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CFA students sign petition to get access to the front door, the College responds

The “College of Fine Arts Front Door Access” petition, requesting student access to the center door of the CFA, received a response from CFA administration. The center door was the building’s original main entrance before the recent CFA renovation.

There are three entrances to the CFA building: one facing Commonwealth Avenue, one in an alleyway and a wheelchair accessible entrance on the side. However, the entrance facing Commonwealth Avenue and the wheelchair accessible ramp are locked with no student swipe access, so the alleyway is regarded as the only “front door.”

College of Fine Arts
The Boston University College of Fine Arts at 855 Commonwealth Ave. The Dean of the College of Fine Arts Harvey Young responded to a petition requesting student access to the center door of the College of Fine Arts. LIBBY MCLELLAND/DFP FILE

“Our students were just not very happy with this adjustment to our building,” CFA Student Government president Daniel Perkins said. “Without access to this door, it’s creating a lot of frustrations for our community, and that’s a little bit challenging to navigate.”

The door in the alleyway is further away from the student lounge and the elevators, and most classrooms are on other floors. Students said they often wait at the steps of the center door for someone inside to let them in.

“A lot of people who have large instruments … have these big cases, and the elevators are right in the door, much closer to this door, and instead they’re having to go around the building and that frustrates people,” Perkins said. “I feel that we want our students to feel that this is a good, healthy environment where they can grow, where they can learn.”

Because of these issues, CFA StuGov started a petition for “front door access.” The petition circulated over the next few months, accumulating over 700 signatures by the time it was sent to CFA Dean Harvey Young.

“When I received the petition on November 15th, there were 758 signatures with 435 self-identifying as CFA students,” Young wrote in an email. “We regraded the pathway on the west side of the building, improved lighting and security cameras, built a wayfinding archway and created a formal main entrance.”

Young responded with an explanation for the decision, saying that the alleyway door promotes “inclusion” because it does not have any steps or stairs.

“A person with physical challenges or limitations had to use a secondary entranceway [when the Commonwealth Avenue entrance was the front door],” Young wrote. “As part of our recent comprehensive façade renovations at 855 Commonwealth Avenue (and as a step toward fulfilling our DEI commitments), we made it a priority to improve access to our full community, including those with physical challenges.”

Young wrote that because of the difficulties some students would have accessing the entrance facing Commonwealth Avenue, the alleyway entrance should be “the primary entrance.”

“As a community with sincere commitments to inclusion, we should not have separate entrances for those with and without physical challenges,” he wrote. “We should enter the building together — and hopefully meet new friends along the way.”

Sebastian Sachs, a freshman in CFA, said they found the alleyway entrance less efficient, because the entrance facing Commonwealth Avenue is better for getting to classrooms and studios.

“When you’re rushing, trying to get somewhere like Studio ONE [a theater on the first floor] or to the elevators, just those extra three minutes sometimes are just not quite what you’re looking for in your day,” Sachs said.

Perkins said he thinks both him and Dean Young both want the community to be safe, and his efforts are, “just an honest, sort of open expression of the student experience.”

“One of our greatest tools, especially as artists, but just as human beings, is our voice that we could communicate with each other.” Perkins said. “I’m hoping that this will engage further discussion, yes, specifically about the CFA, but accessibility in general.”

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