By Don McHoull and Alan Woods
Tears welled up in Darren Cooney’s eyes as the candidate for v.p. administration in this week’s RyeSAC elections phoned his mother after last Friday’s Oakham House election debate.
Two students called on Cooney, a third-year journalism student and RyeSAC board member, to explain himself for voting against a disabled students’ centre at last week’s board meeting.
The tears came because he couldn’t do it.
“It crushes me to think that people think I’m a bigot.”
Cooney said he voted against the proposal because he wasn’t given enough notice about the new centre before having to vote. He said the first time he saw the 12-page proposal for the new centre was on Monday, about a day before having to vote on it.
RyeSAC president Cory Wright said the entire agenda — not just the proposal — was late being printed, but that the idea for a disabled student centre has “come one and off over the last couple of years.”
He said the majority of work on the proposal was completed in the last six weeks.
“I tried too make as much information as possible available,” Wright said.
The proposal, drafted by a working group for the disabled students’ centre, calls for a $3,075 operating budget to be funded by RyeSAC.
This includes $1,000 for office furniture and a computer, and $500 for such things as interpreters and other forms of assistance for students.
Cooney said this is a considerable amount of money considering RyeSAC student groups only receive $800 to cover start-up costs.
“I didn’t know who was involved or what was involved,” said Cooney. “There was no real presentation or list of students involved, and we weren’t told where the money was coming from.”
But Wright said the $3,075 budget is only an estimate for the start-up costs and may not all be used.
“It’s the lowest cost of any of our services,” he said.
Other board members support Cooney’s reservations.
“It’s a RyeSAC service,” said v.p. finance and development Barbara Lozano. “We want to make sure it’s what these students need.”
Two board members voted against the proposal at the meeting, including Christopher West, who represents business students.
The disabled students centre will differ from the Ryerson-run access centre, which provides academic assistance to students with disabilities, in that it will focus on student life outside the classroom.
Both services will operate out of the basement of the business building starting in September.
Wright said it is important to ensure that upcoming buildings and renovations on campus are accessible to students with disabilities.
The centre also plans to lobby the provincial government each month for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the municipal government for more accessible transportation throughout the city.
Beyond advocacy, the centre will also organize recreational events.
“One of the suggestions we’ve already had is possibly doing some sort of sports league so that students with disabilities from Ryerson can compete against other students, play sports and just have fun,” Wright said.
A publicly campaign will begin this month.