A.S. Council Brief: Student Accessibility, Vaccinations, and Textbook Access

A.S. Council Brief: Student Accessibility, Vaccinations, and Textbook Access

Week 3

At the A.S. Council’s Week 3 meeting on Oct. 13, senators discussed accessibility to on-campus dining options, the Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD) input committee, and COVID-19. Senators also debated their Week 4 meeting agenda, given that the scheduled special presentation on textbook affordability had been tabled. 

John Muir College Senator Serena Zheng updated everyone on her efforts to work with Housing Dining Hospitality to bring dining food trucks to Camp Snoopy, which is located behind the Gilman Parking Structure and next to Pepper Canyon Hall. She spoke about the necessity of such food trucks, citing the sizable student population and the lack of accessible on-campus dining options for Camp Snoopy residents.

“Camp Snoopy this year houses about 296 overflow students from each college […],” she said .“ Students living there have to walk about 15 to 20 minutes to any of the dining halls on campus. And that includes Foodworx, which used to be close, but [because of nearby construction, students have to make a detour [to reach Foodworx].” 

However, after speaking to Ralph Dauphin, Assistant Director of Business Development Dining, Markets, and Culinary Services at HDH, Zheng warns that there may be challenges to implementing the food trucks immediately. Dauphin had explained that the idea was feasible, but HDH is currently 40 percent understaffed at the moment and would not be able to provide employees to manage the food trucks.  

Zheng explained that if the staffing situation is resolved, it would be highly likely for food trucks to be implemented at Camp Snoopy, especially since food trucks were stationed there previously. Currently, she plans to work with other A.S. members to resolve HDH’s staffing issues to facilitate the food truck implementation. 

Vice President of Campus Affairs Isaac Lara also provided updates on the Office of Health and Wellbeing’s collaborative efforts with OSD. The Office of Health and Wellbeing has connected with OSD Director Joanna Boval, and they are working to establish a standing committee or advisory board to the OSD. This would allow students to give input directly to the OSD, as well as allow for a more centralized disability advocacy on campus.

Later on in the A.S. meeting, Lara also detailed updates from the Student Health and Advisory (SHA) Board, where he was reassured by the updates they provided on UC San Diego’s high vaccination coverage.

“Our vaccination rates are doing quite great,” Lara said.  “We are at 93 percent complete vaccination of our campus population.”

He explained that UCSD is not at a 100 percent vaccination rate due to several factors. First, some students are coming from areas where the vaccine is not offered and they are currently in the process of getting a complete vaccination. There are also approximately 600 religious or medical exemptions. He noted, however, that some exemptions are temporary due to recent infection. It is projected that 2000 students are not in compliance with the mandate. 

Week 4

At the Week 4 meeting on Oct. 20, the A.S. Council discussed a range of issues, including a special presentation by Auxiliary Services regarding textbook affordability.

The presentation was sponsored by A.S. President Manu Agni, and senators provided their feedback on the program. Senators also raised concerns about the feasibility of the program, given its early opt-out deadline.

Thomas Bonetati, Director of Auxiliary Services, presented his department’s proposal to alleviate the financial burden that purchasing quarterly course materials places on students. Auxiliary Services encompass self-supporting services that offer non-instructional support to individual students, faculty and staff. His proposal, the Equitable Access Program, allows students to pay a fixed per unit fee and receive access to all the required course materials each quarter. 

“Essentially it’s the easy button for purchasing textbooks,” Bonetati said. “And we don’t expect it to be an answer for everyone, but we do think that it is for people that don’t have the resources or time to navigate the current environment of textbook buying.”

Bonetati continued to explain how the program would mitigate the problems students face buying textbooks currently. These problems included the high cost of course materials, the difficulties students face in sourcing materials from multiple sellers, students’ confusion about the specific requirements of course materials and financial aid delay’s impact on students’ ability to purchase textbooks in time for classes. 

Bonetati said that the data that Auxiliary Services had gathered support his claims.

“For [the 2019 fall quarter], the average cost of materials for every class that had required materials, (was $120).…And now as we’re doing the analysis (for this fall), we [can probably bring the cost] down to $60 per class,” Bonetati explained. “Our plan [eventually] is to have a set dollar per unit fee that gets paid to the bookstore, and if we charge in excess of that, we plan to sponsor [scholarships for students].” 

Bonetati brought up the example of UC Davis, which had implemented the same program in 2020 and was able to fund an endowment of $2 million. Excess money was able to be channeled back to students in the form of scholarships.

However, some senators were concerned about the relatively short opt-out deadline the program would provide. In the program, students must opt out by the second week of classes if they choose not to obtain their course materials from UCSD.

Bonetati insisted that this was the latest deadline they could negotiate with content providers, and that the opt-out deadline was already more generous than the one UC Davis offered. At UC Davis, students must opt out of the program three weeks before the start of classes. In addition, Bonetati explained that the UCSD Bookstore is generally flexible with opt out deadlines as well. 

“We kind of have this unadvertised grace period of the third week… [Extending the deadline any further] would make it really difficult for us to manage the pricing and the negotiation with publishers. That longer opt out date – I don’t think is an option.”

In response, Lara gave feedback that the opt-out deadline for the Equitable Access Program could be well-advertised on TritonLink as well. Bonetati agreed it would help remind students to opt out promptly if they dropped a class. 

A.S. Council meetings take place at 6 p.m. every Wednesday and are open to students. Students can participate in these meetings by joining their Zoom link or tuning in on Facebook Live

Art by Yui Kita for The UCSD Guardian

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Abby Lee, Senior Staff Writer
When not reading or writing about science, Abby enjoys cafe-hopping, grocery shopping and jogging really slowly.
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    MorganDec 24, 2021 at 2:47 am

    Oh, good presentation