Lawrence orders new desks accessible to students of all body types

Concerns raised by a student to President Laurie Carter in late February have led to a large-scale, planned replacement of the majority of desks at Lawrence to increase university accessibility for students regardless of body types. 

Some desks have already arrived, but most of the desks are set to arrive in mid-June. Vice President of Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, Antiracism and Support Services (IDEAS) Kenny Yarbrough, along with Provost and Dean of Faculty Peter Blitstein and Vice President for Finance and Administration Samir Datta, plan to replace less accessible desks around the entire campus over time. 

The process to fix the issue was collaborative, Yarbrough stressed. An audit was performed by Facilities staff over the state and accessibility of desks, and it was determined that Lawrence didn’t have any alternatives that could immediately rectify the problem. Because of that, possible replacements were found to be the best option and searched for, with the one recommended by Facilities staff soon ordered. 

Although some desks have already arrived, Blitstein, Datta and Yarbrough are waiting for the right time to unveil the change officially. They are anticipating to replace desks throughout the entire campus, but Yarbrough remarked that during the first juncture, priority buildings, such as Memorial Hall, Main Hall and Briggs Hall, are going to be addressed. 

Yarbrough believes that the shift will be important for students because desks that don’t accommodate all body types can make learning difficult and hinder inclusivity. This, he hopes, will help students feel seen, at home and encouraged at Lawrence. 

“I’m hoping that students will see that one, we listened, two, we took action, and three, that it is an inclusive learning environment where, whatever your body size is, you can feel like you still belong here and not to feel shame or feel left out if things are not conducive for your learning,” said Yarbrough. “I’m hoping that students feel like they’ve been seen, and I hope that students feel like if concerns are brought, then concerns will be heard and action will happen.”