At the Minnesota State University, Mankato Student Government meeting, the senate listened to Valerie Weber, a student with a disability who, last August was left in her dorm during a fire alarm.
Weber, a freshman living in Preska Residence Community, uses a wheelchair due to a rare bone disorder.
On August 30, 2021, a fire alarm caused the residents to evacuate the building, but due to campus protocols, Weber waited for campus security to come to her assistance. Even after calling security, that assistance never came.
Weber attended the Student Government meeting after being invited to speak during the open forum by Senator Abi Saha.
She, along with Nancy Fitzsimons, a professor of social work at MSU, spoke to the frustration faced not only from the incident, but the handling of it afterward.
Weber expressed to the senate the frustration she experienced with the scheduling of the meeting following the incident, with the meeting finally happening in November.
“There is a definite reason I describe this meeting as a dumpster fire,” said Weber, who went on to recount feeling disregarded during the meeting, as it took over 20 minutes in for those attending to address her directly.
Fitzsimons accompanied Weber to the meeting to act as an advocate, and was displeased with the handling of the situation.
“At one point I did say, if I was a parent and I heard how she was being treated in that meeting, I would have pulled my kid out,” said Fitzsimons.
Several senators including Senators Abi Saha, Joey Novak, and Riley Carlson voiced their support for addressing the problem.
As the meeting went on, the senators vowed to help how they could, and asked about a few ideas including better training of community advisors as well as giving people with disabilities ground floor housing to limit the need for elevator and stair use in the event of an emergency.