Parking resolved? New bill fails to address students’ need

Ngoc Vo

It took only one week for the Student Government Association to pass the Fraternity Row parking resolution, which was proposed on Sept. 15.

The resolution calls for rezoning the Fraternity Row parking to a commuter-only lot because “fraternity house residents are unable to find parking due to open-lot zoning,” the resolution states. Yet, this does little to resolve the parking problem for the rest of the student body.

Parking has been a perpetual issue on the Troy campus. We recently received a letter to the editor from someone who faced a similar parking situation when he came to Troy in 2007. Our yearbook showed this problem has persisted since before 1998. Our repeated coverage on this issue is an attempt to reflect the relevance and importance of the parking situation to student life. We bring students’ needs into focus so that they can be addressed. That’s our job, and we advocate for the SGA senators to do their jobs.

The SGA could have formally sponsored, and possibly appropriately modified, the student-originated petition for a parking deck that was signed by more than 1,400 students and was considered informal according to Herbert Reeves, dean of student services.
Instead, the Fraternity House parking resolution was what was on the docket and was passed. I wonder if this is a representation of students’ needs or a representation of the Greek-majority SGA.

I remember when I was an SGA senator under then-president Cody Farrill. He encouraged all of us to design and sponsor bills that would impact student life. That was followed in the same breath as something along the lines of “any bill except parking.” Farrill was a very active and passionate president whom I came to know my first year at Troy. It puzzled me that he was so sure that a parking bill would not be a good idea.

Troy is set to have a new recreation center and a new football facility built. Granted that different fundraisers are involved in these developments, the university seems not to be short of money for construction projects. And even if it is, Troy is charging students an additional fee for the building of the new recreation center anyway. Hence, it is not impossible for funding for a parking deck to be raised likewise.

So, what makes the recreation center a yes and more parking a no?

I have heard many reasons voiced: a parking deck is too expensive; a parking deck is not pleasant to the eye of some; other universities have worse parking situations; and, according to the current SGA president, Heath Barton, students are “ too lazy” to utilize parking lots far away from the main academic buildings.

Having known Barton personally, I can attest that he is a hard-working and committed president. Yet the SGA’s and the university’s non-handling of the parking issue remains unsatisfactory.

I understand from the university’s economic standpoint. A recreation center makes Troy look competitive to other universities in the region, facility-wise. A recreation center with modern equipment is marketable; so is a new residence hall with king-sized beds and flat-screen televisions. A picture of the inside of the rec center is worth putting on a recruitment brochure. A picture of the inside of the rec center is worth putting on a recruitment brochure. A parking deck, on the other hand, is not much to brag about. When we share an aerial tour of the Troy campus video on social media, a parking deck can be said to stick out like an unaesthetic sore thumb. It costs a lot to build, and the return of investment is low. It is understandable how a parking deck may seem to be an unprofitable project. That is, if profit is the university’s priority.

Parking is more of a student welfare issue than a school’s selling-point. Many students are upset about the parking situation and are late for class due to lot unavailability, as we have covered in our paper. We have received complaints from parents who expressed concerns.

Last year, the university talked about retention, incompletion and transfer-out rate (5.29 in 2012-13; we have not been able to obtain a more up-to-date figure from the Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness Department). Granted that the average student may not quit going to Troy just because of parking, but the problem adds to the frustration. For students to develop loyalty to Troy University, they need to feel that they are heard and taken care of.

We have campus ambassadors whose jobs are to market the campus and Troy University to prospective students and their parents. However, I am not sure if the university fully appreciates the potential of all Troy students to be ambassadors in one way or another if they have satisfying experience with the school.

I found it comic, in a way, when I saw Barton go to heads of student organizations to ask them to take down a certain video capturing the parking situation on campus on Instagram. I understand reputation control, but wouldn’t a video of a deck that helps students find parking in a timely and convenient manner be more effective in upholding the university’s image?

Addressing the parking problem to meet students’ needs, after all, may bring benefits and actual return of investment to the university. Students’ satisfaction can create a snowball effect with their genuine positive comments to prospective students. It’s a perspective worth considering, formal or not.

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