Students frustrated over parking

Monday, August 5, 2002

Campus parking frustrates Southeast Missouri State University students who don't want to park far from classes and residence halls or pay the increased cost for permits.

Students say they don't want to park in the large parking lot known informally as "Pig Lot." Once part of the university farm, the New Madrid Street lot is too far from their classes, they say.

Some students are steering clear of university parking entirely.

Rather than pay $135 a year for a permit to park in a choice parking lot, these students are parking on city streets bordering the campus. The preferred parking permit price is up from $80 last school year.

"I can park on the street and park closer than parking in Pig Lot," said senior Pam Schmidt, who has decided it isn't worth the cost and aggravation to try to park on campus.

Commuter students want to park as close as possible to academic buildings. Students who live on campus want spots near their residence halls. The problem is that there are far fewer preferred parking spaces on campus than students who want them.

This summer, the university gambled on a lottery to make it fairer for students who wanted preferred parking permits. In the past, permits were issued on a first-come, first-served basis that school officials suggested favored local residents over students farther away who couldn't send back their applications by mail as quickly.

The lottery was designed to correct that problem, but in the end irritated students who didn't get preferred parking permits.

"It just is frustrating," said Merideth McDowell, a senior from Sikeston, Mo., who didn't get a preferred parking permit despite applying for one when registration opened on July 8.

McDowell, a commuter student, is faced with parking in the Pig Lot or one of the smaller perimeter lots and walking many blocks to class and hauling her textbooks around all day.

She said she liked the old system of distributing permits.

1,100 preferred permits

Southeast has issued about 1,100 preferred permits to commuter and residence hall students for the 2002-2003 academic year that begins Aug. 19.

About 1,500 commuter students sought preferred permits. Through a lottery, the university handed out 500 permits.

By the end of July, another nearly 600 students had applied for preferred parking permits for residence hall lots. The university plans to distribute approximately that number of permits for preferred parking at residence halls.

But demand for spaces in the Towers parking lot has exceeded available permits, school officials said.

In all, 417 students applied for preferred parking permits for the Towers lot, 42 more than the 375 permits that were available, school officials said. Freshmen residence hall students -- many of whom live in Towers -- aren't eligible for preferred parking.

Beth Glaus, Southeast's coordinator of parking and transit, said she's been careful not to give out too many permits. "I don't want to oversell it and then have somebody complaining that the lot is full," she said.

Once the fall semester starts, another 100 to 150 preferred permits for parking in various lots may be issued after school officials assess the parking situation, Glaus said.

Not enough room

School officials recognize the lottery system has its critics. "I'm not sure it was more fair to everyone or just a way to make everyone unhappy," said Dr. Pauline Fox, vice president of administration and enrollment management.

Still, she believes the lottery system did give all students an opportunity to get the choice parking permits.

The real problem, she said, is that there's not enough room to provide convenient parking for everyone.

Southeast has plenty of perimeter parking, mostly in the Pig Lot, officials said.

Southeast sold 3,440 perimeter parking permits to students last school year, including 2,361 to commuter students.

Lana Richmond of Advance, Mo., doesn't want a perimeter permit. The senior said in past years she's always managed to buy a permit to park in a preferred commuter lot close to her classes.

"I always went the first day and paid in person," she said.

The lottery system stuck her with a Pig Lot perimeter permit costing $85, up from $45 last school year.

"I am turning it back in," said Richmond, who has fall classes in Dempster Hall. "It is closer to park on the street and walk."

Commuter students who use Pig Lot often have to park in the back of the lot because residence hall students who don't get preferred permits to park close to their dorms end up with perimeter permits and park in the front part of the lot on New Madrid Street, she said.

So far, the university has issued less than 1,000 perimeter parking permits. They've also issued 135 permits for evening-only parking. Those permits cost $45, up from $25 last school year.

School officials say some students park illegally in preferred parking spaces and risk getting tickets. Still others hitch rides with friends.

"I had over $300 in tickets in my first year here," said senior Mindi Rice, who lives off campus. "I could have wallpapered my room with them."

Matt Heger, a junior from Labadie, Mo., plans to park on city streets or carpool from a friend's apartment that's close to campus.

Heger said the jump in permit prices made it an easy decision. "Once they doubled the price, it wasn't worth it at all," he said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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