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Saturday, Sep 25, 2021

Students and administration wrestle over parking

“It’s like a wrestling match,” said Ashton Cubbedge, a Mercer junior who transferred from Armstrong State University this fall.

In this wrestling match, it’s thousands of pounds of steel instead of flesh and bones. And the winner’s prize is a parking space instead of a gold belt.

But administration officials feel that the there are enough spots for students to park.

“The problem is not inadequate parking spaces. There are enough parking spaces on this campus to accommodate everybody,” Larry Brumley, senior vice president for marketing and communications and chief of staff said.

Brumley said that parking is a “little less convenient” this year due to construction on the new residence hall, which has displaced roughly 150 parking spots on campus.

Students’ complaints trend towards a lack of parking near on-campus housing.

“There is not sufficient parking to accommodate the growing student population,” Erona Zequiri, sophomore and resident of Shorter Hall, said. “More parking needs to be available closer to where I live.”

Brumley said he believes the problem is with students who opt to drive across campus rather than walk to their class, which “doesn’t make sense on a college campus.”

“You can walk from one side of the campus to the other from the Tattnall [Square] Center for the Arts to the football stadium in 12 minutes,” Brumley said. “That is the entire length of the campus. You can walk from the Tattnall [Square] Center for the Arts to Cruz Plaza in five minutes, because I’ve done it, and I’m a fat old man.”

One change that the administration made this year was moving towards a universal decal system rather than ones for individualized lots; all students who live on campus receive a red sticker, while faculty, staff and commuters are allowed to park in green and purple lots. This alteration has been met with mixed reviews.

“I like the new parking system because if you can’t find a spot in the lot closest to your dorm, you’re not stranded without one,” pre-veterinary student Bianca Perez said.

Student Hayley Hudson does not agree.

“When I complain, MerPo tells me that there are red lots by the football field, but that’s not reasonable. I should be able to park within a reasonable distance of where I live. And I’m not currently able to do that,” Hudson said.

[pullquote speaker="Hayley Hudson, Mercer Student" photo="" align="left" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]I should be able to park within a reasonable distance of where I live. And I’m not currently able to do that.[/pullquote]

This year’s switch to a single decal system for on-campus students was meant to allow students an easier access to parking, Mercer Police Chief Gary Collins said.

“We wanted to make parking easier for you to locate. We have parking lots open to all people. We have tried to make it more convenient for students,” Collins said. “We do not charge for decals. Other places charge you for a decal. They charge for a hunting license [at other schools], not a parking space.”

But the system hasn’t worked as planned. Collins said they have issued more tickets than in previous years.

Claire Waliczek said it’s not the students’ fault.

“It’s hard not to park illegally. This is Mercer’s fault, not ours. It’s their responsibility to provide more parking,” she said.

As of late October, Merpo had written about 565 parking tickets so far this semester, MerPo Secretary Harry Stewart said.

Collins said that a large part of the issue is that students are allowed to park at certain places, such as on Adams Street but have to move their car by 8 a.m., and most students do not come out to move them.

Both Collins and Brumley agreed that some students disobey the rules altogether. They just simply park in the wrong spots – including in the retail spots in Mercer Village, which has caused quite the headache for merchants and Mercer police officers who have to write more tickets.

“We are going to lose our vendors. It’s unfortunate, but they can’t have parking for their customers,” Collins said. Brumley clarified that vendors lose “off-campus customers” when students take their parking.

Brumley said that the administration has looked into other alternatives to making parking less strenuous, such as eliminating the ability for freshmen to bring cars on campus, but they concluded that it would not be a good idea. Brumley said the goal of the university is to find a balance between aesthetically pleasing parking and convenient parking.

[pullquote speaker="Gary Collins, Mercer Police Chief" photo="" align="right" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]In real reality, Mercer doesn’t have a parking problem,” Collins said. “We don’t have a lot of convenient parking spaces, but we have parking spaces.[/pullquote]

Another factor that raises concerns for both the students and the administration is safety in the parking areas.

Some students have stated they feel the long walks across campus at night are not safe.

Mercer Police offers an escort service to all those on campus, and Collins said he urges students to call for an escort and for students to sit in their cars until the escort arrives. Collins explained that wait times could be up to five minutes due to staff handling other issues but that they shouldn’t take longer than that.  

“There is no reason for any student to ever feel unsafe on this campus. If you feel unsafe, call Mercer Police. Put their number on your speed dial in your cell phone,” Brumley said.

Changes are coming to campus, Brumley said, that will make parking more convenient for students. Most will be coming next school year with the addition of a parking deck at the new Mercer Landings lofts — which will hold 420 spots — as well as the addition of 296 parking spots where the new freshmen residence hall is being built.

Collins said that student perception about parking and the reality are two different things.

“In real reality, Mercer doesn’t have a parking problem,” Collins said. “We don’t have a lot of convenient parking spaces, but we have parking spaces.”

Credit for reporting due to Adam Ragusea’s JMS 120 class.


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