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Accessing student fees
By Mark Brown
Whether accessibility is an issue which should be dealt with by students or the university is the question two members of the University Students' Council will ask their fellow councillors at tonight's meeting.
Two weeks ago during the USC budget presentation, the outgoing council debated cutting the $5.36 levy by $2.36 and freezing it at this new level, but after a heated debate this amendment was rejected.
However, unlike the last motion, this one is not driven by a desire to cut student fees, but to send a message to Western's administration, said Mike Werenich, King's College representative to the USC.
"What we are trying to do here is send a clear message to the administration," Werenich said. "It's their responsibility," he added, citing the university's strategic plan and the Ontario Human Rights Code which clearly shows accessibility is the sole responsibility of the university.
Western's strategic plan states "Western must make every effort to be a welcoming environment for students and faculty from the designated groups, including... persons with disabilities."
To send this message Werenich will seek council's support to reduce the present levy to $2.36, below the $4 level at which the levy was originally set in 1994. The proposal does not eliminate the five per cent annual increase applied to the fee.
Outgoing VP-campus issues Peter Hill and his successor Perry Monaco both disapproved of the motion. "They just don't know what they are talking about," Monaco said. "I would be opposed to any motion that was brought forward that does not have the proper research and the proper rationale."
Although Hill spoke in favour of the previous motion to reduce the levy, he said he is against this one. The USC was given a mandate from the last council to lobby the administration to move toward barrier-free access, Hill said. Eliminating this levy now will take away the USC's opportunity to present this issue to the university, he added.
"We didn't do our homework," he said, about the way this past year's council approached the issue. "We acted hastily."
Peter Mercer, Western's VP-administration, said he would regret seeing a reduction to the levy, but understood the point that fees are high.
Still, Mercer rejected the rationale for removing the fee, which originally began as a co-operative effort with the USC and the university, due to the legal responsibility Western has to provide barrier-free access. "If that is true now it was equally true then."