USG plans projects for students with disabilities

Martina Erdstein | Daily Trojan Smoke break · Sen. Daniel Newman, pictured here at a meeting in August, discussed his resolution to ban smoking on campus Tuesday.

Martina Erdstein | Daily Trojan
Smoke break · Sen. Daniel Newman, pictured here at a meeting in August, discussed his resolution to ban smoking on campus Tuesday.

At this week’s USG Senate meeting, several senators gave updates on the projects they are working on in order to help underserved USC populations and the student body at large.

Senator Tingyee Chang called for a more well-developed transfer student program to better integrate them into the USC climate. To do this, Chang has planned for a focus group, followed by a survey, a town hall meeting and a feasibility meeting to determine the possibility of implementing any of the solutions the group comes up with.

Chang also wants to create a survey to provide a more accessible way to find information about student housing, especially off-campus housing. In light of the hurdles that students have faced recently with unreliable off-campus housing management, Chang’s proposal seeks to create a housing database in order to keep management firms more accountable, while also enticing them with the promise of exposure among USC students.

Creating a more welcoming environment for students with disabilities was Chang’s main focus in her third project. She feels that the academic support for students with disabilities is functioning well, but that there is more to be done in other areas.

“The burden should be on the majority of our able-bodied students to invite disabled students to participate in our student organizations,” Chang said. “The onus shouldn’t be on the disabled students to request all these accommodations when it’s something that all of us should be thinking about.”

Chang hopes that discussion with students with disabilities will produce ways for them to be supported in the campus culture. Campus organizations could create resource guides for student organizations, providing information on accessibility, or student caseworkers to help disabled students navigate not only academics, but also social aspects of student life to make students with disabilities feel more welcome. Ultimately, Chang would love to see a Disabled Students Union.

“There will always be things that the students themselves need to accomplish, but we should try as hard as we can to break down these barriers and show disabled students that we really care,” Chang said.

Senator Tyler Matheson main project continues to be improving mental health resources on campus.

The USCard resolution that was proposed at the last meeting was passed at this meeting, with an amendment that would keep “essential information” on the back of the card while replacing inessential information with emergency phone numbers.

Matheson also brought up partnering with the counseling center to determine ways to combat the underuse of its services. Although currently in the stage of collecting data, Matheson shared that in 2014, there were 33 hospitalizations for students who were in danger of doing harm to themselves or others. In contrast, 100 such hospitalizations have occurred so far this year. Matheson is also looking into a collaboration between The Haven and the Keck School of Medicine. The Haven is a counseling-style intensive recovery unit near campus, utilized by those coming out of hospitalization and by many younger people as a support network.

“The problem is that it is difficult to get someone to go to therapy when it’s far away,” Matheson said.

Matheson is looking into the rights of students under HIPAA, and whether the fact that a student has been hospitalized for mental health issues can be disclosed.

At this point in the school year, $62,000 of the available $350,000 have been allocated to student programs. This is less than 25 percent of the expected total, past midway through the semester. According to the funding branch director, this is most likely due to fewer applications for funding. This could possibly be because of insufficient advertising for funding, or the problems with the funding website as a result of having only one director of technology.

Senator Sabrina Enriquez brought up the possibility of paying assistant directors again. Previously, assistant directors were given a stipend for their contributions to USG, but this was removed in a bylaw amendment. Although the idea would reward those who have contributed many hours to the organization, the stipend money would have to be taken from other areas of the budget.

Senator Daniel Newman brought up the resolution that he has been working on to make the USC campus smoke- and tobacco-free, saying that he had garnered over 90 percent faculty approval for it at a recent Academic Senate meeting. The official voting on the proposal will occur tomorrow.