By Ty O’Neil
Today brought the presidential campaign to the University of Nevada, Reno, (UNR), with vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine, but politics weren’t the only issue for students.
Restricted access to the rally was a hot topic among those crowded outside of the protective barrier.
Student Clark Mandichak said, “This is insane. I have been to several of these rallies. I saw Jeb Bush, I saw Bernie when he was here, I saw Gary Johnson when he was here, and every one was at least able to stand under the podium. Now there is an 80-foot gap just between me and the seats… This is the most restricted I have ever seen.”
Rochelle Swanson, a UNR student who uses a wheelchair for long distances on campus, made protest signs of her own to bring attention the loss of what she counted to be 30 or more disabled parking spaces.
“They shutdown our education… and they closed our campus on a Thursday,” she said. “They could have done this Saturday, they could have done this on a Sunday but they did it on one of the busiest days.”
Swanson added that students pay for those parking spaces with expensive permits — up to $400 per year. Disabled parking permits are $125 per year.
“Handicap parking on the south side of the (Church Fine Arts) building, by Nightingale Hall, was not supposed to be closed,” she said. “The campaign had asked, but — according to a source in the parking services, which I called yesterday about the parking fiasco — our university told them not to close the handicap parking behind the CFA since they were already closing handicap parking in the parking garage (14 handicap spots per floor)… It was closed anyway.”
Other students were not as passionate about the restricted access and said that despite the restriction, people were still moving about fairly easily and that everyone was being polite.
The event also closed of the entirety of the Fitzgerald Student Services building, which includes the Police Services office, an eatery and other student administrative offices. Those services were offered at the Joe Crowley Student Union.
UNR disputed some of the students’ statements by saying three parking areas were closed for a total of 34 disabled spaces. Spokesperson Kerri Garcia said:
There are a total of 293 disabled parking spaces on campus.
In preparation for the event, signage was placed in each disabled location on Tuesday, September 20 letting disabled parkers know that the area would not be available on September 22, 2016 and to go to our website for an ADA parking map to locate an alternate disabled location.
The Whalen Complex has a total of 31 disabled spaces located in the entire complex and for a large scale event like this, disabled event attendees could park in disabled or any Silver 11 parking spaces (the permit needed for this area) throughout the Complex.
In addition, university disabled permits were not required in order to park for the event today and,
As our parking staff saw Whalen getting busy, they directed and allowed students, once the event began, to park on the top floor of Whalen for free — which is a non-permit parking area that you usually must pay for.
No ticketing took place throughout the campus during this event.
Swanson added: “I was unaware of the availability of arrangements made by the University for disabled students, and someone has pointed me to the appropriate person to discuss this with on campus.”
UPDATE: This story has been edited to reflect corrections and an updated statement provided by Swanson as well as the addition of the statement by UNR.
Ty O’Neil is a lifelong student of anthropology with two degrees in the arts. He is far more at home in the tear gas filled streets of war torn countries than he is relaxing at home. He has found a place at This Is Reno as a photojournalist. He hopes to someday be a conflict photojournalist covering wars and natural disasters abroad.