By Danielle Reyna
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
University of the Incarnate Word policy won’t allow posting of signs restricting smoking around handicap accessibility ramps, an administrator said – a revelation that has riled the group that wanted them.
Walk, Roll & Read, an advocacy group for students with disabilities, asked the Student Government Association to limit smoking to five designated areas on campus, all away from ramps. Walk, Roll & Read said its members deserve the right to travel on campus without being forced to breathe tobacco smoke. To accommodate the needs of these students, the SGA stated signs would be put up at each handicap accessibility ramp indicating to not block or smoke on them.
However, Paul Ayala, the SGA’s adviser, said this statement was an error and took responsibility for it Oct. 12 at an SGA Student Assembly.
“University policy does not designate smoking or non-smoking places on campus; therefore, SGA is unable to post signs without going against UIW policy,” Ayala said.
A new San Antonio ordinance has significantly limited the areas where smoking is permitted in the city; however, the ordinance doesn’t apply to private institutions, so the decision to smoke on campus is left up to UIW.
The next step that can be taken is for students to request SGA to conduct a campuswide survey about having designated smoking areas. The results of the survey will determine what, if any, further action will be taken.
“Similar surveys have been conducted in previous years, and they showed that students do not care where smoking is allowed on campus,” said SGA President Jonathan Guajardo. “UIW has always been a smoking campus. However, I could see UIW becoming a smoke-free campus if that is what the student body chooses.”
Walk, Roll & Read President Rachel Cywinski said she sees the latest turn of events as another accommodation request that has been dismissed.
“The request Walk, Roll & Read made was one aimed at stopping discrimination against students with disabilities on campus,” Cywinski said. “The administration has shown no regard for the safety and welfare of students with disabilities nor for the health of all students on campus.”
In 2010, Cywinski wrote a letter to UIW’s Board of Trustees documenting numerous instances where she said the administration has neglected the needs of the disabled. She said she sent copies to every board member but received only one response from 42 recipients.
In the letter, she cited a disabled Iraq War veteran who was unable to cross the stage at her own gradation, in front of her children, because administration refused her request for assistance due to her disability, she said.
Cywinski wrote, “What could anyone say to trustees of a university which incorporates social justice teaching in each course but denies the humanity of 21 percent of the local population — people with disabilities?”
Cywinski said she questions whether the university is living up to its mission.
“Not only has the university failed to stop discrimination, but it is the cause of it,” she said.