Over 70 students attended the first annual Associated Students Congress on Wednesday night, where they voted on the top three goals they would like the student government to work toward this year.
Representatives from various campus organizations, including members of the Greek system and A.S., and individual students met in Corwin Pavilion where the Legislative Council presented a list of 47 concerns submitted by students. After talking in smaller groups about the issues previously submitted by students, attendees approved the three primary goals, calling for a sustainability master plan from Environmental Affairs Board (EAB), an A.S. Commission on Disability Access (CODA) proposal for better accessibility for the disabled, and a plan to lower the price of textbooks at UCSB.
EAB co-chair Aaron Gilliam said the sustainability master plan is a vision of how all facilities on campus can be more environmentally friendly.
“[The plan] covers all our energy – what we use now, what we want to see be used in the future, all of our water, all of our waste things, all of the products that we buy [and] all the materials on campus,” he said.
The vision of the sustainability plan is meant to complement the campus’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), Gilliam said. The state requires each UC campus to create a LRDP that maps out future buildings, facilities and general campus development projects.
The Chancellor’s Planning Committee, which creates the plan, can be pressured by A.S. to develop an environmentally friendly campus, Gilliam said. The plan would include better transportation at UCSB and in Isla Vista.
“Do we want to plan down the road and say we want to have a sustainable transportation system including public transportation, excellent bike and walking paths and very limited personal cars coming to campus,” Gilliam said. “Or do we want to have parking lots as far as the eye can see?”
Gilliam said having the support of A.S. would increase the visibility of the sustainability plan.
“It’s amazing that the issues the Environmental Affairs Board has been working on are going to be taken up by A.S.,” he said. “We’re going to work off each other – we already do. We have really good relations with A.S. and I think it’s only going to get better.”
Out of the list of 47 issues submitted, CODA was the only student group to include a formal written proposal. The proposal included the need to construct a ramp behind the UCen to lead around the lagoon, to lower campus emergency phones to a height individuals in wheelchairs can access and to fix the various pot holes in campus pathways to create a safe path of travel.
CODA co-chair and film studies major Sam Marks said pathway safety is just one example of problems that can be a hazard to anyone, including elderly people and disabled people.
“These issues will affect all of us in one form or another because, as we get old, we will either know people or have direct interaction with people who are in one form or another disabled,” Marks said. “To be aware at this stage will help shape our perceptions to be able to interact with these people better … 70 percent of people will experience some sort of disability in some time of their life.”
Jeremy Johansen, a CODA member and mechanical engineering graduate student, said the influence of A.S. could increase physical accessibility of the campus.
“[A.S. will] mostly pressure the university into recognizing this is an issue that needs to be addressed and that as representatives of the students … the students are behind them,” Johansen said.
Finally, lowering textbook prices was the third goal approved by students at the congress. On-Campus Rep. Justin Pabian, who presented the proposal, said he has been working with CalPIRG on a study about the cost of textbooks at UCSB.
“The average student here at UC Santa Barbara pays almost $1,000 a year on textbooks alone, which is the highest of any UC student,” Pabian said.
He said students often misplace their anger at the high cost of textbooks.
“It’s not the [fault of the] bookstore,” Pabian said. “It’s the textbook publisher, because the publishers are the ones that come out with new editions and modify editions [unnecessarily]… Whenever they print a new edition it makes the old edition obsolete.”
Textbooks prices also vary from campus to campus because of individual contracts between the university and the publishers, he said. For example, UC Los Angeles students pay less for the same Math 3A book used at UCSB.
A.S. can help to lower prices by pressuring publishers and helping professors to select less expensive books, Pabian said.
“It’s up to the professors [and their department] to decide what they order,” he said. “But the professors don’t always know how much the book is going to cost because the publishers don’t really send information to them.”
Congress attendees said they agreed that the event was an important step in working with the community to solve problems and confront issues.
“Having a town hall meeting and having a place where students can come and voice their opinions and their issues freely to us gives us a chance to see where they’re all at, where they’re all coming from,” Off-Campus Rep. Chaz Whatley said. “We can take that and put it into action.”