Students Lose 196 Parking Spots, Voice Frustration
The following is a piece of collaborative reporting by TBL writers Nicole Leighty and Savannah Neubert.
Since the beginning of the fall 2016 semester, Frostburg State University students have encountered difficulty complying with university parking policies and regulations. The policies, enforced by University Police and determined by university administration, have left many students seeking clarification on campus parking policies.
Vocal student dissatisfaction with campus parking was largely initiated at the onset of the fall semester, when 196 student parking spots were destroyed to make room for the upcoming public safety building at the corner of College Avenue and University Drive. According to FSU Police Chief Cynthia Smith, the new public safety building is set to open in 2017. A fraction of the former parking spaces may be returned to inventory at that point. However, at press time, there is no confirmation of these spaces returning as student parking spaces, or, indeed, returning at all.
The Frostburg campus currently maintains 16 parking lots solely for faculty and staff use. An additional 21 parking lots are designated for students, with a remaining 5 lots used for a combination of faculty, staff, and students.
After speaking with University Vice President of Finance Dave Rose, it was determined that before construction on the new building, there were 1,700 parking spots in total with 600 allotted to faculty/staff. A 2012 College of Business study of the institution’s economic impact on the local area determined the university workforce to be comprised of 939 full and part-time faculty and staff. With the reduction of the 196 spots for the public safety building and the 600 faculty spots, that leaves, presumably, 904 parking spots for a current student enrollment of 4,884 undergraduate students. This ratio of student and faculty parking leaves about one student parking spot for every 5.4 students and one parking spot for every 1.55 university employee. While not every student parks a vehicle on the Frostburg campus, university regulations permit every student to do so if they wish. This is outlined in the university’s parking policies, which state: “All students are, upon proper registration, enabled to park a motor vehicle on campus.”
In light of the loss of the College Avenue student lot, enforcement of parking regulations seems to have increased, notably even after business hours effectively end at 4:30 p.m. Last year, over 1,000 tickets were given out – 300 of which were awarded to students for parking in a faculty or staff lot. Concerning this statistic, Chief Smith clarified to The Bottom Line that “some students get ticketed more than once.” This number will, however, likely rise after the loss of 196 student parking spots.
Students have been particularly vocal with frustrations concerning designated parking. Among these students is sophomore Ashleigh Myers who says, “ If we do not have enough spots for everyone who is going to buy a permit, we shouldn’t be handing them out. It’s not okay that there are over 4,000 students enrolled with only 904 spots.” A second student, who wished to remain anonymous, recalled faculty violation of policies, stating, “Faculty and staff with red permits should not be allowed to park in a black permit student lot. I have seen, on several occasions, in a shared lot, that the red permit area is not full. Yet there are no black permit spots available because faculty and staff have parked there.”
The top violation for which a student is ticketed on campus is a failure to display a valid parking permit. In the 2015-2016 school year, 664 students were ticketed for this specific violation. Again, some students are ticketed more than once for the same violation. Last year brought in $31,000 in ticketing revenue to the university. This is equivalent to the tuition paid in one semester of nearly 10 students. These funds are dumped into a general fund for the university. “This fund includes the parking lot facilities. It is one of the many revenue streams that helps the university,” according to Vice President Rose.
Complicating the issue of campus parking is the percentage of students who purchase parking permits. Vice President Rose states, “We have not done a survey [of students], but I am 99% sure we are the lowest [in the University System of Maryland]…we are very very low” in terms of students purchasing parking permits. The current cost for a student parking permit when living off-campus is $40. Students living on-campus are provided a free parking pass.
To avoid getting ticketed, students should ensure that a valid parking permit is visibly displayed in their vehicle. The Frostburg State University Police department employs student ticket writers, who normally write tickets between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. At any point during the day, campus police patrol to ensure compliance with parking policies. The university police department has hired four student ticket writers throughout the current semester under federal or state work-study programming. These students are paid hourly – thus, there is no extra incentive to write more tickets, according to Vice President Rose.
When questioned on the current parking situation and any potential changes, Rose asks, “Can we build more parking lots? Well, where do we do that? Where do we get the funding to do that? Parking lots are very expensive to put down.” Rose elaborated, stating, “there is a requirement in Maryland that we control water runoff because everything that runs off here goes to the Chesapeake Bay. So anytime we build a building or parking lot that is non-pervious, meaning water cannot go through it, we have to offset that by building a storm water retention pond. This basically doubles the cost of anything you do.”
The Student Government Association is currently in discussions with the administration and police concerning possible parking policy reviews, according to SGA Public Relations Chair Jared Turner.