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Park This

March 3, 2009

Where we started: When D’oh had almost 2000 students and a full set of faculty, campus parking could be tight.

Post-Hilton: The first semester and a half back on campus, parking was free and, with half the enrollment and around 2/3 the faculty, pretty easy. Faculty’s biggest complaint was campus police not enforcing the Faculty and Staff Only zone right behind the building where I teach and my office is located. It wasn’t that far a walk from the other small lot or the overflow lots; it was more about people who’ve been pushed around and maligned and misused clutching at the crumb offered. Around spring semester midterms, the administration decided to enforce parking rules—well, sort of for a day or 3–and start charging for parking. You could buy a decal for $100 for about 6 weeks of parking in spring and parking all summer. Many were pissed, some called for civil or not-so-civil disobedience, and a good number capitulated because they lived on campus or worked nights or didn’t want to walk or couldn’t. The parking changes were openly about “revenue” and we were “reminded” that we had been “allowed” to park for free for a semester and a half. There was plenty of parking and no need to charge to restrict it. I was one of a good number of faculty, and even more students, who parked across the street or in the surrounding neighborhood and walked to campus. One afternoon, a former student and I passed crossing the street and he said, “You didn’t get a sticker either, Professor E?” I said, “You see me walking?”

Where we’re at now: This year, I bought a parking decal for $200. Parking was fine. Near my building, there are 2 large overflow lots and 2 smaller lots, one, the Faculty and Staff Only lot, right behind the building. The back of campus has 2 large parking lots. Then the big lot behind and to the left of my building was commandeered—new construction.

At the beginning of this semester, one Monday, the 2d overflow lot and 2 of the three rows of the Faculty and Staff Only lot and half of the other small lot were fenced off—more new construction. Campus parking has shrunk by more than half and it’s a nightmare. Cars are everywhere—in the lanes, in fire zones and blind driveways, on grass, against fencing, along the dumpsters. And we share much of this parking with the construction workers. Others discovered my parking spots in the alley so now I play musical cars, drifting in a circle until I see something open up or decide to make a space.

Today, early afternoon, dozens of cars were booted. A senior faculty member came around warning anyone she could find and I followed her out, grousing with her about the indignity of the parking fiasco and the lack of concern or planning by the administration and the lack of respect to us, faculty. I said I was tired of it. She said, Oh, I know, yes, I know. She pointed out that some boots had been removed, that there were fewer than there had been just 15 minutes earlier. Random enforcement, random pull back, unclear circumstances. Some with parking decals were ticketed and booted, some not, some on grass, some in the lane, places where cars have parked for weeks.

I know every faculty member, student, staff member on every college campus complains about parking. This isn’t about just parking. This is about a lack of leadership, lack of planning, lack of consideration, lack of sense. About making a toxic work environment, like the fifth circle of hell, the deadwood bobbing underneath while the still somewhat-sentient fight over campus mail envelopes, email accounts, and parking spaces.

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