Members of Associated Students boards and commissions, along with other interested students, voted to increase campus accessibility in campus facilities and improve living conditions in Isla Vista yesterday at the second annual A.S. Congress.
Proposals from the Commission on Disability Access (CODA) and A.S. Internal Vice President of Local Affairs Kelly Burns were approved as student government’s main goals for this school year in Corwin Pavilion last night. CODA proposed to make the campus safer for disabled students while Burns’ proposal will establish a Student I.V. Commission to identify community problems and present findings to the I.V. Commission — created by Chancellor Henry Yang June 10, 2005.
The two objectives were selected from a pool of eight goals presented by various student organizations at the meeting.
On-Campus Rep. and CODA proposal author Sam Marks said he was pleased with the Congress’ decisions and hopes changes will be made on campus to improve the quality of life for disabled students.
“I’m hoping that, with A.S.’s influence, students with disabilities will get more of a voice,” Marks said. “There a lot of things that can be done to improve accessibility. For example, the bottom of the UCen doesn’t have any way [for disabled students] to exit if there’s a fire. There’s no ramp.”
Marks, who uses a wheelchair, also said the issue of accessibility became apparent during the Congress meeting, because there was no ramp for him to use when he approached the Corwin Pavilion stage, forcing him to address the congress in front of the stage. Nevertheless, Marks said he had high hopes for the university.
“I think UCSB has incredible potential to be one of the most accessible universities in the world,” Marks said. “We have incredible weather here. Snow and rain are not a challenge. The campus is also incredibly flat … I think improvements can be made.”
Increasing campus accessibility also encompasses racial and transgender issues, Marks said, such as building unisex bathrooms on campus for transgender students.
As for the other main goal established by Congress, Burns said the creation of the Student I.V. Commission would help identify concerns ranging from rent prices to community policing.
“What this does is realize that there are real issues in I.V. — things like sexual assault and high rent,” Burns said. “It is important that we have a say and students come together to do this. The idea is to come up with a strategic plan to compile different ideas and visualize I.V. how we see it. We’ll ask students about the quality of life in I.V. and get different perspectives … It’s what we think would make I.V. a safer place.”
Burns said the commission will poll students to find their concerns and will draft proposals to present to the university’s I.V. Commission. She said the commission consists mostly of faculty and staff who are not fully aware of the living conditions in I.V.
Although four student members sit on the regular commission, including Burns and A.S. President Chaz Whatley, their opinions are insufficient student input compared to what her proposed commission could offer, Burns said.
Lindsey Saito, the A.S. Richard Flacks Intern, said several changes were made to this year’s Congress because A.S. did not follow through on last year’s selected goals. She said the Congress limited its selection to two main goals instead of three like last year in order to ensure progress.
“Last year there was a lack of flow so we wanted to be more realistic,” Saito said. “Last year was also the first year we had Congress so we had to find out what works best.”
At last year’s Congress, students voted to increase campus accessibility for disabled students, lower the price of textbooks and to support the Environmental Affairs Board’s Campus Sustainability Plan, which features educational programs on maintaining the campus environment.
Saito said she would hold quarterly or bi-quarterly meetings with the A.S. Legislative Council and other A.S. boards and commissions to ensure the goals established this year are maintained as priorities throughout the school year.
Other goals presented to Congress included a Safe Space campaign to create hate-free zones in I.V., an A.S. Tenant’s Bill of Rights , the promotion of a community center in I.V. and a goal to distribute more information about KCSB, the campus radio station, to students. A proposal to bring organic food to the dining commons and a proposal to increase cultural interaction on campus were also presented.