Potential UI Student Disability Services office relocation discussed at town hall

University officials and a campus organization held a discussion on Thursday about relocating Student Disability Services, which advocates say is inaccessible in its current Burge Hall location.

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Potential UI Student Disability Services office relocation discussed at town hall

Assistant to Vice President for Student Life Bret Gothe listens to and writes down student requests for the new office at the Student Disability Services Office Relocation Town Hall meeting in the IMU on Thursday, December 5, 2019. The town hall meeting laid out the plan for the office relocation and invited students to discuss the new accessibility features that the new office should have.

Assistant to Vice President for Student Life Bret Gothe listens to and writes down student requests for the new office at the Student Disability Services Office Relocation Town Hall meeting in the IMU on Thursday, December 5, 2019. The town hall meeting laid out the plan for the office relocation and invited students to discuss the new accessibility features that the new office should have.

Hayden Froehlich

Assistant to Vice President for Student Life Bret Gothe listens to and writes down student requests for the new office at the Student Disability Services Office Relocation Town Hall meeting in the IMU on Thursday, December 5, 2019. The town hall meeting laid out the plan for the office relocation and invited students to discuss the new accessibility features that the new office should have.

Hayden Froehlich

Hayden Froehlich

Assistant to Vice President for Student Life Bret Gothe listens to and writes down student requests for the new office at the Student Disability Services Office Relocation Town Hall meeting in the IMU on Thursday, December 5, 2019. The town hall meeting laid out the plan for the office relocation and invited students to discuss the new accessibility features that the new office should have.

Jacob Shafer, News Reporter

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The Division of Student Life and University of Iowa Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness held a town hall Thursday night to discuss concerns surrounding the location of the UI Student Disability Services and consider a potential new location.

For nearly 30 years, Student Disability Services has been housed in the basement of Burge Hall. Student Disability Services and other UI organizers discussed concerns surrounding a petition UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness launched in October 2018 with the hope of moving Student Disability Services’ location by 2020.

UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness President Kaydee Ecker, one of the creators of last year’s petition, spoke about the campaign to relocate Student Disability Services, saying the petition focused on having the office become more accessible and welcoming to those with disabilities.

RELATED: Petition to change location of student disability services gets 2,800 signatures 

“To see the discussion start as a petition and become this gives me lots of pride and excitement for seeing this all happen,” Ecker said. “I’m glad that student voices are being met with action.”

Bret Gothe, assistant to the vice president for Student Life, showed the attendees of the town hall an option for a short-term space in the Old Capitol Town Center, saying the space had certain criteria held to it such as availability, a first-floor location, an easily modifiable space, and nearby bus routes and parking.

Hayden Froehlich
Assistant to Vice President for Student Life Bret Gothe writes down requests for the new office at the Student Disability Services Office Relocation Town Hall meeting in the IMU on Thursday, December 5, 2019. The town hall meeting laid out the plan for the office relocation and invited students to discuss the new accessibility features that the new office should have.

“That decision to look for a short-term space before a long-term one was driven by students to fill the needs laid out in the petition first,” Gothe said. “We look at short term as the next three to five years, then long term after that.”

In an October interview with the DI, Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers said students want to make sure the office relocation is the right move and that the UI doesn’t settle.

“So, if you rush something, are we going to be rushing it and not be exactly what we need or want, or is there benefit to actually waiting a little bit longer…” she said. “You want to make sure it moves into a location that is accessible, but also one that can help to meet the needs of the community.”

UI Students for Disability Advocacy & Awareness President-elect Karina Foster-Middleton said if the UI decides to see this location through, ideally the organization would be able to move next fall or in the spring 2020 semester. She said the conversation would need to continue moving forward.

“This is, at its heart, a student service,” Foster-Middleton said. “And if it’s not meeting students’ needs, then it’s not enough.”

Executive Director of Belonging and Inclusion Maria Bruno said the location in the mall is not decided on, but this is a chance for people on the committee to hear what people want the most from a new office.

“We are really trying to for all of you to have input on the decision,” Bruno said. “We are going to continue to get more data and review it with the committee to help in the decision making process.”

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