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The Blue & Gray Press | November 19, 2017

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Student Parking Rules Changed

By LANDON JAMES

New Weekend Parking Open to Residential Students

Residential students at the University of Mary Washington can now park in commuter parking lots from 5 p.m. on Fridays until 7 a.m. Mondays.

These lots include the parking deck behind Goolrick, the parking area next to the physical plant on College Avenue, and a handful of other commuter lots on and near campus.

Residential students who don’t move their cars out of the commuter lots by Monday morning will face a $40 fine.

“We’ll consider this a pilot program, and if it goes well there is no reason to not make it permanent,” UMW police chief James Snipes told members of the Student Senate earlier this month.

The administration also has plans to allow students living in the UMW apartments to park on the third level of the parking deck weekdays after 5 p.m. Officials have been working with the Student

Senate and other student government leaders to decide how late apartment students will be allowed to park there. It will likely be until activities are finished for the evening at the campus recreational fields, next to the parking deck.

Susan Knick, assistant vice president of Public Safety and Community Service said she looks forward to seeing how the changes work out for the students.

“I am hoping these changes are going to have a positive effect, but only time will tell,” she said. “Bringing people nearer to the areas they frequent on the weekend will have a positive effect,”
Knick said she proposed that residents be able to park in commuter lots on weekends because she felt there was no sense in letting those parking spaces sit empty.

“I think the improvements we are making, because we are doing it so methodically, are permanent, long-term solutions and not immediate fixes,” she said.

Snipes agreed. “Although it is not really believed by students, we are constantly looking at parking,” he said.

Snipes, Knick, and University President Judy Hample discussed a number of safety issues with Student Senate recently, including the conversion of the Jefferson parking lot to faculty/staff and student requests that the school add more blue lights on campus.

“I know the lot [Jefferson] is not full now, but we must accommodate for professors who already have offices in the houses,” Snipes explained.

The administration changed the Jefferson lot earlier this year to accommodate parking for faculty whose offices have been moved into the two houses across from campus at the corner of William Street and College Avenue.

Ashley Davis, president of the Student Senate, said she would like to see weekend parking for residents allowed in faculty/staff lots—a practice that school officials allowed in the past, but outlawed in recent years. Davis also said lighting on campus is one of her biggest concerns.

“I think safety and parking on this campus has always been an issue,” she said. “Ever since I have been here there has been a need for more lighting.”

A number of senators asked if the school could install blue lights and emergency call boxes on Hanover Street.  Snipes and Knick said adding the blue lights was a city issue because a number of private residences face Hanover across the street from the Battlegrounds.

Hample, who fielded questions at the Oct. 15 Student Senate meeting, recommended that students walk in well lit areas at night with a buddy. She also noted that walking while talking on a cell phone can distract students from paying attention to their own safety.

“I think it is very important that students be constantly aware of their safety and surroundings,” she said. “Clearly the recent issue in the parking deck has heightened both awareness of and sensitivity to safety on campus.”

Student Senator and commuter Annie Morris said she felt that something must be done with the city to be able to fully improve the safety of the campus.

“I think they [university officials] are doing what they can do with their resources, but there needs to be more of a student connection with the city,” Morris said.

Student Senator Mike Isaacson said that any student who has a car understands the safety and parking concerns the university is trying to address.

“The concerns are definitely real and it is nice to see big changes. For me, if we ask for a mile and get an inch it is something.  We have to keep on pushing to make the change we hope to see.  That is why I am here in the first place,” Isaacson said.

Daily Parking is Reduced

On August 24, the day of upperclassmen move in and the day before classes began, school officials transformed the 15-space residential student parking lot behind Jefferson Hall into a faculty/staff parking lot.

Susan Knick, assistant vice president of Public Safety and Community Services, said that plans to change the Jefferson parking lot began when the school purchased the two large houses on the corner of William Street for faculty offices.

The change was the latest in a series of parking reallocations that have left virtually all student parking on the edges of campus. Last year the school made all faculty and staff lots 24/7 parking, eliminating the luxury students had of parking in those spots after 5 p.m.

At the moment there are no immediate plans to add additional student parking, according to Knick.

“We are looking at all kinds of possibilities,” Knick said, noting that when school officials look at new property they always ask themselves whether they can accommodate the necessary parking.

In the meantime, the reduced student parking has caused some students to feel unsafe.

Junior Rebecca Pomerantz, who lives in the apartments, said she believes her safety is in jeopardy, and that she is even more concerned this year than she has been in the past.

“I just did not go out a lot because I did not want to be put in an unsafe parking position,” she said.

Knick is aware of the concern some students express regarding the safety on and near campus, and she encouraged students to start utilizing the university escort service.

The escort service consists of a single handicap accessible van that picks up and transports students who are around campus.

While waiting for the escort service, Knick said the safest thing you can do is to stay inside your car until the van arrives.

Budget costs within the school have limited the escort service to only one vehicle, but Knick is fighting for more van power.

“I have the staffing for it, but not the money,” Knick said regarding adding additional vans.

Knick said she wants to get to a point where there are scheduled escort pick up times, similar to a bus schedule.

Sean O’Brien, president of the Student Government Association, is also concerned about the safety of the students at Mary Washington.

“I do not think an acceptable solution is to move parking, but a good compromise is to improve the safety of existing lots,” O’Brien said.

One way the school tries to get student feedback is through safety walks conducted by Knick herself.

Knick said that these walks are a way for students to voice their concerns directly to her and others that are involved; however, rarely do students ever show up.  In April, 2007, four faculty members and only two students showed up for the walk, she said.

Knick said that students do not perceive that she and her staff are doing good, and she always strives to put the students first.

“I believe in empowering the students,” Knick states.

Logan Metesh, a resident in South Hall, feels the school is not putting students first and is frustrated with the parking situation.

“It pisses me off,” Metesh said about the closing of the Jefferson  lot.

“It is not fair to the students and it is not my fault that the school’s multi-million dollar parking garage did not work,” Metesh stated.

Metesh feels that the school is too preoccupied with their public image and have lost sight of students’ interests.

“The University has forgotten they are providing a service to the students,” Metesh said.

For the time being, Metesh is one of many students forced to park in the parking garage.

“I am shelling out a ton of money for tuition and $200 for the esteemed privilege to walk from one end of campus to the other just to pick up my car,” Metesh said.

Despite how unpopular the parking deck appears to be, Knick feels the deck is worth every penny the University has invested in it.

“Yes, it is absolutely a success,” Knick said. She said  the deck does a wonderful job preventing students from being displaced during big events and other special occasions.

In the 2007-08 academic year there were 1192 student parking spaces (not counting College Avenue or Hanover Street) and 503 faculty/staff spaces.  The remainder went to special uses such as handicapped (open to anyone – student/faculty/staff/visitor), visitor spaces, and service vehicle spaces.

For the academic year from 2008-09, there are 1177 student parking spaces and 518 faculty/staff spaces.

To contact the escort service, dial 540-654 plus extension 4444, extension 777, or extension 1025.