It is clear that there was not enough foresight put into the MavPODs decision. When it comes to accessibility, it is simple, the University missed the mark.
As it stands, the complaint written and sent in by Dr. Nancy Fitzsimons will undergo investigation from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. This complaint states that the MavPODs are discriminatory against people with mobility disabilities.
We are left with two options as to what happened. Either the University knew that they were not accessible to those with mobile disabilities and went ahead with them, or they simply overlooked the issue entirely.
Assuming that it was simply an oversight, there should have been so many more safeguards to avoid this from happening.
A fundamental error that could have avoided the University this entire hassle- the lack of student consultation.
MavPODs were paid for with federal relief money, and cost roughly $1 million. This amount of money, if it is dedicated to a new service designed for students, should involve students at the table for making these decisions.
Neither the current Student Government, nor leaders of the Student Government last year were consulted until the pods were already being installed on campus in August.
Students deserve to have their voice heard when it comes to large decisions like this. In this specific case, should there have been more student voices at the table, such a large oversight like accessibility would have not been missed.
Student consultation would have brought up vital questions like the necessity of the MavPODs. We have several quiet places on campus for students to study, and these spaces could have been fine tuned to meet the needs of a campus during a pandemic.
This is not to say that MavPODs were the complete wrong decision. Students obviously use them and they can be very helpful for students in need of a quick and quiet place to hop into a Zoom.
The problem lies in that such a big change and allocation of money that is designed and dedicated toward improving the education of students, without properly and adequately consulting the biggest stakeholders.
This lack of communication and consultation is directly correlated to the massive oversight in accessibility. If the University was more transparent on their plans for MavPODs, there would have been a significant decrease in mistakes like this one.
It does not matter what the circumstance, the University cannot forget the fact that the goal of the campus is to serve the students.
The best way for the University to accurately support students without mistake is through transparency and consultation.