Amended accessability levy breaks
By Laura Koot
Western students showed last night they are committed to making campus more accessible.
The University Students' Council took measures in 1992-93 under the direction of then VP-finance Jonathan Samson to implement a $4 accessibility levy in the student activity fee, to be increased at five per cent annually.
A motion proposed by VP-finance Chris Keith went before council last night calling to freeze the levy at its current amount of $4.63 for two years so it could undergo a review. The motion was amended to increase annually according to the cost of living. The motion was defeated.
In a successful campaign to prevent council from freezing the levy he brought into place, Samson drummed up support from commissioners and vice-presidents from the last three years and inundated Keith and VP-student issues, Chris Walsh, with phone calls and email messages.
Samson said that without the support of students, the work that must be done on campus will take over 200 years. "The levy should be there until all the work is done," he said. "In a wheelchair you have to be able to get around. It is humiliating to have to go right across campus to use a washroom."
Due to a lack of communication between Western's administration and the students' council no work has been done with the money collected this year. Keith said there is between $80,000-$100,000 which has been collected for projects but the money was not spent because the process stalled.
Keith explained traditionally the administration makes a list of potential projects and brings it to the council's disabilities commissioner. A committee picks the projects which they wish to contribute funds to and the university then bills the council once the work is completed.
Dave Riddell, senior director of physical plant and capital planning services, said co-operative projects have been undertaken with the students to improve accessibility since 1993. In the fiscal year of 1993-94 the council contributed $38,000. In 1994-95 students pitched in $36,000 of the total $69,572 spent. In 1995-96 students contributed $50,000 of a total $173,000 spent.
"We have made attempts to contact the students' council but have been met with little response," Riddell said, adding he was unaware money had been collected by the students specifically for this purpose.
Jessica Moretti, the USC's commissioner for students with disabilities, acknowledged having received the calls and said she returned them with the intention of striking a committee meeting. Quorum could not be met and the issues were to be dealt with by the Keith and Walsh from that point on.
Moretti, Keith, Walsh and Riddell have all agreed that a long-term plan must be implemented to assure the money is spent according to students' wishes.