Ridgeline Petition

By Guest Contributor

Below is a letter drafted by Lauren Kelly ’13, Dan Egol ’13, and Barbara Ofosu-Somuah ‘13. It aims to communicate interest and concern regarding accessibility in the four new residential buildings currently under construction at Ridgeline. It is currently a Google document that is being signed in support by members of the college community – alumni, parents, current students, etc. Please take a moment to read this letter. If you would like add your voice to the conversation, add your name to the bottom of the Google document. Lastly, please pass the link on to others to sign. Feel free to reach out to Barbara Ofosu-Somuah with any questions or comments – bofosusomuah@gmail.com.
The Google doc petition is available here.

Dear Middlebury College Leadership and Board of Trustees,
We, Middlebury alumni, current students and friends are committed to the College’s success and integrity. We want to share our concerns about a pressing issue at our beloved alma mater: the four new residential buildings currently under construction. As two recent Campus newspaper articles make clear, our college community now faces a critical moment: we can choose to demonstrate in word and in deed our values of diversity and inclusion.

It is exciting to witness Middlebury’s new leadership and an expanded vision of inclusion and diversity efforts. We hope to see these values applied to the new living spaces, enabling all of our members to access them. While we appreciate the College’s efforts to expand residential options, it is important to consider how the design of these new spaces implicitly and explicitly reflects the college’s values. As of right now, only 25 percent of the townhouse units (four of sixteen units) and three of the 16 suites in the residence hall will be wheelchair accessible, for example. In its current iteration, the design plan for the townhouses does not include elevators. This means only the first floor in each building will be wheelchair accessible and students with mobility impairments will not have full access to the whole building. We realize that the current designs, which are already on the way and were agreed to last year, satisfy building code requirements. However, providing only the minimum number of accessible spaces required by law is simply not adequate for our college community. We have earned an impressive reputation for innovation, global engagement and sustained interactive learning. Our new buildings should model innovative, inclusive designs that enable all our members to be in them.

Why should this issue matter to the broad Middlebury community? Inaccessible residential spaces will not only affect students, but also all of the individuals within students’ social networks. This includes relatives and classmates (of all age groups) who might visit throughout students’ careers at Middlebury. Among those signing this letter are people — disabled and nondisabled — for whom this has immediate impact. Maintaining spaces that are not fully accessible have both financial and human costs. Exclusion from social activities and the high price of retrofitting buildings are just two of the many examples of these costs. It is our deepest hope that the College will not continue to overlook such an important aspect of creating inclusive living spaces for all members of the community.
Middlebury College proudly claims its history of leadership. We ask our current administrators and Trustees to model inclusive, innovative leadership on this issue. And we call on the broad community to support our college leaders in this effort. Creating spaces that are fully accessible demonstrably signals the College’s core dedication to innovation, diversity and inclusion.

Admittedly, this situation holds many complications. With respect and hope, we ask the administration and the Board of Trustees to modify the blueprints for these buildings. Please consider taking the needed time to fully and transparently pause and reassess with us what it means to create spaces that are habitable and accessible by all people in our community. We believe this is a discussion worth having now.

The College is moving into a new era, with a new president at the helm. We have an opportunity right now to create buildings that can represent who we say we are and who we hope we continue to be — a community that is innovative, compassionate, diverse and inclusive. We hope that the current challenges can be resolved in the present moment, establishing a clear expression that our actions mirror our intentions. Ultimately, we see many choices before us in this matter, and these choices are important. Buildings are meant to last, and so the decisions about accessibility — and inaccessibility — will last as well.

Sincerely,
Dan Egol ’13, Lauren Kelley ’13 and Barbara Ofosu-Somuah ’13
Undersigned by 467 Middlebury alumni, current students and friends​

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