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Will the future Saint Joe’s be accessible?

Last updated on November 13, 2019

It was not until my friend Kathrin sent me a message about the SJU Master Plan telling me how cool it looked. “Omg guys you have to see this!”, she said. I opened the link and, yes, it looks unreal. The plan aims to modernize and unify the campus, upgrade and contemporize our facilities, and ultimately create a world-class student experience. As soon as I looked at the pictures, I could relate it to the issue of accessibility on campus. Because I wondered how does this idea have a connection with inclusivity at Saint Joe’s, I decided to go deeper and learn more about how this Master Plan came to life.

We talked to Jason D’Antonio, the president of the Student Senate at Saint Joseph’s University, about the plan. He mentioned that there was a plan several years ago, but our 2015 financial crisis kind of derailed any possibility of that. “However, Reed has been very instrumental in this new vision. He’s forward thinking, and our university’s Strategic Plan had this as a component if memory serves me correctly”, he said. “Additionally, there are some aspects that have been recurring themes throughout the past decade or so (e.g. Hagan is subpar for a D1 school, parking is limited, and Sourin/La Farge are temporary dorms that never should have lasted past 2000)”, he added.

Everyone wants to know when are we going to be able to see this plan come to life, and actually experience all these new features we can see through the website. To begin with, Jason believes that the idea of a “plan” is misleading. “It’s more of a vision and some projects are high-priority and others don’t have as necessary of a need”, he said. “For example, if we’re going to demo Campion, we need to build a new student center. To do that, we need to get rid of LaFarge and Sourin. But before that, we need to construct new dorms flanking the Admissions building on the other side of Cardinal. Other things, like the O’Pake renovation, don’t take as much space or resources, so that is more feasible than building a brand new parking garage”, he explained. Regarding the financial aspect, he states that this will be funded through donations mostly. Because the vision is a linear process and others depends on what gets financed first, the project could last up to 20-30 years, but as priorities change, the vision for campus could change too.

Overhead view of the future campus layout.

 

I was surprised when my friend Kathrin brought up the relationship between the Master Plan and accessibility on campus. Just like last week’s post,“The Admissions Route to Accessibility”, she related the new design with the benefits for every human, no matter if you are or not in a wheelchair. The theme of the new plan is “two hearts”, Jason mentioned. “It is planned to synergize and connect all parts of campus with one another in a pedestrian-friendly way. More walkways/green space with less barriers was the goal. In an effort to increase accessibility, it is planned to do some immediate improvements to some areas to turn some steps into ramps and other steps into less-steep inclines.” It is important to highlight the fact that inclusivity was at the  forefront in the moment of designing the new campus. He said that it is more attractive to potential students, because no matter what your condition is, you would be able to commit to Saint Joe’s.

So at least by now, we know that there is not only an awareness that this campus is not as inclusive at it could be, but also that there is a concrete plan, which everyone is able to see. I know that 20-30 years seems like a long time, but we can be optimistic about it and think that eventually EVERYONE will have the opportunity to enjoy the new features and facilities of Saint Joseph’s University.

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