The University informed UGBC in the fall of 2022 that it would soon break ground on the multi-year plan to build a pavilion on Upper Campus and increase accessibility for students, according to Council for Students with Disabilities (CSD) Chair Sarah Farnan.
But by March of this year, Farnan announced in a Student Assembly (SA) meeting that the University told UGBC the Upper Campus pavilion project would be indefinitely delayed due to high costs.
“We met with [Shawna] Cooper Whitehead, Dan Bourque, and Dean [Corey] Kelly,” Farnan, MCAS ’23, said. “And that was when we really heard it for ourselves that it was too expensive. But we also were told that they couldn’t do any temporary projects because it would impede future projects.”
In an email to The Heights following that SA meeting, Kelly and Cooper Whitehead clarified that the project is still being considered.
“Given the high cost of construction, the University has to evaluate all of its projects and consider how to move forward,” the email read. “The Upper Pavilion proposal will continue to be evaluated in the upcoming year.”
Currently, all students with disabilities are placed on the first floor of Stayer Hall on Lower Campus, according to Jonah Kotzen, CSD policy coordinator, UGBC president-elect, and MCAS ’24. Kotzen said while this housing is accessible for students with disabilities, it can be very isolating.
“Stayer first floor is very accessible for individuals with physical disabilities as it stands,” Kotzen said. “But to be in a place surrounded by upperclassmen, and not around your friends, builds towards the social isolation that individuals with physical disabilities and just any disability in general already feel on campus.”
According to Farnan, the pavilion project proposal initially started as a straightforward pathway to increase accessibility for those with physical disabilities living on Upper Campus.
“It wasn’t the pavilion,” Farnan said. “All we were asking for was some sort of ramp. I know a lot of students kind of laugh and/or gripe about the fact that there is a ramp leading up to Upper that leads nowhere—just goes in a circular path.”
Once the University informed UGBC it would move forward with the proposal, it also told them that the initial project would become a part of a larger project called the Upper Campus accessibility pavilion, according to Farnan.
“It’s now going to be this big building with a student union and other offices and such,” Farnan said. “For us, I mean, we were ecstatic because we were like, ‘Oh, great—we’re getting what we asked for and then some.’ Like, obviously I think a lot of students on BC’s campus would love a student union.”
Farnan said the project would not have been as expensive had the University not added to UGBC’s initial proposal.
“They were telling us [the pavilion] was a 200,000-square-feet structure, which is about the size of the Plex if you look up the metrics of the recreation center, and that it would be over $100 million,” Farnan said. “Honestly, the project that we had asked for definitely would be a very small fraction of that.”
In terms of temporary solutions, Kotzen argued there needs to be wheelchair lifts or an elevator leading up to Upper Campus.
“A wheelchair lift or an elevator put on Upper Campus would cost over a million dollars, maybe a couple of million dollars, while the Upper Campus pavilion project is over $100 million dollars,” Kotzen said. “So we can see that it’s not about the money here—it’s about potentially impeding with their future plans.”
While BC’s administration has not completely stopped the project, Kotzen said he believes the accessibility of Upper Campus needs to be addressed immediately.
“I personally feel terrible for individuals having to be away from their friends, because it’s not right,” Kotzen said. “And the administration, while they say it’s shelved, but not stopped, I really think that they need to address the significance of not having Upper Campus accessible. Potentially, I would even like them to have a statement be put up.”
In lieu of the pavilion, Farnan said she hopes to bring more accessible transportation to Upper by expanding shuttles and Eagle Escort.
“One thing I suggested was actually adding another shuttle that runs from Lower Campus to Upper Campus to Newton, or vice versa,” Farnan said. “That just runs between the three campuses strictly between those three, and adding a bus stop really on Upper maybe behind Chevy or any or the CLXF dorms.”
Kelly and Cooper Whitehead also expressed interest in providing more transportation for those living on Upper while the University continues to evaluate the pavilion project proposal.
“In the meantime, we are committed to continuing our process of improving Eagle Escort and addressing other accessibility needs as they arise,” Kelly and Cooper Whitehead wrote to The Heights. “The Office of the Dean of Students and other stakeholders and students remain in conversation about improving Eagle Escort while the pavilion project continues to be appraised.”