Student speaks out on OALA relocation via survey, social media

The planned relocation of OALA is not sitting well with all Baylor students. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Josh Siatkowski | Staff Writer

Amid the relocation of Baylor’s Office of Access and Learning Accommodation, one student has used her voice to protest.

Katy senior Brenna Colihan made an Instagram post on April 24 that included a four-page essay on her frustration at the relocation. She also posted the results of an anonymous survey of over 100 people in the Baylor community, which showed negative sentiments toward the decision among the respondents.

OALA — which provides accommodations for students with physical and learning disabilities — will be relocated from the first floor of the Sid Richardson Building to the basement. The relocation will take place over the summer and be completed before the fall semester.

OALA’s current office space will be occupied by the Center for Global Engagement, which is currently in Hankamer-Cashion. The reason for the move is to help consolidate student services offices into one area.

Colihan, who is the president of Baylor’s chapter of disability honor society Delta Alpha Pi, said the relocation of OALA is not a wise one. Wanting to see if her classmates and community felt the same, Colihan said she started collecting data during accessibility week in March.

“I was obviously upset about [the relocation], but I’m not representative of the entire campus,” Colihan said. “So I was curious, are other people really upset about this? And on the whole, the majority of respondents don’t want the move.”

According to Colihan, 112 people have responded as of April 30, and 95.5% of respondents reported that they felt the decision to relocate OALA was either a “somewhat negative” or “completely negative” move. The most common reason for this feeling was that it seemed Baylor was trying to hide its students who have disabilities, Colihan said. The inconvenience of relying on one elevator was also a concern, given that OALA serves all students on campus with physical disabilities.

Among these 112 respondents are not just people affected by the move. According to Colihan, 44.6% do not consider themselves disabled in any way, and 48% do not use OALA’s services in any way.

Although Colihan said she tried to make the survey “as neutral as possible” to generate the most reliable data, it’s unlikely that Baylor will reverse its decision even with this information.

Assistant vice president of media and public relations Lori Fogleman said via email that “the University does not respond to petitions, but we always appreciate when students share their concerns about issues that are important to them.”

Colihan said Baylor had reached out to her to discuss the situation. She said even if her actions don’t lead to the result she is after, sharing the opinions of the community could still have an impact.

“I still think it’s important for [Baylor] to see [the results]. The majority of people who have answered are … not happy with it,” Colihan said. “Even if it doesn’t reap the benefits, it shows that we’re not just willing to sit here and be complicit with whatever is being done.”

Humble sophomore Macy Gehlert was among those who completed the survey. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she said her responses in the survey were mostly negative.

“I just think that moving OALA to the basement, where you’d have to use an elevator to get there, is counterintuitive,” Gehlert said. “There could be instances where it would be hard for a person like me to get down there.”

However, Gehlert said she was glad to have a place to voice her opinion.

“[People with disabilities] often don’t have a lot of a voice on things like this, even though they directly affect us,” Gehlert said. “I just think it’s important to show the university that we want to be heard … and be included in decision-making.”

Colihan said she encourages anyone at Baylor to complete the survey and share their thoughts. All questions are optional, and the survey is anonymous.