EDITORIALS

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November 3, 2009

Access denied

Expensive quadrangle renovations fail to ensure a smooth ride for the handicapped, campus vehicles.

The University’s efforts to beautify the campus in recent years have made Hyde Park a more attractive place to live. Projects such as the landscaping work on the Midway improve the quality of life for students, faculty, staff, and neighborhood residents. But cosmetic alterations should never disregard practical considerations. Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened with this year’s Main Quad Paver Replacement Project, which was revealed last week to have cost between $1 and $2 million and to have failed to provide full accessibility to those with disabilities.

The University installed pavers—the interlocking stones that comprise the sidewalk—and repaved the asphalt driveway with limestone tiles, turning the quad into a pedestrian-only zone. The limestone was chosen in part for its resemblance to the campuses of Oxford and Cambridge. Aesthetics aside, the new design has posed a problem in terms of access for the disabled. When the project was discussed in June, University architect Steve Wiesenthal touted it as part of an effort to improve access. But the pavement still fails to meet the accessibility guidelines laid down by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it’s not clear that such a massive expenditure was necessary to meet the standard. In addition, the cobblestones create a much rougher surface than asphalt, making them less amenable to wheelchairs.

A further problem brought up earlier this year was that administrators apparently did not take into account the need for vehicular deliveries to buildings in the main quad. Student Government Vice President for Student Affairs Chris Williams, who talked to administrators, said this was because the project was not vetted as thoroughly as other construction projects. Although the University has since developed a provisional plan for vehicle access that will be finalized next quarter, vehicular access should have been a higher priority for planners.

Especially at a time when many branches of the University are running on a reduced budget, administrators should have been more careful to make sure cosmetic alterations to the campus did not hinder practical needs. As it stands, the price for a campus that looks more like Oxford seems too high.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and two additional Editorial Board members.