Manhattanville Activists Hopeful for Accesibility Improvements

By ANNE FLOMENHAFT

On February 4, the Manhattanville College Board of Trustees held a special Q&A session in which eight students were able to directly lobby about important issues. The event was in regards to issues such as accesibilty throughout the Manhattanville College campus.

The session marked the first time in recent history that students were able to directly engage with the Trustees, who notably have enormous influence over Manhattanville College’s budget. Unlike the most recent meetings, in which students were only able to communicate to the Trsutees through committees, the college actively bridged the gap of bureaucracy between students and the major decision makers of the college.

“The students were hand selected by the Vice President of Student Affairs, John Balog, to represent a diverse set of backgrounds,” said Brendan Whelan, the Commuter Student Vice President of Manhattanville College, one of the eight students invited.

Whelan acknowledged the topic of general maintenance and accessibility at Manhattanville College, and presented his thoughts at the meeting.

According to Whelan, he became aware of the lack of accessibility at the college after having talked with friends and classmates.

Whelan advocated for student requested maintenance and accessibility projects in a meeting with 21 year Manhattanville College veteran Greg Palmer, the Vice President of Operations, who is in charge of virtually all maintenance projects on campus.

Palmer mentioned that the college is in much better shape than it was when he started in 1995. He highlighted some of the maintenance projects that were aimed to help make the campus more accessible, such as the installation of an accessible door in Spellman Hall on the side that faces Dammann Hall, the installation of an accessible door in Benzinger Hall at the pub entrance, and the remodeling of a bathroom in the ESL office in Benzinger Hall that would provide disabled students access to a bathroom if they are in the cafeteria.

Plamer went on to explain the process how general maintence projects receive funding. He said that every year there is approximately a $1.5 million budget that is allocated between I.T., academics, and maintenance. He confirmed that two-thirds of that budget goes to maintenance projects.

According to Plamer, Whelan and First Lady Jean Strauss, whom devote much time to the Manhattanville Valiant Accessibility Club, are the biggest proponents of campus accesibilty.

It is noteworthy to mention that Whelan and First Lady Jean Strauss are not alone in their mission to make the campus more accesible. International-student Milica Milic, a freshman at Manhattanville College and member of MVAC, has become a big proponent of making Manhattanville more accessible to disabled students.

Milic recently teamed up with First Lady Jean Strauss and MVAC to find solutions. One of Milic’s goals is to provide more braille signs throughout campus buildings as well as a tactile and accessible maps of the entire campus.

Some notable struggles of vision-impaired students include: difficulty finding specifc dorm rooms, finding their mailbox at the post office, and finding the appropriate gender restroom, which has its own set of difficulties such as the braille signs in Brownson Hall reading “women” for both the male and female restrooms.

Whelan considerd whether or not his improvement request will be taken seriously by the Board.

“I’m the type of person that believes in results,” said Whelan. “In terms of the priority list, we will see [the maintenance and accessibility repairs] when it happens.”