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Accessibility issues facing the East Annex move

On the north side of campus, nestled cozily between Shibles and Neville—and within eye range of the newly constructed Ferland Engineering, lies a white building crumbling into obscurity.

The East Annex was home to two notable hubs for student support: what was once the shared hub of TRiO Student Support Services and Student Accessibility Services (SAS), which aimed to assist students with a variety of needs.

For those unfamiliar, TRiO SSS is a bit of an underutilized treasure for disadvantaged students. They service students based on financial need, first-generation status or disability status. TRiO SSS aims to offer personal academic, well-being, and financial support, among other branches of counseling, by matching a student with an advisor. Additionally, they offer tutoring separate from the Knack program that the university offers, but many students who qualify for these programs are not familiar with them.

Student Accessibility Services is the hub for students who need accommodations to connect with the people who can make that happen. There’s an overlap in the serviced demographics, and it allowed SSS advisors to help students connect with SAS easily. Running these operations in the same building makes sense, as they create a hand-in-hand operation.

The building also offered a computer cluster with printing for SSS students, as well as a lounge where students could buy refreshments.

Eventually, the East Annex fell into disrepair.

Issues with heating arose, and the building became more expensive to fix than to demolish. While the building still stands tall on campus, it’s unsure how much longer this will last.

Throughout the first two months of this year, SAS and SSS were in the process of moving into their new university-provided homes.

SAS settled into the old University Credit Union, merging with the Bodwell Center and the Black Bear Exchange to become the Center for Accessibility and Volunteer Engagement (CAVE).

SSS was moved into a portion of Alumni Hall, next to the library and the new Hotel Ursa. This immediately presents an issue in that two programs, accustomed to working together with similar populations, are now split across campus. The programs were also made responsible for spreading the word about the move. Despite their best efforts, confusion inevitably arose as a complication of this drastic separation.

Further, these new buildings pose accessibility issues, which is an obvious problem for programs whose goals are to support the disabled student population. SAS’s new CAVE building is technically accessible. However, the problem with CAVE is that it lies on the far end of campus. For students on the opposite side of campus, they could be facing a mile-long walk. While there are parking areas, some students report anxieties about being unsure how or where to park, as well as being unsure if they were even allowed to.

Furthermore, complaints have been voiced about the SAS private testing centers bordering office walls prone to sound leakage, creating a distraction in what is ostensibly a distraction-free zone.

For SSS students, their new location in Alumni Hall is an accessibility issue.

To enter the TRiO SSS portion of the building, students must either enter up a set of stairs and through a fire door or come through an alternate door and go down a set of stairs. Barring a more hidden entrance that I am not aware of, I personally have not experienced any route to the TRiO section in which a student in a wheelchair could access the advisors’ offices.

Despite all of these negatives, I still want to highlight the positive aspects of these programs. SAS and SSS are great offerings for students that they should know about and take advantage of.

The University may not have given them the best locations during this move, but I still recommend getting to know their new space and familiarizing yourself with these programs if you’re eligible. To many TRiO and SAS faculty and students, myself included, the East Annex will always represent a unity between these two programs that will survive this move and long past the demolition of the building. While I will miss the computer clusters and the snack lounge, SSS is doing its best to offer amenities to its population.

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