Most students who attend SJU are familiar with the term “Hawk Hill,” but this term affects some in a different way than others. The accessibility throughout SJU’s campus is something that many people have only recently become aware of because of the construction on campus. Students on campus have seen the construction over the past two years on the McShain Bridge the Sweeney Pathway, and even the addition of Villiger Hall to campus in the last several years.
Before these accommodations were made, most students were unaware of how difficult it is to navigate campus with only using ramps rather than steps. Katie Rosta, an SJU student, decided to conduct an experiment to see how long it would take someone to walk to Barbelin Hall from Hagan Arena. She had one group use steps and cut corners, as most students do when they’re rushing to class. The other group was told to only take ramps and other accessible pathways. It took the first group 2 minutes and 31 seconds, and the second group 4 minutes and 45 seconds. The second group needed almost double the amount of time that the first group needed, and they could not even enter Barbelin Courtyard because steps are at every entrance. In fact, there is no accessible way to get around Barbelin Hall in general because there are only steps between floors; there are no ramps or elevators.
Because Saint Joe’s recognizes that there are some students who may need transportation to get to or from campus, they provide transportation using a shuttle bus. However, this campus transportation that some would call “SJUber” is very unreliable. The shuttle stops every 5 minutes and doesn’t always stay at the stop for the allotted time, nor does it leave the Mandeville Stop on time. An alternative to taking the shuttle, the on-call vans are also used by students in off-campus housing and students with injuries or disabilities. Upperclassmen who live on the Overbrook side of campus have had numerous incidents when Public Safety simple won’t pick up students going to class or across campus. A student who can’t take that steep 15 minute walk up the hill to the main campus due to accessibility issues would be left stranded.
In the past, Saint Joe’s has not been the most inclusive in terms of accessibility throughout campus, but people are noticing the strides that are being made in order to address all students’ needs. There are still many ways in which the school can improve, but if we all make people’s needs known, they will be addressed in a more timely fashion. Due to the multiple unsuccessful attempts at learning more about the school’s accessibility, we’ve learned that it is up to the students to advocate for themselves in order to get what they need. As a Jesuit institution, Saint Joseph’s University stands by the quote, “Men and women with and for others,” therefore, we need to support and advocate for one another.