Over 200 students had a less-than-pleasant start to the semester.
They were ticketed for various parking issues on the first day of classes, and at least four cars were towed as well.
Student outrage has poured out over social media; and an online petition to build a parking deck has brought more than 1,200 signatures since it began circulating two days ago.
Christopher McCluskie, a senior psychology major from Prattville who started the online petition, explained his personal experience of having to drive around campus for 30 minutes looking for a spot made him late for his class. This made him initiate the petition.
“I take early classes (8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.), so I can get to school about 30 minutes early just so I have a glimmer of hope of parking,” he said. “Some days, I have no luck and wind up parking in the middle of nowhere.”
The uproar has prompted the Student Government Association to collaborate with the university police to review the parking tickets issued last week for “parking on the grass” or for “parking with no decal.”
In an email sent to the student body on Monday night, SGA president Heath Barton, a senior global business major from Opp, said that tickets issued for those reasons may be brought by the SGA office no later than Friday, Aug. 21, for review.
“Unfortunately, if you received a ticket for any other reason besides the ones mentioned above, we are unable to review your ticket and you will have to go through the appeals process if you wish to appeal the ticket,” Barton said in the email.
However, review does not guarantee that the ticket will be voided, according to university police Chief John McCall. He said that there may be a reduction in fine depending on the case but all tickets being canceled “is simply not the case.”
“They have a list of rules to help them to decide whether or not the ticket should be voided,” Barton said.
According to McCall, around 4,500 decals have been issued to faculty and students this fall, and the final number is expected to range anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000.
The number of total parking spots on campus, as provided by the office of student services, is 4,311.
Despite the issues seen this week, McCall said that he expects the situation to de-escalate in the upcoming weeks, as students sort out the best place for them to park.
Raven Pasibe, a senior broadcast journalism major from Dothan, said that she thinks that parking on campus is a big issue because students are being forced to either miss a class or get a parking ticket, both unfair choices.
“Although I have not received any tickets yet, I know plenty of people who have because they’ve been forced to park in the grass, because they’ve been looking for parking for 40 minutes, and they end up spending more time looking for parking than they do in class,” she said.
Herbert Reeves, dean of student services, said he believes there are several factors contributing to the issue of parking on campus.
“We’ve witnessed about 400 residents who did not live on campus last year move back this year since the new residence hall opened, and unfortunately, there is not a space for everyone who parks behind that building,” he said.
“On the parking map, the parking lot by the Trojan Arena is not marked as commuter or open, so I believe that may have been a confusing point to people as to whether or not they could park there.”
McCall said that the gravel lot behind Hawkins Hall being paved and not being completed before school started has absolutely added to parking problems.
Also, some residents from the east side of campus parking in the west side to be closer to the dining hall has also been problematic.
“I think we do have a couple of residents who think it is OK to drive to class, and so they are leaving resident areas and parking in commuter spots. Is that causing a problem? Yes.”
“But we still have empty parking on campus,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. There is empty parking at the (Trojan) Arena. There is empty parking at the north stadium lot, and people just don’t want to park in those areas.”
Barton said that he believes those lots have been neglected and ignored due to students being lazy and not wanting to park so far away from classes.
“Luckily, the university has promised a shuttle for students that will pick students up and drop them off near the center of campus,” he said.
Campus shuttles will pick students up from these lots and bring them to the quad on campus to minimize walking distance.
Sheri Kotzum, a junior broadcast journalism major from Melbourne, Florida, said that doing away with parking by classification and making it all commuter parking has worsened the situation.
“Last year, I would get to class at 8 a.m., and there would still be plenty of parking during that time,” she said. “This year, I can get to the campus at 8 a.m., and find no parking. So I’ve been forced to walk from my apartment to class every single day, which is fine, but sometimes it’s too hot or it may be too cold to walk, and there’s no shuttle system from my apartment.”
Parents of Troy students are also equally concerned by this ongoing problem, as explained by Karen Daniels from Dothan, whose daughter is a sophomore at Troy.
“I also worry as a parent because she drives to school alone,” she said. “Most of the time she is having to park far away, and that is scary to me knowing she is forced to walk that far away alone.
“Second, my daughter has a Troy University license plate that we pay extra for.
“Yet they are being told to use shuttles or park in places that offer shuttles. If this is what the solution is, why is Troy charging for a parking pass if there aren’t enough spaces to park? “
Daniels also said that as a parent she would like to know how the funds collected from the parking permits are used, and while grand plans like the North End Zone project are fantastic for the school, basic needs like parking need to be met as well.
“Out of all of the articles and new announcements I have seen as a parent, I have not seen any articles or news snippets from administration about the parking problems,” she said.
Reeves said that, although there’s not going to be a space for every student right next to campus, the university will continue to work with SGA to see if there are other recommendations or alternatives to ease the parking issue.
“I’m not naïve enough to think that if this is accomplished it will happen in my time at Troy,” McCluskie said about his petition.
“Having said that, I want to do something to help the future students of this wonderful school be able to enjoy getting up in the morning and going to school, like I do, without having to worry about something as trivial as parking.”