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Thursday, April 18, 2024
Opinions generic
Opinions generic

Since my freshman year, there has been at least one large and obstructive campus construction project. I remember a time when most of Museum Road was closed off. Now, with only a few weeks before my graduation, I find myself boxed in with few good sources of information to learn more.

Younger students may not remember when UF had a skate park and pool next to Broward Hall. The Broward Outdoors Recreation Complex was on the site of what is now Honors Village. 

The shell of a page for it on the RecSports website notes the permanent closure, but students have yet to hear of any equal replacements. Students are instead pushed into the primarily interior facilities of the Southwest Recreation Center or in greater Alachua County.

While necessary, the Honors Village project is also severely behind and has led to huge closures in the surrounding area. As of this writing, I still see construction equipment being driven in and out. This all largely comes from observation and word-of-mouth, not official UF information channels.

In the time I have been here, a new football training complex, a new police headquarters and Malachowsky Hall have opened. I understand the necessity of these projects, but I ask for greater clarity from the university about future ones. I write this to underscore the necessity of ease of access to information simply.

Although a website does exist to note current projects, those under construction, and those in planning, it is lackluster. The information on the website is sparse, however, and it is unclear how often it is updated. It lists Malachowsky as under construction. The opening ceremony I attended and other reporting would beg to differ.

Around campus, sections of the North Lawn, all of Inner Road, and now right by Constans Theatre at the Reitz Union are closed. This is all easily noticeable on the official campus maps, but these construction closures are often erected overnight with little prior warning to students.

These also pose a unique challenge for students with physical disabilities. Although I do not have a physical disability, I have the honor of being one of five student members of the Persons With Disabilities Committee. 

Although UF usually fulfills the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it does not seem that it goes beyond that. UF may accommodate this, but it is unclear if it promotes equality for students with disabilities.

Even outside of the construction, some students have reported to me the humiliation of taking service elevators or waiting for a friend to aid with heavy doors. If students have issues, it is advised they immediately fill out the “Report a Barrier” form.

Much like with most problems, our university is partially hampered by the ratio of students to staff members. Over 7,000 UF studentsGators use DRC services but that can stretch resources thin. Additionally, a recent point of discussion in the Persons Wwith Disabilities Committee was how professors treat students with disabilities.

In a campus that physically closes itself off to students with construction, students can be emotionally closed off by instructors. Some treat students with disabilities as a burden to deal with than a growth experience. This is unacceptable. More targeted training is needed.

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What can be done with these confounding issues of accessibility?

One potentially promising option are the informational sessions both in-person and online, open to students, staff and faculty. You may have seen the signs for them around campus. At the same time, the lack of repeat sessions serves as a potential hampering point. An alert option also exists to receive emails about closures.

UF should work to ensure multiple easily accessible paths exist around all construction. Often, only one path exists.

Accessibility and inclusion must be top of minds for all future plans.

Ronin Lupien is a UF biomedical engineering senior.

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