1/10/19 Tyler Trent graphic

Editor's note: The Exponent published the following columns when Tyler Trent worked as a columnist during the fall 2018 semester. They were printed Aug. 27, Sept. 10, and Sept. 17, respectively.

A fight for everyone

So, you’re all moved in at Purdue. You have made it to all your classes this week, and maybe you’ve even had the time to attend a couple of parties.

Life is good right now, and the cherry on top is that Purdue football returns in three days. The game will also double as Purdue’s annual Hammer Down Cancer game, in which there is a heavy emphasis on raising money for cancer research. However, for some that word — cancer — brings tears to their eyes and sends shivers down their spines. It brings back memories of parents, grandparents, friends and personal battles.

These are some of the things I have been feeling the past couple of weeks as I have moved back to Purdue.

I have had the blessing of being able to be vulnerable about my struggles so they may encourage others. However, what many don’t know is that my relationship with cancer is more than just my personal battle. My grandfather, who was my personal hero and mentor, was the man that walked me through college applications. I probably wouldn’t have gotten into Purdue without his wisdom. He passed away earlier this year from pancreatic cancer. Dealing with that is probably the single hardest thing I have had to do in my life.

Cancer is more than any one person. Which is why when I was asked to be the honorary team captain for Thursday’s Hammer Down Cancer game, I wanted to make it about more than just me.

Ben Harmon is a name that you may not be familiar with, and rightly so considering there are over 40,000 undergraduates enrolled at Purdue. But you should know his name.

Ben was an incoming freshman at Purdue in Fall 2017. When he started at Purdue, he was just entering his 10th month of remission from battling Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer. In his first semester at Purdue, he became the president of the Sigma Chi pledge class and was excelling in every aspect of college life.

At least that was the case until his cancer was rediscovered near the end of the semester. This time, Ben wasn’t so lucky. He passed away peacefully and with his family on July 6.

I never got the chance to personally meet Ben. I got too caught up in my own story to stop and take the opportunity to listen to others. You see, everyone around me was telling me that I needed to meet this amazing kid named Ben because, just like me, he had beat cancer.

Cancer, depression, mental illness, etc., is more than any one of us. That is why we should take time out of the day to listen to others’ struggles. That is why we should dedicate our time to donating toward research. That is why on Thursday, when I roll to the middle of the field in Ross-Ade Stadium, I will be wearing a “Ben Strong” shirt.

An issue of access

Usually I will arrive 10-15 minutes before class starts, but sometimes that isn’t even enough. I have to arrive at just the right time so it seems like I’m walking in with the flow of traffic instead of forcing someone to go out of their way for me. They, of course, are probably always happy to help out someone in a wheelchair.

You see, it’s pretty difficult to open a door and go through it when wheelchairs require two arms to move straight forward. In fact, a lot of things in life that are seemingly trivial become burdens when bound to a wheelchair.

Now, I am not looking to throw myself a pity party or go on and on about all the things that have become challenging in my life. However, I do want to point out the fact that while things have become more difficult for me, the institutions and places of business surrounding us are required to help make things easier for those who have a disability, but they don’t always help.

Before I continue, I do want to preface with a few things. First, I’m very new to the physically disabled community and can’t even imagine the frustrations and stories of longtime wheelchair users. Second, Purdue has gone above and beyond to make sure that I, as a student, have everything I need to succeed, but that does not make them faultless.

Purdue is a university with over 100 years of history. Because of this, there are many buildings on campus that were built before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

As a result, Purdue has had to convert these buildings into handicap-accessible ones, which has caused some issues. For example, those big blue handicap buttons that automatically open doors, they tend to fail a lot.

Additionally, there have been situations where wheelchair-bound students couldn’t enter a bathroom because of how the doors opened. Some haven’t even been able to enter their lab because the ID swipe and button to open the door are too far apart. Thankfully, Purdue has made it a priority to fix these issues in a timely manner.

It’s the establishments off campus that make this extremely hard for disabled students. For example, everyone’s favorite coffee shop off campus does not have a handicap-accessible entrance, and it is virtually impossible to use its bathrooms when in a wheelchair. Granted, if the coffee shop and the other restaurants around it were built before West Lafayette’s ADA laws were put into place, they don’t have to comply with those laws.

So, why would I take all this time to talk about ADA laws or being wheelchair-bound? As previously mentioned, I am new to this world. However, I have noticed all these things in only a short couple of weeks on campus. I want every student, no matter what is going on in their lives, to have an equal opportunity.

If you need a suit for an interview or for a career fair, there is a service for that at Purdue. If you need someone to fine-tune your resume, there is a service for that at Purdue. If you need a motorized scooter, there is a service for that at Purdue.

But to think that I need help to enter a coffee shop because, for whatever reason, the business decided not to make things handicap-accessible. That needs to change.

We need to spend more time thinking about others’ needs and how we can best serve them. More time needs to be dedicated to listening to others’ needs so that we can all succeed as a society.

Nobody should be left behind.

Purdue fans should temper expectations

Usually, within Purdue circles, I am the positive one.

Maybe that’s because I’m not a die-hard fan and have not been exposed to a lot of “Purdue moments.” Whatever the reason may be, it’s time to be honest with how this Purdue football team is doing.

While the football team is not playing well, and that’s something anyone who has seen a game will tell you, I also think fans set their expectations way too high. Many have failed to take into account that we lost a lot of key seniors last season, especially on defense. And that means that there would be a decline of talent on the team.

I’ll say this: Purdue football COULD be 3-0 right now, but Purdue definitely deserves to be 0-3.

It’s hard to defend a team when defensive and offensive leaders get called for very preventable personal fouls that cost Purdue a chance to win the game. Though the most memorable of these fouls came against Northwestern and Eastern Michigan, some also came during the Missouri game. That’s after head coach Jeff Brohm made it very publicly known that he was not happy with all the personal fouls.

Brohm even went as far as to say, “We’re going to make sure from here on out, everyone is held accountable every step they make, 24 hours a day. ... If we get guys getting 15-yard penalties from here on out, they’re out of the game.”

However, this rule has a ceiling and when it’s a starting junior or senior making the mistake, they aren’t going to be pulled. This combined with the fact that Purdue has already turned the ball over five times and allowed over 400 yards of total offense in three games, leads to a fan-base that is getting flashbacks of the Hazell era. Simply put, this Purdue football team has shown a lack of discipline early in the season. Brohm summed it up well after the loss to Eastern Michigan:

“We have some players who don’t quite get it. ... I must have let it happen before because I don’t know why we would do such stupid things in key moments two weeks in a row on both sides of the ball. It’s very embarrassing.”

I also think people should realize that this Purdue team is very young, and we as Purdue fans should realize that with a young team comes a lot of mistakes, flags and mishaps.

It’s going to be really hard to overcome all of the team’s mistakes and make it back to a bowl, especially when we don’t have much momentum.

However, I think if anyone can do it, Jeff Brohm and company can.

Additionally, it should not be forgotten that Brohm is bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in Purdue’s history next year.

A note to Purdue fans: I get being frustrated with referees if they make a bad call, but when they clearly make the right one I really don’t want to hear what you are going to do to their mother.

Publication notice: "A Fight for Everyone" was originally published under the headline "Tyler's Take: A fight for all." "An issue of access" was originally published under the headline "Tyler's Take: Lack of access a burden for wheelchair users."

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