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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Opinion: Budgetary Crisis for Half of the School

In it’s 9/20 editorial, The Mass Media defends the parking fee hike as an unfortunate measure, but one that constitutes “the most equitable solution” to the problem of paying debt service for garage repairs. The justification for this defense, however, might best be described as a bundle of inaccuracies and oversights.

Firstly, the editorial staff claims that if the parking garage were shut down, the 50 percent of students taking public transportation would be “unaffected.” This is false: the parking fee was initially imposed primarily to pay for shuttle-bus service (which it has), and much of the proposed fee hike is to pay for increased bus service to the new campus center when it is finished. Without a revenue-generating parking lot, everyone walks to school.

Secondly, the editorial portrays the distinction between those who drive and those who don’t as corresponding to those who can afford the costs of driving and those who cannot. There is no evidence that those who drive to school have a higher income than those who do not, or that this decision is motivated primarily by financial considerations. Most of those who drive to school do so because they have no easy access to public transportation, or because they need a car to drive to jobs or manage the transportation needs of a family.

You’ll note that the administration is expanding parking capacity with the new building, and its projections for revenue from the increased fees are not based on a decreasing number of drivers. Clearly, administration does not expect people who usually drive to begin taking public transportation when the former becomes exponentially more expensive. The very idea that the increased fee will generate substantial additional revenues is predicated on the assumption that many students, staff, and faculty need to drive to school and will continue to pay the new rates.

Lastly, The Mass Media presents the school’s options as being limited to charging all students for the parking repairs, or making drivers pay. In order to arrive at these limited options, the editors have to accept the school’s budgetary dilemma as insurmountable – that there is simply no way for the administration to pay for debt service with money from anywhere else, either within the existing budget or by obtaining additional funds from elsewhere. Of course, individuals who drive to school also have budgets, but The Mass Media seems to have complete faith that these are budgets with surpluses, and that those who drive to school will be better able to obtain additional funds to cover this large new expense.

The administration is attempting to turn its budgetary “crisis” into a budgetary crisis for half of the school’s community, and yet the latter’s crisis is portrayed as not only surmountable, but essentially unproblematic. This is not the case, and the fee hike proposal is even more egregious since the administrative “crisis” is the result of years of negligence. Staff and faculty organizers sitting on the school’s Environmental Health and Safety Committee, having seen reports of the garage’s deterioration pass their desk year after year, regularly insisted that fundamental repairs could not be put off and proposed to the administration that they jointly lobby the State for additional funding. These proposals were all declined, and so over time the conditions of the garage got worse and the price tag for fixing them rose.

We would still be willing to join efforts to secure state funding for garage repairs, and we would also be more than happy to suggest areas where this money could be cut from the existing budget. But let there be no doubt that the burden now rests with the administration whose obstinacy the school community cannot and will not pay for.

Ben Day

Treasurer, Radical Student Alliance

CAS ’02