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Student Senate advocates for accessibility, discusses diversity initiative

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Disability and accessibility awareness was the defining conversation of the Student Senate meeting Wednesday night as faculty presented initiative ideas to the Senate body.

The topic was led by Dianne Bouvier, director of the Office of Equity and Accessibility and ADA/504 coordinator, and Kendall Brown-Clovis, HR liaison for the College of Arts and Sciences, who presented the office’s Disability Strategic Plan.

The discussion focused on the current change in building plans and accessibility with universal design, which allows everyone to be able to use buildings on campus.

“We’re building a space that is usable by many people, and it helps everyone,” Bouvier said. “The person who uses a wheelchair doesn’t really have a barrier; it’s us who decided to build this building without a ramp and caused this problem. It’s a paradigm shift from the person who has a disability to the institution who are making decisions on how they fund things.”

The meeting proceeded with a discussion about what should be included in President Roderick McDavis’ CATS initiative. Ideas for the new initiative ranged from required diversity training for student organizations to a visualization campaign on committing to speaking out against hate. A previous initiative to create a task force for cultural competency was mentioned, but the idea of creating content for the CATS initiative was paramount.

“If we have a symbol that can be put on stickers or a button that we can tell student organizations what it means, and create a pledge with it,” Senate President Hannah Clouser said, “They (students) are taking this pledge and when they put it on, they’re going to say ‘I am not going to stand for any kind of intolerance on this campus or anywhere else.’ Then people will see the symbol around campus and start to question, ‘What is this thing? Why are people wearing it?’”

Other ideas included wearing shades of grey to show there are many sides to an issue, creating a cross-cultural perspective class that will change degree requirements, and incorporating diversity training into learning communities. All the ideas centered around creating conversation on campus.

Two senators were appointed, Connor Attrell as the senator for Scripps College of Communication and Anthony Barszczewski as a senator at-large to the University Life Commission. A committee on Campus Accessibility was also created to advocate for students with disabilities and make campus more inclusive.

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