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Students debate: free parking for student-teachers, commuters?

Nathan Rakazcky, a senior English major, is a student-teacher — that is, he teaches in local schools as a requirement to earn his degree. The only way to get to those schools is via car.

“We have to get up every day and travel from campus to what our site is,” he said.

That means he has no choice when it comes to purchasing a parking pass.

The same is true of commuters, who of course must obtain a pass simply in order to commute. The cost of purchasing a pass has raised the ire of student-teachers and commuters alike who feel they have no choice in the matter.

Nicholas Ross, a freshman 3/2 engineering major and commuter, has already noticed the sentiment.

“Almost all of my commuter friends have mentioned, with varying amounts of aggravation, the high price of a parking pass,” he said.

Hannah Earhart, a middle-grade education major, is both a commuter and a student-teacher.

“I think that commuters should have a cheaper parking pass. Since we are driving back and forth every day, I understand the college isn’t making any income on us, room and board, like they would on other students, but we do spend a lot more on gas and some of us drive over an hour to get here every single day,” she said.

Yet different opinions exist. While student-teachers are, in practice, required to obtain a parking pass in order to earn a degree, most courses at Saint Vincent have fees of some kind attached to them. Many require textbooks that can run far higher than the cost of a parking pass.

When presented with this position, a student-teacher who asked to remain anonymous responded by suggesting that the costs aren’t really equivalent.

“Student teachers are required to pay for everything regarding their student teaching out of pocket: clearances, exams, certifications, plus textbooks and other necessities for classes. A parking pass, which is required on top of the other required “extra” costs that other majors often do not have to pay for, just adds to the bill. While I understand the argument that a parking pass is a requirement just like a textbook, student teachers are often stretched to cover all of the essential costs that are on top of the $90 parking pass,” the student said.

There’s an opposing position when it comes to commuters as well. As Earhart pointed out, commuters aren’t obliged to pay room or board, and thus the parking pass is viewed by some as merely part of the cost of commuting, like buying gas or obtaining a car. Earhart acknowledged that a cheaper pass isn’t an entitlement.

“I mean, I wouldn’t mind it, but I think what I’m saying more is it would be appreciated and helpful. [...] I think a lot of people do view it as just the cost of being a commuter,” she said.

But she did suggest that some students don’t really have a choice when it comes to commuting — they work on farms or need to help take care of large families.

Rakazcky raised the issue of free or reduced passes at a recent SGA meeting. Theresa Yanicko, a senior biology and pre-medicine major and head of the public safety committee, was delegated to examine the matter. She spoke to Fr. Joseph Adams, head of Public Safety, who explained that it isn’t up to his department to make changes.

“It’s the job of the Parking Committee on campus, which is composed of faculty, staff, administration and students. [Fr. Adams] did say that he would pass on the idea to the parking committee, but did not see it coming to fruition any time soon without further discussion,” Yanicko said.

Adams noted that it may take some time until the committee convenes, though.

“The parking committee does meet every few years on an ad hoc basis, and I don’t know for sure when the next meeting will be, but I can bring up the issue when the committee does meet,” he said.

Adams explained that he doesn’t really have an opinion on the matter either way, though he’s glad to see students offer opinions. In order to ensure that the entire Saint Vincent community is on board, though, he simply isn’t able to act unilaterally.

Ross worried about whether it’s financially feasible to cut permit costs.

“I don’t know how the cost of parking passes is used in the school’s budget. The cost likely is not in place to defer potential parking — teachers and commuters need to park. If the revenue generated is used toward maintenance of the lots, which can be expensive, public safety, or any other resource I benefit from, I can justify the price,” he said.

The money from permits goes into Saint Vincent’s general fund, according to Adams. Thus, the funding can be used for maintenance if necessary, but can be applied to many other causes as well.

Rachel Glatt, a senior English secondary education major, suggested an alternative solution. A bigger issue than the cost of a pass, she argued, is the distance between dormitories and parking lots.

“Many student teachers wake up and walk to their cars pretty early (5:30 - 6:30 AM). [...] Living in [Gerard Hall] and having a parking pass for Lot Q, I am waking up an extra 5 minutes early to walk up to the parking lot at the top of the hill. Student teachers should definitely be able to park in the lot closest to their building during the semester that they student teach,” she said.

Glatt also pointed out that student-teacher’s cars aren’t taking up valuable parking spaces during the daytime, though of course lots for resident students may be fuller at night.

To some extent, that option is already available, Adams explained, though not all students may be aware of it.

“If the student has a valid parking pass, which is properly displayed and is parked in a properly marked parking space — not in a fire lane, loading zone, handicap space or more than 15 minutes in a 15 minute only spot - then the individual may park in Lot D, E or C after 5:00 p.m. until 7:30 a.m.,” he said.

But students who do stay after 7:30 p.m. will be ticketed in all cases, even on the weekend. Most students will want to stay in their assigned lots, then, but the policy could provide a convenient alternative for student-teachers who do need to leave early. Commuters, for the time being, will need to wait.

Photos: Bridget Fertal

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