After just two and a half months at Kenyon, first-year Student Council representative George Costanzo ’19 noticed a theme in conversations with fellow first years: accessibility, or the lack thereof, on campus. This inspired Costanzo to create what he called a “political action committee hooded under First-Year Council” whose mission is to improve accessibility on campus.
The committee, which currently has eight active members, wrote a mission statement on Sunday. They hope to raise awareness about the disability community, locate physically inaccessible areas on campus, raise money for accessibility projects and give a voice to disabled students. Five to eight people have attended their meetings, though 25 people have shown interest in joining the committee and are on the group’s email distribution list, according to Costanzo.
“Right now, the first thing we want to do is raise awareness about disabilities at Kenyon,” Lynne Cullen ’19, a committee member, said. “A lot of people don’t know the correct terms to use — as in, saying ‘disabled’ and not ‘handicapped.’”
Right now, the committee consists mainly of first years.
“A lot of us showed a huge interest in accessibility issues at Kenyon and, since we’re first years, we figured we can really make an impact for the next four years,” Cullen said. “We’re hoping that we will be able to have more than just first years in this committee.”
The committee is planning a campus walkthrough to identify places on campus that are physically inaccessible. With this information, the committee will be able to assess how much money it needs to create a budget and fund construction projects.
Members of the committee also plan to lead educational seminars about how to create a culture of accessibility on campus.
Costanzo acknowledged the magnitude of the mission, but said this does not justify inaction.
“It is not in my nature, nor should it be in the nature of any other student at this school, to put the rights of a population of people on the back-burner just because it’s a big job,” Costanzo said. “By leaving our buildings inaccessible, we exclude too many students that deserve to have the same education that able-bodied Kenyonites can get, and that just doesn’t feel right to me.”
The committee plans to recruit upperclassmen by publicizing meetings through all-student emails and word of mouth, Costanzo said. Its meetings are at 4 p.m. on Sundays in Timberlake House, and are open to the public.