by Carina Hennessy, Contributing Writer
I don’t have a car on campus. I walk everywhere, take the shuttle, or I get a ride with a friend.
The email breaking the news that a section of parking on Ring Road was being banned and that parking permits would rise in price didn’t really affect me.
Despite that, I need to speak up about these things just as much as the rest of you.
I have several friends and acquaintances from whom I’ve heard all the horrors and frustrations with campus parking, but I knew I needed more information than my limited experience allowed me when writing about the changes being made this year.
I took to Facebook to ask for opinions from anyone on campus willing to offer one up, positive or negative. It was pretty much what I had expected: the responses to the changes this year were overwhelmingly negative. Many felt frustration with price hikes in general, as we’ve been feeling the financial strain year after year in practically every billable aspect of campus life, from housing to tuition to books.
I have known of several people who have parked wherever they wanted on campus without a parking pass, accumulated tickets throughout the year, and their accumulated ticket fees amounted to less money than the cost of a standard parking pass.
For the record, a few positive folks told me that they don’t mind paying the extra money if it truly improves things. A few more positive folks agreed with the initial explanatory emails, that removing parking from this section of ring road would create a safer walking environment.
Many more were confused as to why the university claimed this is for our safety, when they saw greater issues of safety seeming to go unaddressed, like the lack of surveillance in parking lots.
The university hasn’t actually done anything new here, spent any money on these changes. No sidewalk will be added, no alternative parking, just a small glimmering possibility dangled in front of drivers for the ability to park in more places with a pass.
So, why did the school change something small that it seems like a non-issue to the majority of student population? I don’t think this situation will be all that unusual in the coming years, because we’re going to see a lot of changes.
The university is in crunch time with its UMassDTransform 2020 plan. If you’re not familiar with the plan, it’s basically a set of goals the university has set to reach by 2020, including more community outreach, better programs for students, state-of-the-art buildings (like the recent renovation of the Charlton College of Business) and improving infrastructure (like the recent construction all over the campus quad) and, interestingly, transparency.
Unfortunately, in the midst of our university racing to put these improvements in place, enrollment is way down, funds are tight, and they’ve had a decent amount of scandal in the administration, like the ousting of our last chancellor.
I think that this parking move, and the frustration that has come with it, is a tiny, irritating symptom of a bigger problem.
Just showing up to the “Shake the Ship” events once or twice a year isn’t enough. Putting out a “You Spoke, We Listened” campaign isn’t enough. Administration hasn’t truly asked us what we’ve wanted, but we as students have also failed to tell them what we want.
We all got an email from Interim Chancellor Randy Helm with the budget report in that aforementioned interest of transparency. Did any of us read it? Skimmed it, even? Probably not. I meant to, but I haven’t.
We all have other things to do. We have jobs and lives and educations to pursue, and making sure that our administration is acting with our interests in mind should not have to be one more thing on our plate. But it is.
I am not a student who is parking on campus but I am a student who is concerned about the future of my school as it struggles to grow into a better version of itself, and we students slowly accept the price hikes, staff cuts, and inconveniences that quietly pile up in front of us.
It’s too late to put our two cents in on the parking ban. It’s not too late to pay attention to what other small things are happening at our school, from faculty leaving, to strange spending choices. We need to take a close look at what direction our school is going in, for better or worse. We need to take a close look at how we let it go there.