Student passports: What’s the point?

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Ryerson student groups are unsure of whether the new Passport program will increase event attendance. Tara Deschamps reports

Ryerson students can now swipe their OneCards on campus to earn more than just a snack or a library book.

A new program called Passport is offering students a chance to collect points on their OneCard for attending campus events. The program, launched by RU Student Life, allows the points to be redeemed for prizes.

According to RU Student Life digital community facilitator Hamza Khan, “prizes can be something as small as a Starbucks gift card, but [the] sky’s the limit.” He said the prizes will be determined and provided by the program and student groups.

Some campus groups, like the Ryerson Anime Club (RU-Anime), have already discussed a point system and rewards for members.

“Every time a member volunteers they’ll get a certain amount of points,” says the club’s vicepresident of finance, Patricia Alba. “A certain amount of points will automatically make you an RUAnime executive, but these points will also go toward buying discounted Anime North tickets that we’ll be selling next semester.”

But others like the Armenian Students’ Association campus relations director Ani Dergalstanian think the opportunities campus groups offer make rewards unnecessary.

“Personally, I think getting involved in a student group and making new friends is reward enough,” she says. “People shouldn’t have to be bribed to get involved in their student communities.”

Dergalstanian also doubts how many students will be enticed to join or participate in groups like hers which are culture-based, and not interest-based like RU-Anime.

“Our membership is almost predetermined [because] many Armenians on campus join our group but we don’t get too many others who are interested,” she says. “I wouldn’t mind trying out the program for our group, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it doesn’t do much to increase our membership or event participation.”

But Alba is more optimistic.

“RU-Anime events are always open to anyone who would like to join us,” she says.

Khan thinks Passport might also increase attendance at campus events because the program’s online database will allow groups to monitor how many people participate in each event.

He says the database will inform students about campus organizations and events with a listings page that will be more extensive than the school’s current events calendar.

“The Passport listings would be a one-stop shop for campus events,” he says.

Khan also thinks the listings will be beneficial for students who commute and would address the struggle campus groups face when trying to maintain attendance on a commuter campus.

“It’s easier for students who are on campus, interacting and being able to move from one location to another to attend events,” he says.

Ryerson’s vice-president of administration and finance Julia Hanigsberg agrees.

She says Ryerson’s location in the downtown core means campus groups compete with many other events for attendance.

Dergalstanian also points out that timing affects the turn-out at campus events.

“We’ll get a lot more people to come out to an event that takes place early on in the year when student workload is light, compared to later in the semester when people are holed up at home studying without any intention of going out to an event,” she explains.

Even though many members have heavy workloads, she says her group’s events usually get a good turnout. She attributes high attendance rates to the small number of members the club has and the time of year events are held.

However, she says the Armenian Students’ Association will always welcome new strategies to improve campus participation. As a result, she will examine the Passport Program’s impact before the club fully accepts it.

“I won’t knock it before I try it,” she says.

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