Sophie Creager-Roberts ’24 is a senior double major in environment, sustainability and policy and history in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs with a minor in atrocity studies and the practices of social justice in the School of…
Over the Summer Syracuse University Makes Substantial Investments in Accessibility Improvements, Classroom Enhancements
One of the best places to capture a Syracuse University memory is at the flagship gateway sign below the Hall of Languages and Place of Remembrance. Students, family and friends often stop to snap photos in front of the iconic location with its polished stone work and towering building in the background.
The 11 steps above and the six below, however, keep that memorable location out of reach for many.
The University Promenade project is helping to change that—a heated ramp gently rising from the Promenade has been created to provide access to the site for everyone.
The ramp is just one of numerous accessibility improvement related projects that have been constructed this summer, with many more included in future planning and the Campus Framework.
More than $4.1 million in accessibility updates, combined with more than $9 million in investments in classroom enhancements this summer, await returning students—creating greater accommodations for learning and a connected experience for every member of the University community.
The accessibility projects are improving how people get around campus, as well as improving existing facilities that pre-date the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the campus buildings these upgrades typically focus on improving accessible entrances, auditorium seating accommodations and restroom facilities. The updates are also a crucial part of enhancing the overall classroom experience, which also included this summer substantial technological upgrades and enhancements to facilities made throughout the campus.
“It’s all part of the Campus Framework in creating an atmosphere in which everyone can participate,” says Joseph Alfieri, director of Campus Planning Design and Construction (CPDC). “These improvements are a physical manifestation of inclusion—making sure everyone can be where they need to be, to do what they need to do to succeed here.”
Increasing accessibility makes the entire campus more welcoming. Removing physical access barriers is among the initiatives the University is deploying as a result of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion’s short-term recommendations.
“The improvements reflect the University’s ongoing commitment to foster an inclusive environment on campus,” says Aaron Hodukavich, director and ADA coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Resolution Services. “When someone cannot access a part of a building or must go to a different floor to find an accessible bathroom, it can take away from their sense of belonging. These are positive steps to ensuring that everyone feels like they are part of our community.”
The ramp to the gateway sign is emblematic of changes taking place across campus.
“It’s very significant, and a great example of SU’s willingness to go beyond compliance to eliminate access barriers,” Hodukavich says. “The gateway sign is a popular location for photographs, especially during Commencement weekend. Most of our students remember their time at the University as the best years of their lives. It was important to us to make that opportunity available to everybody.”
Another aspect of the Promenade—the new pedestrian space that stretches from the Newhouse School complex to the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center—is the grading near the library, making it easier for wheelchairs.
“The grade has been brought up in front of library. It’s much more of a smooth experience from end to end with a concrete sidewalk instead of going over brick pavers,” Alfieri says. The grade along the Promenade has been made more level among the gathering areas and there are flush entrances to the Schine Student Center and Newhouse 3.
Another first for accessibility is the installation of a new elevator to serve Gifford Auditorium in Huntington Beard Crouse Hall (HBC). The prior elevator never served Gifford Auditorium so if someone was on the first or second floor of the building, they needed to go outside HBC, onto the breezeway and around the corner of the building to access the ADA entrance on the side of the building.
“The elevator reaches the auditorium level so it’s completely accessible,” Alfieri says. Accessible bathrooms have also been built in the basement and a single-occupant restroom is accessible on the first floor.
Other accessibility projects across campus include the following:
- Carnegie Library — Single-occupant accessible restroom
- Comstock Art — Single-occupant accessible restroom study underway
- DellPlain Hall — Eight accessible student restrooms (one on each floor), and two public single occupancy accessible restrooms
- Goldstein Student Center — Single-occupant accessible restroom to be constructed this fall
- Grant Auditorium — Teaching station replaced with accessible model, addition accessible seating location added, and elevator modernized
- Haven Hall — Eleven accessible student restrooms (one on each floor), and new entry doors with low-energy automatic operators
- Link Hall — Accessible entry to auditorium and accessible ramped entry, to be completed this fall
- Regent Theatre — Two accessible restrooms
- Schine Student Center — Door replacement/upgrades, including low-energy automatic door operators and new accessible entry on east side of building
- Women’s Building Dance Studio — Accessible ramp added
“Having improvements to access is not only essential but vital to everyone’s experience of a welcoming campus that expects and emphasizes the value and ethics of belonging,” says Diane R. Wiener, director of the Disability Cultural Center. “Students, faculty, staff, alumni and campus visitors with and without disabilities need to receive this message consistently and pragmatically, in myriad ways and through various modes of expression.”
A variety of technology upgrade projects were completed in classrooms, study spaces and teaching laboratories this summer. Combined, the Division of Information Technology Services (ITS) and Campus Planning, Design and Construction (CPDC) updated technology and academic spaces in more than a dozen buildings on campus, including Carnegie Library, the Center for Science and Technology, Crouse Hinds Hall, Eggers Hall, Hall of Languages, Heroy Geology Building, Link Hall, Lyman Hall, MacNaughton Hall, the Nancy Cantor Warehouse, the Physics Building, the Shaffer Art Building, Slocum Hall and White Hall.
“Providing a high-caliber environment that fosters learning, teaching and innovation is not only consistent with our Academic Strategic Plan, it’s also critical to attracting and retaining high-achieving students and world-class faculty scholars,” says Michele G. Wheatly, vice chancellor and provost. “The work being done this summer by ITS and CPDC will enhance the student experience, elevate classroom learning and teaching, and generate new opportunity for student and faculty researchers.”
The work includes audio and visual system upgrades; the installation of new smart teaching stations; complete technology overhauls; classroom and auditorium renovations; furniture replacements; classroom seating replacements; and the creation of new seminar rooms, meeting rooms and classrooms.
Samuel J. Scozzafava Jr., vice president for information technology and chief information officer, says ITS’s collaboration with CPDC allowed the University to execute an ambitious slate of improvements to provide accessible technologies and services that energize teaching and learning.
“Investments this summer include the design and construction of classrooms and new instructional spaces with cutting-edge equipment and capabilities for instruction and collaboration, and the development and deployment of multiple applications and services for academic success and operational excellence,” says Scozzafava.
Pete Sala, vice president and chief facilities officer, says the enhancements will have a direct impact on students, faculty and staff in teaching, learning and research. “To continue enhancing our academic offerings, it is critical that we constantly assess our spaces and evolve to meet the changing needs of our students and research faculty.”
In the long-term, a facility condition assessment is being done to inspect all of the University’s buildings and sites. The assessment, which began in April and will conclude in October, will include data on all 9 million square-feet of campus and help the CPDC strategize on the ongoing maintenance of buildings and facilities. It will also provide data on barriers to access to be able to prioritize the implementation of accessibility projects. The entire plan is expected to be completed over the winter.
“In the long-term, it will allow us to plan accessibility improvements in a more strategic manner,” Hodukavich says. “The majority of our campus was built prior to the ADA and when accessibility was mostly an afterthought, so this is very important. Our CPDC staff is an amazing group of professionals, and I am constantly impressed by their dedication to improving the campus experience for everyone.”