By Brenda Molina-Navidad
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi was one of four Ontario university presidents on TVO’s “The Agenda” April 13, discussing how collaboration between universities helps city building.
On the program, Lachemi was joined by the presidents from York University, OCAD University, and the University of Toronto (U of T). They spoke about improving student experience through teamwork, starting with public transportation.
To better understand how students use the transit system, surveys on transit and transportation were sent to the students of these four universities. The around 15,000 survey responses revealed that a third of those students spend two hours or more travelling to and from campus. This means approximately 5000 students spend hours on public transit.
According to Lachemi this information will help the universities leaders address the issue of long-commute times. “More than 80 per cent of our students are commuters, so it’s important for us also to provide support, and also find other alternatives for them to minimize their time on transit,” he said.
When 80 per cent of the student body commutes, as Lachemi said, the other 20 per cent live on campus or in the downtown core — a point that the host of “The Agenda” Steve Paikin made. But Lachemi said that the university is increasing their capacity to serve students who stay on campus while U of T president Meric Gertler added that the universities are currently working together to create more affordable housing.
From transit to affordable housing, the presidents also talked about their collaboration to help resettle Syrian refugees while offering students a learning experience by volunteering in the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge. There are around 400 volunteers in the challenge, which helped sponsor 75 refugee families, said Lachemi.
Lachemi said he believes that universities have a responsibility to find ways in which they can help society. “The approach is always city building and how we can work with partners outside to serve our students better.”