An art student left a banner and statement in the Mosse Humanities Building stairwell last week to call attention to issues of elevator accessibility in the building and the value of art students at the University of Wisconsin.
The UW Art Department removed the banner, which read “Mosse Stair Challenge” and “Only four flights to go,” along with an anonymous written statement that raised concerns about the lack of elevator accessibility for art students in the humanities building.
Only one elevator in the Mosse Humanities Building has been working since March 13, UW’s Facilities Planning and Management spokesperson Steven Wagner said in an email statement to The Badger Herald. This elevator does not provide access to the Art Department, which is located on the sixth and seventh floors of the building.
The Art Department sent out an email to students after removing the banner and statement, citing the student handbook’s rules against placing art in the stairwell without permission.
“For over a month and a half, we as students have been forced to carry ourselves up seven flights of stairs, with what appears to be not even an attempt from the university to fix the broken elevator,” the anonymous statement read. “Students paying this amount of money to be at this school deserve more than a crumbling building … and it speaks volumes about how we are valued as students.”
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Wagner said the university plans to repair the elevator over the summer because elevators are subject to contractor scheduling as well as the availability of parts and labor. The university conducts regular inspections of campus elevators, but Wagner said the campus’ aging infrastructure and limited funding makes maintenance a challenge. Wagner said the elevator issues impact everyone in the Mosse Humanities Building, not just the art students.
In an email statement to The Badger Herald, Director of the McBurney Disability Resource Center Mari Magler said the center reached out to students with accommodation plans before classes resumed following spring break.
Students who are unable to take the stairs to the top floors of the building could use the Music elevator to get to the fifth floor or communicate with the Art Department to obtain access to the freight elevator, Magler said.
“The accommodation plan sought to reach as many students, faculty, staff, and visitors as possible through signage, emails, and individual outreach about the options and to set up an accommodation plan if they were not able to use the stairs, either from the 2nd floor (4-5 flights) or from the 5th floor (1-2 flights),” Magler said.
The anonymous statement said art students are not valued on a federal level as they receive hundreds of millions of dollars less in federal funding than science and engineering programs, but the author said this should not be the case at the university level.
The statement pointed out that degrees in art and STEM are the same cost and listed some of the UW Art Department’s accomplishments. Despite these achievements, the statement argued that art students aren’t valued as much as students in other departments – highlighted by the drawn-out timeline to fix the broken elevator.
“It is clear that from a federal standpoint, the arts is just not as important as other departments, but this university should view us as the same importance as any other major, and give us facilities that we can comfortably transport [to],” the statement said.