Postdocs miss out on U-Passes

Postdoctoral associates can no longer buy the pass because of a system review.

Benjamin Farniok

For the last 15 years, University of Minnesota postdoctoral associates have been able to purchase U-Passes, which allow users unlimited trips on metro public transportation for a flat rate.
But that changed summer during a review of the U-Pass system. University officials altered the pass’s availability to comply with Parking and Transportation Services policy, which primarily allows only students to purchase the pass. 
Postdoc associates say they weren’t properly informed about the change, which they say could cost them more money to get to the school.
The U-Pass is available to students and employees the school considers to be students, like undergraduate research assistants and graduate instructors.
But the Postdoctoral Association negotiated with the University around the time of the pass’ss inception in 2000 to have postdocs included as an exception, said Geoffrey Rojas, the group’s president.
“We have always been employees, so we are not really sure why this changed,” he said.
In emails exchanged with the school’s transportation service, Rojas was told the classification of the postdoctoral associates job class lead to the revocation, as they changed it to comply with University policy.
The change was partially a result of the University’s recent technology upgrade, said Ross Allanson, director of PTS.
“The process that used to work was no longer working,” Allanson said, adding the issue has been passed on to the University’s budget office.
Postdoctoral fellows, who are not compensated by the University unlike postdoctoral associates, are allowed to buy U-Passes. 
Still, some have reported they’ve been unable to purchase it, Rojas said.
Rojas said the exact date access was revoked is unclear because the PDA wasn’t informed when it happened.
Late last month, the group started gathering support from postdoctoral associates. A petition from postdoctoral employees has about 400 signatures, and a faculty petition has gathered 120 signatures, Rojas said. 
Last Friday, Rojas, a group of postdoctoral associates and an academic institution union representative delivered the petitions to the PTS office.
Rachel Bergerson, policy liaison for the PDA, said the change creates extra costs for postdocs and it discourages the use of public transportation.
Rojas said to continue using public transportation, postdoctorates were directed to use the Metropass instead. 
The Metropass costs users $76 per month, where the U-Pass costs $100 per semester.
Tyler Bosch, vice president of the PDA, said he had frequently used the U-pass to commute from his home in Eden Prairie to the medical school. Normally, he would take an express bus, which was an easy commute.
“I was able to work on the bus going to and from work,” he said.
Bosch said it was cheaper for him to rent a parking space on the campus than to buy the Metropass, but he said driving himself takes longer than a bus.
Representatives from the University and the PDA are expected to meet later this week to discuss the U-Pass’s availability. 
The PDA will also meet with the dean of the Graduate School later this month to discuss the issue.