Today we offer you a point/counterpoint on an upcoming resolution before AMS Council. We offered Tim Chu, present AMS VP External, to argue for and Matthew Naylor, past AMS VP External and current Arts Councillor, to argue against the resolution: “AMS Council should have non-voting equity seats”. This is Tim’s response, for Matt’s, visit here.
Every word over the 750 word-count we told them to stay under has been greyed for fairness. Enjoy.
AMS Council needs a seat for students with disabilities
AMS Council is the highest elected decision making body of the AMS. AMS Council is intended to be the organization that represents UBC students from all walks of life. However, in reality, the composition of AMS Council is not very representative of the student population. There is a long list of equity-seeking groups that are grossly under-represented on AMS Council. This list includes racialized students (students of colour), female students, and openly queer students. This list also includes students with disabilities.
At UBC, according to the Disability Resource Centre’s records, there are approximately 1300 students who have disabilities. Students with disabilities face unique barriers everywhere they go on campus. For example, in order for a student to access the Student Union Building, a building operated mainly by the AMS, a student needs to climb stairs. If not, they are required to take long detours in order to access a wheelchair ramp. There is also limited signage as to where the elevators in the building are located. Students who are visually impaired face tremendous difficulties trying to navigate the SUB since there is absolutely no Braille on any of the bookable room doors. What about the challenges students with disabilities face in regards to academics. Students with ADHD, dyslexia, or Aspergers must not only cope with the disorder but also with the overwhelming burden of term papers, mid-terms and finals.
Students and people with disabilities have historically been marginalized and under-represented. In our society, there is stigma surrounding students and people with disabilities and they have been discriminated against whether it be obtaining employment or accessing their education. Students with disabilities are just as capable as students without “disabilities” at school. However, students with disabilities require unique assistance and accommodation. Without this assistance and accommodation for the unique challenges, these students are denied their right to proper education.
After understanding the challenges students with disabilities face, a remedy is being proposed. On November 18, 2009, AMS Council is debating whether or not it should create a non-voting seat on council for students with disabilities. Although some may argue that a non-voting seat is merely paying lip service to the issue; it, nonetheless, is a first step to having these equity-seeking groups represented on AMS Council.
By creating a seat for students with disabilities on AMS Council, AMS Council is recognizing the existence of students with disabilities. It is sending a message that AMS values all of its members, as it should, regardless of identity and status. By creating a seat for students with disabilities on AMS Council, the perspective of students with disabilities would be brought to the table and discussed. It would make the AMS much more inclusive because it would allow AMS Council to understand the perspectives from students with disabilities.
When the seat for International Students was created, there were definitely hesitations by certain AMS Councillors. However, the International Students Representatives have brought perspectives to the table and asked questions that would otherwise have not been asked. For example, when Student Care, the health care providers for students at UBC, came to present to AMS Council, the International Students Representative asked incredibly specific questions about the healthcare plan and how it relates to international students. Had the International Students Representative not been there, these questions would not have been asked. Creating a seat for students with disabilities would be bringing that perspective to the table and allow for specific questions that otherwise would have not been asked to be asked.
By creating a seat for students with disabilities, AMS Council would be institutionalizing the perspective of students with disabilities. Historically, AMS executives would take interest in advocating for students with disabilities; however, due to the high turnover rate, the incoming AMS executives may not always take interest in advocating for students with disabilities. As a result, their cause is placed on the back burner and issues for students with disabilities are subjected to executive priority shifts and swings. By creating a seat for students with disabilities, there will always be a “go-to” person to raise issues that affect students with disabilities.
Some critics of creating a seat for students with disabilities may allege that we will open an endless list of equity-seeking groups if a seat for students with disabilities is created. However, this floodgate argument can be perceived as a benefit. It is an absolute benefit if students are coming forward wanting to get involved with the AMS. We are a student union and we are a