The Captain's Log

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The Captain's Log

The Captain's Log

“The administration should adopt a ‘student first’ stance when it comes to parking services.”

Commuter student’s perspective on increasingly difficult campus parking
Photo of parking sign used from MyParkingSign.com
Photo of parking sign used from MyParkingSign.com

At Christopher Newport University, there is no greater point of stress and tension than finding decent parking. This is especially true for me, since I’m a commuter student, meaning that I don’t live on campus and instead take my car to school. Like so many others, I begin and end my day of classes with a ten-minute walk back and forth from one of four remote parking spots. This walk isn’t so terrible; it’s much less expensive to drive to school and take this walk than to live in a dorm. Yet the drive to and from my home in Newport News makes this more than a little inconvenient, when I have to be on campus for every class, event, or club. I am lucky enough to live pretty close to campus, which is about a seven or eight minute drive. It’s a trip that is so short that I wonder some days if I’d rather take my bicycle instead. 

I acknowledge that I’m unlike other commuters, who have a significantly longer drive to make. That is to say, I still bought a parking pass out of convenience and to be safe coming onto campus through inclement weather. The parking pass is $275, which regardless of how much money you have is not an insignificant sum. You’d think that for commuters that are forced to pay this fee, this purchase would guarantee you a parking spot. Well, apparently not, because as ‘Luter 2’ construction began, the faculty overflow into the commuter student parking areas felt like a gigantic middle finger to those who just bit a $275 bullet to be able to get to their classes. I trust that the administration did the math and provided enough spots when they built the campus, but it’s also clear that construction of Luter 2 has shifted things outside of that design.

Just in the first couple of weeks this year, I’ve felt more frustrated and inconvenienced by the setup for parking on campus than the entire rest of my time at CNU. From this frustration, I’ve given some thought to things that I normally don’t, and am left with nothing but questions about the way parking services operate. The first thing I wonder is why parking in the most remote places on campus costs $275. Like, seriously, we have to pay for this parking pass as a matter of being able to get to class. Some people are driving for nearly half an hour for classes that can take place early in the morning. Why is it that commuter students get stuck with the farthest places to park? I understand that we’ve set aside some of these closer lots for faculty, which I completely agree with, they’re in a similar situation to commuter students (if you don’t consider they’re getting paid to work here while we are paying to attend). Still, I’d rather take issue with the sheer convenience afforded to resident students, who don’t need to walk from their parking spots to class, the lunch halls, or any event on campus. Commuter students on the other hand, do. I’d never disregard the real needs of resident students for their cars, but I still question why their parking takes up all the best spots on campus. Why are these passes the same price? For commuters the purchase is out of necessity and for your average resident the purchase is out of convenience. 

I’ll accept that if we’ve set aside the exact number of spots we need for everyone with a car on campus, then changes are difficult. Yet the decision to open Ferguson’s front-facing parking lots as overflow for commuter students, without any additional consequences, shows that even marginally better parking was available all along.

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A related issue is that the already difficult parking situation for commuter students is clearly a secondary concern in decisions made by parking services. Our parking passes provide access to the East lot near the Captain’s Den, the Ferguson Parking deck, ROTC lot and Tennis court lot. None of these spaces are exclusive to commuter students, they are always shared with faculty/staff, and the latter two are shared with residents as well. It would be entirely plausible under this system for commuter students to show up on campus and not be entitled to a single spot. If a single commuter student is found to park in any lot that I’ve not listed above, they’ll be fined upwards of $80 for it. I have also never once seen any ‘overflow’ accommodations that grant additional parking to commuter students, or even utilize the vast amount of residential parking. 

Commuter students aren’t given enough consideration when it comes to event planning either. The Ferguson Center is a very popular venue for the many events put on by CNU throughout the year, and some of these events are bound to happen during normal class hours. In these cases, the Ferguson parking deck is opened up to these visitors, which will only complicate the current solution for the ‘overflow’ already present in the Ferguson parking deck. Luter 2’s construction will permanently remove parking that was once designated to faculty, and unless the Ferguson center sets their events outside of normal class hours, we’re going to see the day where commuter students will arrive for classes one morning and have no place to park. It’s entirely necessary to construct additional parking. 

This lack of a guarantee is something that should be unacceptable for parking services, but after all I’ve experienced with this system, it seems like it’s part of the design for commuter students. In fact, they’ve written in the Student Handbook (2023-2024) the following clause: “For the safety and convenience of those who operate vehicles on campus, parking regulations at CNU have been prepared in compliance with § 46.2-1228 of the Code of Virginia. The University cannot guarantee a parking space, nor does it assume responsibility for the care or protection of private motor vehicles or their contents.” 

This is completely demoralizing, as I’m being charged a considerable amount of money for a service I’m not even guaranteed. It’s pretty disgusting when this service is equivalent to a commuter’s ability to attend classes.

As a final mention, I feel like my money is going to nothing of value in parking services. The only interaction a commuter will have with parking services is when they’ll ticket you for parking in the wrong lot; we don’t even enjoy the benefit of parking services keeping people out of our spots. We pay the wages for a job that we don’t benefit from in the first place. Now it’s true that some of this revenue goes back into the maintenance of the carts and vans that we reserve for club use, but if that’s the case then why are these vans in such terrible condition to the point of being potentially dangerous to their passengers?  Whatever’s going on in parking services hasn’t been helped by additional revenue, and it’s not going to be helped by raising the price of our parking passes again. In my view, the administration should adopt a “student first” stance when it comes to parking services and force them to start developing some real solutions to these problems.



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    Ethan CooperSep 13, 2023 at 10:30 am

    You are absolutely correct, and I believe that students/faculty should make a formal complaint about the lack of transparency and accommodations for commuters, off-campus workers, and people with disabilities.

    My situation is this:

    The main parking area on campus at a minimum supports the Greek halls, Warwick, James River, and Santoro. This year due to the construction of Luter 2 and the “limited” number of spots in East Campus, that area now has to accept the overflow from the Luter lot as well as East Campus residents.

    I never got an email to purchase an East Campus decal, likely due to me being a graduate student now, so I am currently on a completely nebulous “waitlist” to receive one but haven’t heard a peep from the office in a month. After receiving my first ticket, I tried sticking to main parking as much as possible, but what happens when that area (supporting 5-9 dorm halls at this point) is completely full and there are a ton of open spots in the area where you actually live? To top it off, I was parked on East for less than 3 hours yesterday and they ticketed me.

    I have seen people write notes on their own vehicles stating that they live on East Campus and have a disability that affects their mobility, making crossing the street from East onto Main or vice versa just to get to their vehicle a challenge. This situation is absolutely ridiculous.

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