Spring semester welcomed students back to campus with construction barriers closing off frequently trafficked areas of campus. During this heavy construction period, students are burdened by increased car and foot traffic with few alternatives.
The student body at UTD is rapidly growing; with over 30,000 students now enrolled on campus, crowds and parking problems are part of daily life. Despite new construction to accommodate growth, however, UTD fails to accommodate its current students by not taking measures like limiting issuance of parking citations, installing temporary ramps or opening closed exits. When the facilities provided by UTD are already overburdened, shutting down large swathes of campus with no alternatives ruins current students’ college experience, even if the end goal is creating more student spaces.
Because of the ongoing construction of the new Student Union and the new Esports Lounge, central areas of campus are closed off, including parking lot G, the Green Center and part of the ramp walkway next to SU.
Closing off all the southern entrances to the SU food court makes navigating around campus more arduous, especially when you could previously cut through the SU for both speed and protection from weather. I understand that there are some safety construction codes that do not allow people to be near a construction area at a certain distance, but why are all the entrances on the south side closed at once? It does not make sense for those doors to be closed off if the construction is happening at The Pub.
Walking to class, anyone can see skateboarders, cyclists, and students with scooters and hoverboards going to their respective classes or simply cruising around the school. These students on wheels make up a significant part of the student body, and them being closer to pedestrians potentially creates safety hazards whenever they zoom by, especially since the walkway that is closed off is a ramp, which means people on wheels travel even faster.
And what about the students who use a wheelchair or those who cannot take the stairs? Many areas that are closed off include ramps, such as the one in the SU outside of Starbucks, and these closures increase the distance that those with mobility issues must travel. Closed-off areas limit the ways those with accessibility needs can access the SU, the heart of campus.
A solution to the heavy congestion of people in and around the SU could be keeping the southern exit of the SU food court available. If that part of the building isn’t under renovation, and it is permissible under construction codes, it should be reopened for students to use.
For students with accessibility needs or wheeled modes of transport, every closed ramp should be replaced with an alternate ramped route of a similar length to ensure their well-being. It is important to ensure all students can move around campus easily and comfortably without wasting time on detours.
Please join me in reaching out to voice our opinions to Facilities Management and the Student Government to ensure we are heard and have a say in matters that affect us during this multiyear construction period. The future of UTD is important to focus on and sacrifice for, but the present-day cannot be forgotten.