Opening Day ceremony brings several important announcements for the coming semester

The outline for the new emergency management plan was presented to full time faculty today at the Opening Day ceremony, along with information about GRCC compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and updates on campus construction.

“It is not the response to any local or national event that has taken place,” said GRCC Police Chief Rebecca Whitman when she introduced the plan to facutly. “This is a presentation that has been in the works for about the last 18 months.”

GRCC Police Chief Rebecca Whitman and Praecipio consultant Gary Szotko present the new emergency management plan during the Opening Day ceremony.

Whitman said that part of her responsibility in taking her job two years ago was to evaluate the plan at that time, and in doing so, Whitman and others decided that GRCC has grown beyond former plan’s abilities to keep students and faculty safe.

She then turned the presentation over to Gary Szotko of Praecipio, the emergency preparedness company contracted to help develop the plan for GRCC, who explained the importance of having a plan.

“No different than what took place in Sandy Hook, we cannot prevent that (an unpredictable event) from happening. But we can plan,” Szotko said. “We can prepare. We can train. So that when—not if—when something significant happens, we can lessen the impact of how it affects Grand Rapids Community College.”

Victoria Janowiak, Executive Director of Operational Planning, spoke more about the importance of an emergency plan and then transitioned to what should be expected with campus construction over the next several months.

Janowiak said College Park Plaza will be reoccupied in May, and then fourth and fifth floors of Cook Hall will be vacated for construction during the summer semester. Work on the Main Building infrastructure will begin in the summer, also. During this time, there will be no instruction occurring in Cook Hall or the Main Building, she said.

“Our goal is to reduce the disruption to instruction over the summer as much as possible while still allowing our contractors to get the work done in the most efficient and timely manner necessary so that we are fully prepared to open again for the fall semester,” Janowiak said.

Other office relocations include:

  • Distance Learning and Instructional Technology to third floor of the Main Building
  • Center for Teaching Excellence to Room 308 of the Main Building
  • School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s office to the third floor of the Main Building
  • Equity Affairs to the Learning Center
  • IT Customer Support to G2 of the Main Building

GRCC General Counsel Kathy Keating spoke about two initiatives underway involving students with disabilities.

“We have learned a lot in the last semester about the challenges that students with disabilities face on our campus,” Keating said. “Some of that learning has come through contacts with people from the Office of Civil Rights, which is the federal agency charged with responsibility for overseeing the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Keating said the first initiative is to sign an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights that will address technological accessibility to students and will require training of staff and faculty in how to make learning accessible to all. One training took place last night at the adjunct Opening Day event, where Irene Bowen, President of ADA One, LCC, advised faculty on regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The training for full-time faculty and other workshops took place today. Additional workshops will take place throughout the semester.

The other initiative is the development of a college action plan called “Creating an Accessible Campus for All.”

“As with all other college initiatives, this is designed to support student success,” Keating said.

Keating said the following statement is what the culture sub-team of the college action Project has established as the new vision of GRCC:

“GRCC promotes full access to and participation in our campus community through policy, practice and participation that respects the inherit dignity of each individual.”

These initiatives are going into effect after a blind student filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education stating that GRCC’s website was not accessible to all.

Kathryn Mullins, GRCC Executive Deputy to the President and Board Liaison who is temporarily acting as Director of Communications, said they have been working on an accessibility plan since the middle of last summer, but they did take some immediate action when they were notified of the complaint.

“I would say that the immediate changes to the website were in direct response to the complaints,” Mullins said. She said they just simply “did not know” that the website was not fully accessible.

GRCC President Steven Ender shared some good news at the ceremony.

“As we get ready for winter term, I’m pleased to announce that our enrollment numbers look good,” Ender said. “…It appears we’re going to be a little bit ahead of budget for this entire year, which is certainly quite helpful to our institution and for our students.”

He closed the ceremony saying that he hopes to add to the construction project a $6 million renovation to the Music Building and a new facility for the Education and Child Development preschool, which is currently housed in a church.

“That’s another $6 million if we build new, and quite frankly, I would like to build new,” Ender said. “We have a state of the art program; I think we should have a state of the art facility.

Ender said there will be some dinner fundraisers to raise the remaining $3 million for the Music Building.

“I took a call late Wednesday afternoon prior to leaving for the holidays from a program director at one the major foundations in town,” Ender said. “Our Christmas present was a $3 million gift for the Music Building.”

Ender said he hopes to design a new home for the preschool during year three of construction. He is optimistic about raising the money.

Ender also said he hopes to have a faculty contract ratified by the end of this year.

 

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