Students and faculty push for improvements to the Academic Resource Center

February 4, 2015

The Academic Resource Center has begun to explore the possibility of expanding its office to a larger space in the coming months. Currently located in Leavey 335 with some testing rooms on the fifth floor of Leavey, the ARC has been the subject of student complaints regarding cramped conditions, low staffing, and issues of accessibility.

A committee of students and staff to be formed later this month will consider options to advance the nascent initiative, according to ARC director Jane Holahan. “We’re still gathering the people, and there will be students,” she says.

After moving to its current location from the counseling center in 2004, the ARC has expanded its services to the point of straining productivity at the current location, which employs five staff members.

“We’re a growing office, so we don’t have enough space for our current staff members,” said Holahan. In her view, relocating the ARC again could smooth operations and help the students who use the center.

GUSA Senate Speaker Tyler Bridge (COL ‘17) said that several students have complained about the current ARC facilities. According to Bridge, often students say that the room is cramped, windowless, and stuffy.

The ARC provides academic support for students with physical and psychological disabilities as well as study skills workshops for all students. The workshops are currently held in Regents Hall. Students who require extra time for exams must take their exams in the ARC.

One student reported to Bridge that the testing room is claustrophobic and full of distractions, including noisy typing by students who must submit responses on their computers. Bridge believes taking exams in a more comfortable room, or even in a regular classroom, would do much to improve student performance and well-being.

GUSA Undersecretary for Disability Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ‘15) also pointed to the ARC’s expansion as grounds for the move. Furthermore, Brown believes adding additional staff would do much to help the ARC since it is so frequently used by students. “We have the same number of staff as schools with half of our student population do,” she said.

According to GUSA President Trevor Tezel (SFS ‘15), preliminary plans for the move suggest switching the ARC and the Center of Multicultural Equity and Access, so that the ARC would be in the Center of Multicultural Equity and Access’ current space on the fifth floor, and the CMEA would be on the third floor, adjacent to the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Women’s center. Tezel believes placing the CMEA next to the LGBTQ Center and the Women’s Center could facilitate intersectional programming. “There are a lot of positive opportunities that could come with an office space,” Tezel wrote in an email to the Voice.

According to Brown, expanding the ARC would additionally benefit many of the physically disabled students who use it. “Once you go in the door for ARC, that hallway is not wheelchair accessible,” she said. She recounted the case of a former student worker several years ago who had trouble moving down the ARC’s narrow hallway and accessing the front desk via wheelchair.

As the ARC begins to solicit student engagement in the coming weeks, more concrete plans for the move will be made. Raising awareness is the first step, according to Bridge. “The seconds step is gathering a group of students and a group of administrators, sitting down and having the first conversation about some of the problems we’ve seen and some of the solutions we could offer,” he said.

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