By Samantha Phillips
Youngstown State University administrators are in the process of deciding where Disability Services will be permanently housed after years of relocation.
Disability Services moved to its current location, 36 West Wood St., last March from Fifth Avenue. Justin Barker, a student who uses the service, said they had short notice of the move.
Barker, who suffers from PTSD, said the mid-semester move was especially stressful for other students because they have issues such as anxiety. He said Wood Street is farther in proximity to central campus and has limited parking.
Administrators said the Wood Street location is the same distance from campus as the Fifth Avenue building.
John Hyden, YSU facility director, said the Wood Street location was chosen because it was vacant after Procurement Services moved to Jones Hall. Disability Services needed to be moved quickly because Parking Services was moving into the Fifth Avenue building.
“We see the next move more as a permanent fit,” Hyden said. “We don’t want to keep moving them around. Change is difficult.”
Barker said there are problems such as leaky water pipes, a broken heater and holes in the ceiling at the current building. The testing rooms that some students use are also an issue — they aren’t quiet due to the facility’s thin walls. He wrote a letter to senior administration about his frustration with the new location.
“I’m not just voicing my concerns, but the concerns of students who might be too afraid to speak up,” he said. “I’m not afraid of admitting I have a learning disability and others shouldn’t either. I feel we should be treated equally.”
Becky Varian, director of the Center for Student Progress, said the number of students who use the service has decreased, probably due to the location changing a few times.
Hyden said there are three top runners that are being considered to house Disability Services. Within a year, he said, they should have a final decision, with the budget and adequate space in mind.
Kilcawley is one location that the service may relocate to. Barker said this option would be best for physically and mentally handicapped students.
The Kilcawley bookstore space will be vacant once Barnes and Noble is built on Fifth Avenue. Barker said having the service there would be ideal because there’s enough room for the offices and testing rooms to be separate.
In addition, Barker said The Center of Student Progress is on the first floor of Kilcawley and students from Disability Services could access it easily from an elevator.
Varian said it’s important for students who use the service to have ample parking and a shuttle could transport them from M-2 to Kilcawley.
She said it would also be beneficial because some students go to CSP for testing, so staff from CSP and Disability Services could support each other.
Hyden said initially he and the other administrators considered Kilcawley but thought students wouldn’t want to be in a mainstream spot on campus in fear of being stigmatized, but Barker assured him that students wanted something central.
“We deserve to have our own spot on campus and be a part of campus,” Barker said.
The Student Government Association conducted a survey where they asked students which building would be favored. A total of 115 students responded with 53 of them saying that they favored Kilcawley Center.
Hyden said having students like Barker speak up about what they need is valuable to administrators because it opens up productive conversations.
“There was a disconnect between what we as a university wanted to do and what the students who utilize disability services needed,” Hyden said.
The Kilcawley Center Space Utilization and Reallocation Committee is working to decide how to best use the space.
In a survey sent out by committee member Eddie Howard, the associate vice president of Student Experience, students were asked if they would like to see study rooms, recreation areas, food locations or meeting rooms in the bookstore space.
“Why are we trying to fit another lounge when we have them all over campus?” Barker said.
Other locations, such as Jones Hall, are also being considered.
“The problem with Jones is there is limited parking and not a lot of handicapped parking,” Hyden said. “It’s also a bit of a walk from the Wick parking deck.”
Barker said he wouldn’t mind having the services in Jones Hall as an alternative to Kilcawley, but there is only one elevator so they would have to be on the first floor.
Another option is in Meshel Hall.
“It provides a quiet space and technology that they need,” Hyden said. “Tests were sort of proctored down there, sharing the facility, but it’s quiet and provides access to parking.”
After Disability Services moves, Hyden said the Wood Street building will be taken down. He asked that students stay “patient and engaged” during the next move.
Barker said the building isn’t adequate to house the service and is disappointed that repairs to the building weren’t made prior to the service moving in.
Hyden said any students who would like to talk about relocation options can talk to the Disability Services staff or himself.