When parking could be deadly…

27 Aug

Angelica Hodgdon walks back to Copley Quad from Chestnut. Photo credit/Joshua Evans

If Angelica Hodgdon falls down, she will die. No ifs, ands, or buts about it – the freshman secondary education major wouldn’t stand a chance.

“I don’t really like talking about my disability,” says Hodgdon. “And I don’t want to be treated differently than anyone else. But I don’t want to take a risk walking from my car, either.”

On August 18, the Department of Campus Safety announced that residential students will be limited to Shepherd, Dearing, and Chesnut parking lots. The Julian Field lot, previously available to both commuters and residents, is now commuter-only. The overflow Copley Quad traffic is expected to park by the other dorms.

“It’s such a long way to walk,” says Rachel Dryden, sophomore physical geography major. “With that and the new parking fee next year, I might as well park down by Stone Canyon Pizza for free and walk to Copley. It’ll be less work and less expensive.”

The immediate outcry among students from brand-new freshmen to experienced seniors, immediately caught the attention of new Park Student Government Association president and secondary education sophomore Jordan Korell. She took an informal poll last week in the Copley Quad lobby and found the strong majority of residential students felt opposed to recent parking legislation on campus. However, after the Senate retreat last weekend, Korell didn’t feel comfortable offering an opinion on the matter.

“We just don’t know enough about this issue yet to take a stance,” says Korell. “We represent all students, not just residents, so we need to explore what’s best for everyone before we take sides.”

It is unclear where this new parking measure originated. Many students were unaware it was even being considered, and the student government president doesn’t  know definitively who voted on it to put into place.

“We’re doing research to get to the bottom of this,” Korell said. “To find out what committee decided on this, and why. Obviously the administration feels this is what’s best for all students on campus, so until we have the facts, it’s something we’re going to have to trust. However, the role of Senate is not just to legislate, but to inform. We’re investigating so you can be informed.”

Eric Blair, assistant dean of student life, says the students can’t reverse this with any amount of Senate pressure.

“This has always been the plan,” says Blair. “We just kept Julian open for residents for the first couple years of having the new dorm. We do have plans to build more parking by 2015, but that’s a long-range goal and one with financial obstacles.”

Hodgdon said she thinks this isn’t good enough for the current students – even as a freshman, her own prospective graduation is a year sooner than the plan Blair references.

“My feet already slip on the steep road up by Chesnut,” says Hodgdon. “In the winter, it’s going to be even worse! I don’t want to have to get a handicapped parking pass because I don’t want that to be my identity, but I don’t think I’ll have any other choice.”
Blair doesn’t think the distance is a problem for the student body.

“We want to encourage the students to be more pedestrian,” says Blair. “To encourage residential students to not bring cars because they don’t need them as much.”

It’s not just those with health concerns like Hodgdon, or a distaste for walking the distance like Dryden, who oppose this new measure; students report that walking from Chesnut to the Quad at night is “scary.”

“I have a lot of female friends who say they feel frightened walking from up there,” says Nick Joseph, junior chemistry major. “And an escort from Public Safety can take 20 minutes or more! I think safety is a big concern.”

Park University has been nicknamed “a working campus”, meaning that the majority of students work. An informal poll of Quad residents shows this doesn’t just apply to commuter students, but the informal survey suggests a majority of all Park students hold some sort of steady employment.

“I leave a lot for work,” says Hodgdon. “I’m on a full scholarship and I still work. I need my car!”

“I don’t like that it’s a 24- hour rule,” says Kate Davies, senior Spanish major. “I leave for work at 6 a.m., so I’m gone before commuters or faculty get here. It would be nice to have an exception at night.”

Students the Stylus interviewed are opinionated on this issue. However, it’s unclear what will happen over the course of the next few weeks. Even more concerning than the swirl of opinions are the questions. “What happens if I have to park up by Chesnut in an ice storm?” “Is it safe to walk from Copley to Dearing in a heat advisory?” “Can I really carry all of my groceries from one dorm to the other?”

Published in The Stylus Newspaper, 27 August 2010


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