Some North Quad residents have been frustrated by the sporadic fire alarms and other communication issues with housing since returning to California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in person. However, for some residents, these occurrences are more than just an annoyance and can disrupt their entire schedule.
Sophie Jamieson is a third-year student who uses a power chair or walker to get around due to her Cerebral Palsy (CP). CP makes it difficult for one to move and maintain balance due to muscular stiffness or weakness. Jamieson resides on the second floor of Pinnacles in North Quad, where rooms designated for disabled students are located. However, fire alarms can be a nightmare for Jamieson because they cause the elevators to shut down forcing her to go down the stairs to escape her room.
Not only is this an inconvenience when there’s a false alarm, but it’s a safety hazard because in the event of a real fire, she would have no way to exit the building quickly if she’s on the second floor. Despite going through the proper channels with Student Disability Resources (SDR), housing was only able to offer her a room on the first floor in Strawberry, or a second floor room in Pinnacles for the next academic year. Jamieson was hesitant about living in Strawberry because of its history of frequent fire alarms.
“When I got reassigned to Strawberry, I was a little upset and apprehensive because due to the history of fire alarms that have gone off in the past, I wasn’t willing to put myself in that building because it wouldn’t allow me to enjoy the last portion of my college experience because I’d be so on edge about if the fire alarm was gonna go off,” Jamieson said.
SDR has since changed its name to Student Disability and Accessibility Centre (SDAC) since this interview was conducted.
According to their website, their mission is to “promote empowerment, wellness and full integration of students with disabilities into campus life and the campus community. It seeks to provide academic and personal support services to students with disabilities to help them attain success at CSU Monterey Bay.”
While “the university committed considerable time to bring in experts and multiple vendors to monitor, gather data and determine the root cause of the excessive fire alarms,” according to Campus Public Information Officer Walter Ryce, “we found that nearly every instance was related to cooking activities. The alarm channels were re-calibrated to trigger fewer false alarms while maintaining proper sensitivity and they are now functioning properly.”
Fire alarms aren’t the only housing obstacles that disabled students have to manage.
Another student who has been in touch with SDAC is graduating fourth-year Gus Albertsen. Like Jamieson, he also has CP. The only ground floor room offered to him was in the freshman dorm Yarrow.
However, it does come at a cost for him being in the same buildings as the freshmen. “I do not get to be with my classmates and my friends who are around my age and in my year. When I hang out with my friends I always have to meet them somewhere. It’s a little noisy in Yarrow and my neighbors don’t really respect the quiet hours. It’s OK when I go out to meet with my friends but it would be nice if we were in the same area.”
Albertson’s top pick for housing would be Promontory or East Campus, but he has only been offered Yarrow even though East Campus is usually reserved for seniors or students with enough credits, which Albertsen has.
“Most of my friends live over [at East Campus] and I would like to be close to them. I wish there was a bike path going between East Campus and the Main Campus, so I could roll to and from Main Campus,” Albertson said.
According to Ryce, “requests for CSUMB housing accommodations are based on specific medical, physical, psychological or other disability related needs. Campus housing availability and type also varies based on a number of factors, all of which are taken into account when determining how to assign a particular student to a particular housing unit. We communicate closely with students who have requested accommodations and provide all available reasonable options based on their disability needs, and based on what is available at the time the interactive process is conducted and determined.”
According to Ryce, housing is “unable to comment on individual student situations due to confidentiality and privacy rights. If a specific student has additional needs that are not being met by their current housing assignment, or has any other concerns, we strongly encourage them to reach out to SDAC as soon as possible.”
The official statement on housing accommodations confused Jamieson, “they tell us to go through SDR to get our accommodations met, however when we go through them, there’s only so much they can do, when communicating with housing. The whole process just makes me feel kind of confused because why would you take only part of someone’s accommodations? Where they live can have a big impact on their experience.”
Before the fall semester of 2022, Jamieson was offered Promontory or East Campus, but felt like it wouldn’t work with her condition. Instead she asked SDAC and housing for something closer to main campus. Albertson was only offered first year housing although he meets the requirements for East Campus, and Promontory.
Students have access to the Wave shuttle which runs between Main Campus and East Campus, Monday through Friday but Albertson said he has his reservations. “I can go on the Wave, but I heard that it is not efficient, plus, I would never know if the lifts are working.”