Cash and Carry On The Way To Class

Students and faculty alike are parking in disant lots

Students and faculty alike are parking in disant lots

Denez McAdoo

UMass Boston’s fall semester parking plan has been in effect for just over two weeks. So far the transition seems to have occurred without major incident.

Though many in the UMass community are still adjusting the minor inconvenience of losing interior parking, they’ve learned that arriving early to ensure an available space or taking advantage of public transportation are the two most effective ways to have a more enjoyable commuting experience.

These first two weeks have been a critical time for the administration, faculty, staff, and students who’ve all had to quickly cope with new challenges brought on by the closure of our campus’ two levels of interior parking.

Losing access to the garage also meant losing access to approximately 1100 parking spaces. However, since the start of the fall semester all but 200 spaces have been replaced with new and expanded lots provided by the University.

So far the UMass community’s response to the parking plan remains largely positive. “We’ve had a very smooth transition on campus,” said Assoc. Vice Chancellor of University Communications Ed Hayward. “Use of the new lots has been fairly seamless,” a statement which seems to be supported by the lack of reports from Campus Safety. Aside from a crackdown on illegal parking, including unattended cars on University Drive, Campus Safety reports no major incidents related to the new parking plan.

This does not mean that there are no concerns.

The most common response to the effectiveness of the university’s parking plan remains that it is still too early to tell. The first two weeks are not necessarily an effective indicator of long-term success, and the campus has yet to experience a major storm, which will be a critical test of this plan.

Faculty have their own unique set of concerns over the new parking plan.

The first major concern for teachers is whether the current parking situation will cause an increase in classroom tardiness.

The South Lot has been reserved as student only parking in an effort to keep this from being either common concern or common excuse. The same level of effort to ensure priority parking for teachers has not yet been made by the administration.

The consequences of teachers arriving late for class are compounded by the fact that entire classes must be delayed.

Several sources referred to teachers voluntarily using off-site parking in a selfless effort to ease the strain on students. However, many teachers require more than just a backpack’s worth of materials to prepare for their curriculum. The University’s administration has responded to this by offering a concierge service at the Quinn Bldg/Clark Center turnaround. After arriving early, teachers can drop off classroom materials here, find a parking space, then return to pick up materials before heading to class.

Although this effort has been effective, it highlights the need to keep faculty parking options a priority, as public transportation simply will not be an option for the many teachers who routinely transport several classes worth of materials between work and home. Continued difficulty in parking could become disincentive to teachers to make themselves available outside of class and office hours, a major loss for students.

Another area of concern has been safety. Since off-site parking seems to be up as a result of the loss of parking, this has raised concern over the range of campus security, which regularly patrols the campus, but not off-site parking lots. Though this affects everyone in the campus community, teachers are especially concerned since they traditionally stay on campus later than students, many well past sunset.

The pick-up/drop-off concierge service only operates until 4 p.m., leaving many teachers with the uncomfortable option of trekking from the Wheatley and McCormack buildings to off-site parking lots late at night with materials in tow. With winter quickly approaching and the stability of the new gravel lots still untested, safety concerns are not likely to decrease in the coming months.

These concerns are more than just an issue of convenience; changes to teachers’ working conditions could pose contractual implications. “We completely understand that this was an emergency situation,” says Rachel Rubin, the President of the Faculty and Staff Union.

The union says that it was not informed of how changes in parking would like affect faculty job conditions until August 28, just one week before the start of the fall semester, leaving no opportunity for consultation or negotiation over contractual aspects of their job.

“Our position is that this was not done legally… In the past there have been formal negotiations with the union about parking changes,” said Rubin. “But we are remaining patient. We just want to do our jobs well.”