Quinnipiac administration commits to campus accessibility amid SGA resolution

Cat Murphy, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University administrators committed to forming a student-led advisory committee on accessibility within the Office of Student Accessibility.

Chief Experience Officer Tom Ellett and several other Quinnipiac administrators, including OSA Director Kate Palumbo and Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filardi, met with Student Government Association President Owenea Roberts on Nov. 4, to address the organization’s Oct. 26, resolution calling on the university to audit OSA. The Chronicle also attended the meeting.

Sophomore class president Thomas Peters, who drafted the resolution, met with Palumbo on Nov. 1, but could not attend the meeting on Nov. 4.

“The fact that this meeting is taking place shows that the university is willing to create a collaborative effort to make a change,” wrote Peters, a political science major, in a letter Roberts read in his absence.

University officials addressed several concerns about campus accessibility, including questions about inaccessible Braille signage and distracting alternative testing accommodations, at the meeting on Nov. 4.

Ellett subsequently issued a formal response to the resolution in an email to the meeting attendees on Nov. 9.

“Quinnipiac University is committed to providing access to all members of our community, inside and outside of the classroom,” Ellett wrote in the email. “After meeting with Student Government Association President Owenea Roberts on Nov. 4, the university is taking proactive measures to address students’ concerns.”

Ellett announced in the email that OSA will form a student-led advisory committee on accessibility during the spring 2023 semester.

“Among the goals of this committee are promoting regular lines of communication that address questions and concerns, improve community awareness of access and the means to achieve it, and evaluate opportunities for student accessibility,” Ellett wrote.

Palumbo said at the Nov. 4, meeting that OSA had previously tried to draft a constitution for a student-led accessibility organization but that the initiative had failed to materialize.

A student-led advisory committee, Palumbo hoped, would allow students the opportunity to engage in a continuous dialogue with the office.

“I think what we’re all dancing around here is students are looking for concrete and tangible goals, objectives and associated timelines,” Palumbo said on Nov. 4. “You’re the students who know it best.”

The university’s response to the organization’s resolution also included a commitment to replace broken Braille signage on campus, Ellett wrote in the Nov. 9, email.

“Facilities will replace any damaged Braille signs in Ledges over the summer when the building is vacant,” Ellett wrote. “We appreciate your patience as supply chain issues have slowed the process for replacing damaged Braille signs.”

Although nearly 60 Braille signs in the Tator Hall are mounted above the maximum allowable height defined by the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards of Accessible Design, Filardi clarified at the meeting that the signs are compliant with the 1991 Standards for Accessible Design.

“It’s not a requirement to go back to every building that’s ever been built and change the signage,” Filardi said at the meeting on Nov. 4. “The signs do meet the requirement that they needed to meet when they were installed.”

After nearly an hour of conversation between Roberts and university officials, Ellett said he sensed that Roberts still felt the issue was “unresolved.”

Actions speak louder than words.

— Owenea Roberts, SGA president

“I’d like to be able to say we’ve responded to your resolution,” Ellett told Roberts at the meeting. “I think people feel that we haven’t redressed what you’ve asked for.”

Roberts responded that the resolution had been “verbally” resolved but added that “actions speak louder than words.”

“I am happy many senior administrators are working to resolve this issue,” Roberts wrote in a statement to the Chronicle on Nov. 8. “Hopefully, all issues will be resolved in the allotted time period.”

Matthew Kurz, associate dean of student affairs for campus life, agreed with Roberts.

“I think it’s been resolved up to the point it could have been resolved to today,” said Kurz, who serves as an advisor to SGA, at the meeting on Nov. 4. “I do think (SGA will) be seeking updates in the future.”

Ellett encouraged students to contact their OSA coordinator or Palumbo with any questions or concerns about their accommodations.

“I am pleased the concerns we outlined in the resolution have taken focus,” Peters wrote in a statement to the Chronicle on Nov. 12. ”Hopefully, the student-led advisory committee will help improve communication from the OSA to the student body.”