The nature of college life is generally inaccessible for differently-abled faculty, students, and staff. Ten-minute intervals between classes, self-serving stations at The Commons, and five-minute waits for freshman dorm Monroe’s 12th-floor elevator to take you down are some of the obstacles present on our campus. Navigating daily life successfully in higher education settings places an additional burden on some members of our community. While such inconveniences on Tulane’s Uptown campus are ones that are found in many environments, some are undoubtedly questionable, and some measures taken to promote inclusivity seem performative. A primary example of Tulane’s inaccessibility is the Norman Mayer Building, one of the first that future Tulanians see, located right next to the prospective-student tour tent on A-quad.
Photo of the Norman Mayer Building, taken by Anna Cay Vernon
The Norman Mayer Building was built in 1942. The architects who designed the building excluded elevators in the blueprint, and there are two floors of offices and classrooms that students need to access within the building. Tulane, however, is here to remind you: they’ve considerately added a ramp to promote accessibility–on an exterior entrance leading to the first floor of an elevator-less building.
Installation of elevators is feasible in already existing structures. Tulane could fix the issue. To meet building accessibility requirements, the Norman Mayer Building doesn’t technically have to do much; it’s status as a historical building exempts the structure from renovations like adding elevators. Rather, Tulane has taken superficial steps to appear friendly towards differently-abled students, staff, and visitors. Adding a ramp to the exterior of the building does not solve this issue.
Norman Mayer is not the only inaccessible building on campus. The Goldman Center for Student Accessibility has drawn a map, updated as of 2019, revealing multiple academic buildings that have only ground-floor access for differently-abled individuals. There are also numerous buildings that are completely non-accessible. Here’s the section of the map depicting A-quad.
Photo of the Goldman Center for Student Accessibility Uptown Campus Accessibility Map, taken from the Center’s website
Three academic buildings, shown in light blue, are only first-floor accessible. Two buildings are completely inaccessible. Differently-abled students, faculty, and staff are unable to enter the buildings at all on their own. Must students choose courses by considering whether they can access designated classrooms? The map reveals many other buildings, including Josephine-Louis Residence Hall (J-Lo) and Dixon Hall that are either completely or partially inaccessible. I urge you to look through the remaining sections of the Accessibility Map and see for yourself where the issues lie. It’s imperative that we continue discussing this issue in hopes that substantive steps will be taken by the Tulane administration.
The school must acknowledge the work it needs to do and jump into the solution-finding process. President Fitts sent an email on November 12, 2021, celebrating a fundraising milestone; in recent years, Tulane has raised over one billion in funding due to donor gifts. Surely a chunk of a billion could be set aside as a starting point to begin fixing a serious campus-wide issue. A performative ramp leading into an elevator-less building isn’t the ideal first pitch selling an inclusive image of Tulane to prospective students. College is a time of individuality, and Tulane’s failure to address the issue continually prevents many students from experiencing this freedom.
Cover photo: Forbes