When it comes to increasing accessibility across campus, Gund Commons is rising to the occasion.
Since last spring, the College has been working to install an elevator in Gund Commons that will provide 24-hour access to both levels of the building for those who cannot use the stairs. The elevator is scheduled for completion next week, according to Steve Millam, the construction project manager for the College. The project has been in the works since spring 2015,was originally slated to be finished in late September.
“I’m glad it’s being installed,” Abby Kastenberg ’19 said. “This school needs to be more accessible.”
Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said the money for the elevator came out of Kenyon’s $4 million repair and replacement budget, which funds unexpected improvements to the campus. The project was suggested by Erin Salva, the director of Student Accessibility and Support Services (SASS), and has been in the works since spring 2015. Kohlman would not provide an exact number for the cost of the project.
This project has been a high priority for SASS for years, according to Salva. Her office submits barrier removal projects for review by the College. Barrier removal projects aim to provide equal physical access to the campus to students with disabilities.
Much of the process was spent finding a location for the elevator. Some possible locations either ran into immovable mechanical systems or would be inconvenient, according to Millam. The construction team also ran into electrical conduits that had not shown up on any plans while early in the process of digging the elevator pit. Because the construction workers needed to identify and reroute these conduits, three weeks were added to the project.
“That’s really a function of that being an older building that we didn’t have good archive drawings on,” Millam said. “None of the drawings that we were looking at really showed the conduits in the slab so we really didn’t have them until the construction company was here and cutting the slabs.”
The installation of an elevator in Gund Commons raises other, larger accessibility issues. Kenyon aims to install an elevator in Ascension Hall as part of the Master Plan, a project that Kohlman says will exceed the entire repair and replacement budget. This project is much more complicated than that of the Gund Commons elevator because it will require major renovations to the building.
Kenyon has no separate budget for accessibility concerns.