Drafting the Baseline: Zupan

On September 30th 2021, I was able to interview President Mark Zupan about my previous article. Below is a summary of what we discussed for that half-hour.

It began simply, with Zupan telling me about how he had done a pizza dinner at the Link on Tuesday night.

“I got to hear from the students some of their challenges,” he said.

To him, this visit was instrumental in possibly getting included into the conversation that many of the students have been having without him.

In previous correspondence, Zupan had mentioned how he felt bad that the Link is without an elevator. With the promise of new donations and funding, however, he’s expressed interest in implementing an elevator in either Moskowitz or Tefft.

It would have to be one or the other, as both are similar in expense, according to him. His plan is to consult RAs and RDs, along with other members of the student body, to find which building would have a maximized impact for disabled students.

Zupan has been aware of the challenges that disabled individuals face while on or around campus, citing a time where he had to improvise a ramp to allow for a wheelchair to enter his home. He expressed dismay that such improvisation is necessary, as it shouldn’t have to be.

A situation that has made the rounds is that of able-bodied drivers parking in handicap spots. Kristin Beck, a disability advocate on campus, had done her own research on the phenomena, and Zupan shared possible reasons and solutions surrounding it. He confessed that the fines are low, and that Alfred doesn’t enforce that law as much as it ought to, saying that there are plans to either increase the fines or to tow the cars, completely.

On Kristin Beck, Zupan expressed admiration for her saying, “She has been so immensely helpful.”

He also understood that the handicap spots are quite slim, posing a problem for those in wheelchairs. There are floating plans to possibly repaint the lines. Another idea Zupan had was to maybe allow for shuttling near Alumni Hall, or to implement student-volunteer Ubers, so that disabled students have ease of transportation. The plans are, for all intents and purposes, still in infancy. There is significant work needed to be done to iron out all the details. However, the question remains how the timing would work, and how said students would be able to reach upper-floor classes.

Following an email he had sent Wednesday night about the Heritage Circle funding, I asked what Zupan would wish to use the funding for. He initially said that it was too early in the overall process to pinpoint precisely where he would put the money. However, after a few minutes, he went back to his previous idea of prioritizing mobility and handicap spaces for disabled students.

Zupan stated that, due to the university relying heavily on philanthropic support, renovations will not happen as quickly as people would like them to. He recalled when they were first doing renovations on Openhym, and the creation of the Link, and how he felt about the budget being overrun. To him, it didn’t seem like a good time to ask for more funding to put in an elevator to the Link, but said, “We’re going to start being more aggressive with donors.”

The downfall, to him, was that they had failed to look at the campus when planning renovations. They didn’t take into consideration the big picture, as it were. Some oversights that were caused by this are the walkways at Powell. Meant to be wheel-chair accessible, many of them had a lip that ruined the purpose. Fixing them was important, but it was a problem that they hadn’t foreseen.

In the middle of the interview, Zupan posited a question to everyone, asking, “If someone were to give us $100,000, what would be the best use for it?”

While responses to that question are more than welcome, there will most likely be a survey created and conducted in the near future to give him the answers he is looking for.

When asking about how many elevators require special access (such as keys), an answer wasn’t adequately given. However, Dr. Tamara Kennedy, Dean of Student Wellbeing, alongside Liz Shea, Director of the Center for Academic Success, are reportedly working on creating a brochure (or something of a similar model) to show accessible spaces around campus.

Overall, these rough drafts of plans are merely that: rough drafts. It’s heavily encouraged to have students and faculty make their voices and opinions heard, so that some change can take place. While there are disability advocates on campus that have already said these things that I’m now repeating within these past articles (and future ones), change is slow. We owe it to them to actually implement these plans and see how far they go—and take them even further.

By Sam Sage

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