support Ryerson’s part-time degree students where they need it most. So far, the survey results reveal that most part-time degree students need coverage for prescription drugs, oral contraceptives, optical exams, vaccines, travel insurance and dental coverage for root canals, fillings, dental xrays, and extractions.

Before students can vote, however, the proposal must go through the Ryerson Board of Governors (BOG). According to a 1986 agreement between the BOG and Ryerson’s students’ unions (CESAR and the RSU), the introduction of any non-tuition fees that are to be transferred to student unions – such as those outlined in the health and dental referendum proposal – are subject to certain procedures. Put simply, the University administers all student money, including student unions’ operating budgets, and gets the final word on any fee additions. At this stage, CESAR expects that the desired combined health and dental coverage will cost less than $170 per student.

There is only one Board of Governor’s meeting scheduled in the fall 2012 term, on September 24th. If CESAR is able to get our proposal onto the meeting agenda, and if BOG approves the referendum, students will be likely voting before the end of the year. If the referendum passes, the health and dental coverage plan will come into effect in September 2013. However, if the item is deferred until the winter 2013 BOG meeting, the whole process will be delayed and, if ultimately approved at all levels, the combined coverage will come into effect in September 2014.

If you are a part-time degree student and would like to help out with this campaign, please contact any of the CESAR Executives and we’ll be happy to meet with you!

Annie Hyder is a part-time student of Public Administration and Governance and CESAR Director of Membership and Communications.