Transparency at York–Or The Lack Thereof

Photo Credit | York College

By Asar John

The return to campus has been refreshing as I am appreciative of the reduced amount of Zoom time and increased amount of in-person social activity and services. This Fall semester has been convenient in many ways as York students waited painstakingly to hear about the announcement of when we would return to a partially in-person college setting. However, this return at York has seen many drawbacks and shortcomings from the college itself relating to the simple act of transparency, or the lack thereof.

The semester started off with the extensive lines of students trying to get access to the building with Evrbridge or Excelsior App and either did not have the proper material displayed or had issues getting the apps started, causing delays trying to enter the building. It was rare that if you were prepared, a Public Safety officer would tell you to circumvent the line and let you in with a simple flash of your York ID and proof of vaccination.

Sometimes entering campus grounds was a problem in itself, totally aside from providing vaccination status. For half of the semester, the college’s back entrance on 160 St. would close at random points throughout
the day, sometimes as early as 12:30 PM while several classes and events were happening on campus. Public Safety nor York itself bothered to put out an announcement informing staff and students that the entrance would be inaccessible for the remainder of the day. That entrance is the closest one to the subway, Long Island Railroad, and several bus lines along Archer Ave at the Academic Core Building. So get an idea of how many from the York
community use that entrance, and how inconvenient and time-consuming it is to travel halfway around the building to use the side at Liberty Ave.

When I asked an officer whether a sign would be placed by the entrance detailing operating hours, I was told, “You just have to go around”– like I had not already done that right before I asked him the question. This prompted the survey created by Pandora’s Box for the campus community to answer questions about their problems with the sporadically closed gate. When I went to ask Interim Chief Carlos Suarez to answer questions about
the entrance and get answers based off of the survey responses, I was told that he could not speak to any media at the moment due to “the whole situation going on with COVID” as it seems, a very vague reason.

Transparency only came once this story was published, as a sign was placed above the doors to this particular entrance to the building the day after. On Nov. 10, the college issued a statement about the full-time reopening of the gate, noting that it would close due to staffing issues. It was student frustrations expressed in small circles, discussions on the Cardinal App, a survey, requesting interviews from Public Safety and the president (both of which were denied), just to get a basic answer as to why a vital pathway to our institution would close without notice.

Although the entrance reopened full-time, another gate on Archer Ave and Parsons Boulevard that leads to the college and high school building still closes early. Many students including myself have made the assumption that if 160th was open, the gate on Archer would be as well since one leads to another. But as it turns out, many of us stand corrected when the couple-hundred-foot trek is made to the gate, just to realize it is shuttered for the night. The other alternative is to cross under the other part of the train trestle on 160th St and make your way further down Archer Ave. for the train or bus.

Yes, both routes take almost the same amount of time but when you make the mistake of walking the passage to access the Parsons & Archer gate, it’s often a timely mistake. Maybe you’ve missed one or two trains and/or buses after looping back around to use the other gate? Maybe you have to get to work on time, get to a social event or pick up a sibling, niece or nephew? Does York College realize this is another accessibility problem that has gone unaddressed?

Luckily there was another town hall hosted this semester by the college, where the York community can find answers to
questions such as these. When asked why this entrance still closes early when it was decided that 160 St would remain open, the question by Pandora’s Box was shuffled off towards York’s Interim Vice President of Finance and Administration, Charles Bozian.

“That entrance has been reopened primarily for the high school in the morning and afternoon,’’ said Bozian. “In general
we do not have a guard there; we cannot post a guard there full-time. It’s primarily for ease of access to the high school students in the Science building.” Aside from no one at York being aware of why the entrance is only open during the high school’s operational hours, it is still unclear as to why the entrance needs to have a guard present in order to be fully operational. Before the COVID lockdown, that particular gate was always open during the college’s operating hours– without a guard present. I certainly have firsthand experience from using it to leave the school after a few pre-COVID night classes. Also, if it is not manned by anyone while it is open during the day, why can’t the same apply at night?

Access to campus should seem like an easy task to provide transparency about. What will happen if there is an emergency and no one will know how to safely exit the building without chaos and mass panic ensuing? Will the college just remain tight-lipped as it is with many other issues? York students also still do not have access to a fully functioning library, as no updates have been released about one of the biggest student spaces on campus. At the November town hall, York Interim Provost Derrick Brazill addressed plans for the Cardinal Library. “Currently the plan is to have the group study rooms and one of the computer labs open up for studying on December 1,” said Brazill.
The president called for open communication for the December 1 plan, but no announcements have been released by the college on any library-related updates.

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