At a Jan. 30 meeting of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, Senator Phil Antinone DIV ’22 challenged GPSS’s claim that their meeting was “open.”
Antinone called attention to his friend who uses a wheelchair and could not climb the staircase leading up to the Senate chamber. He pointed out that the room, located on the third floor of 204 York Street, is not accessible to all students. During the meeting, Antinone proposed that the Senate meetings move to a new location by March 26 — culminating in a resolution the Senate passed unanimously.
“I want to bring community to this school like everyone else does. I want cross-collaboration, and I want us to have a place where we are all welcome,” Antinone said in his speech.
As it stands, many Yale buildings do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act that was first passed in 1990, according to Antinone. But based on the act, this exception is permissible because the historic buildings existed before the regulation did. Still, Antinone said, if any renovations are made, the ADA regulations apply, and the entire building must be made compliant.
President of the GPSS Hao Xing GRD ’22 said that the Executive Board of the GPSS is currently negotiating with the Gryphon to meet temporarily in the pub’s ballroom, which typically holds dances on the Thursdays of GPSS meetings. For a more permanent solution, Xing said the board was looking into building a smaller wheelchair lift to the third floor, among other options. The building had a larger lift installed for the first two floors in 2010, but the lift was not able to reach the Senate chamber.
Antinone argued the Senate should relocate soon because the Schwarzman Center and Hall of Graduate Studies — both of which will have more accessible spaces available — are set to open in the coming year.
“If we miss this opportunity, I’m not sure when we would have a similar chance to make the move,” he said.
Ben Bond DIV ’22, co-founder and co-chair of Divine Abilities, a student disability organization in the Divinity School, stated that renovations to dated buildings often require large financial investments.
Ideally, Bond argued, the GPSS chambers should permanently relocate to a space like the Schwarzman Center.
In any case, Antinone said he is confident the GPSS will find a solution.
“If we’ve been told no, then fine, let’s go meet in a park, let’s go meet downstairs in the ballroom. We can meet in someone’s lecture hall in any of our schools,” Antinone said. “You have to be the one to be the change, to start it.”
Antinone said while he initially focused on the GPSS chamber, he wants it to be the start of a larger conversation regarding the accessibility of buildings at Yale.
Former president of the Association of Yale Alumni in Medicine and current member of the Board of Governors for the Yale Alumni Association Richard Kayne MED ’76 echoed Antinone’s positivity.
“I look forward to working toward this goal and collaborating and learning about barriers for institutions to prioritize accessibility. We should all advocate for our community members confronted by disabling circumstances,” added Kayne, who said he “was temporarily affected by disability” after he broke his leg last year.
Bond agreed about the importance of widespread advocacy because “everyone is temporarily able-bodied.”
The GPSS holds meetings on alternating Thursdays.
Giovanna Truong | firstname.lastname@example.org