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  • Alan Cohen, Staff Writer

ASWU project funds new accessible door button in Smullin Hall


Entrance to Smullin Hall. Photo by Keenan Yoshizawa

A new automatic door button has been installed at the west entrance of Smullin Hall with funding from the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) as part of a campus improvement project aimed at increasing accessibility. 


Andrew Caruana is a current ASWU senator for the class of 2024 and the former president of Disability Advocacy Club (DAC) for three years. He said that this campus improvement project, organized alongside senators Anastasiia Lemesh (‘26) and Sean Olson (‘26), consisted of funding the installation of a button for the west entrance of Smullin Hall to open automatically. Many people with disabilities previously had to use a different entrance with an automatic door opener. “If you were coming from [the west] side you’d have to go all the way around the building to the other side to get to a door with a door button. It was not the most accessible route,” Caruana added. 


The automatic door opener from the west side entrance. Photo by Keenan Yoshizawa

The company contracted to install the new button is Capitol City Door, Inc. The cost of installation was $7,179 and it was fully funded by ASWU, according to the company’s budget proposal.


The building where Smullin and Walton halls are located is home to the offices of many faculty members, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Accessible Education Services (AES) and Willamette Information and Technology Services (WITS).


Caruana said that the idea for this project came from many members of DAC who had been advocating for the installation of an automatic opener button for several years. The project also received help and support from AES, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ruth Feingold, ASWU Advisor Lisa Holliday and the Neurodivergent Student Union (NDSU). ASWU senate approval for the proposal was unanimous. 


Milo Greenberg (‘24), the treasurer of ASWU, said that “getting a quote for how much [the button] was going to cost was an ordeal,” but he is glad that the project was finally completed. 


Nonetheless, Caruana thinks that such accessibility projects should be funded by the university instead of ASWU. “I’m happy that [ASWU] had the money to do it. I’m sure that students generally are happy to see their money going to things like that, because those are real and tangible things, but the university should have paid for it and it should have happened decades ago,” Caruana said. 


Since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990 and further expanded in 2008, public buildings have to meet accessibility standards, including functional elevators and accessible entrances through ramps or automatic buttons. With its existing single accessible entrance, Smullin Hall was already ADA-compliant, but Caruana believes that these standards are insufficient. “What do we consider as ADA-compliant versus what is actually accessible to people with disabilities? We might be compliant, but are we really doing the best that we can?”


Caruana said that members of the university administration supported the project, but added,“What admin is willing to support and what admin is willing or able to pay for are two very different things.” He hopes that this project encourages the university administration in the future to “look at these projects more seriously” as other large buildings on campus, like Kaneko, still only have one automatic door button. “To the university’s credit, Willamette is a really old campus, and when you’re working with really old buildings it’s very expensive to do some of the remodels that should be done,” he added. 


Caruana concluded that the university should always aim to increase accessibility and send a message to prospective students with disabilities that they are welcome and heard at Willamette. 


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