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COLUMN: Parking conditions worsen but officials only shrug off student concerns

By Paul Christiansen
On March 26, 2014

There are those who believe an op-ed column is simply a means through which a disgruntled individual can push their unhappiness onto their readers. Because I have taken on the mantle of weekly columnist this semester, I would argue that opinion pieces strive to use journalistic integrity while appeasing a flair for the dramatic.

In my weekly musings published here in The Statesman, I've tried to seek out the truth and give a voice to the voiceless. I've attempted to encourage lively discussion and ultimately sought to make you, my fellow Aggies, think about the world around you and examine it from a broader perspective.

But for the first time, I'm going to cash in on the opinion-writer stereotype and just vent a little bit.

I purchased a blue parking pass in August from USU's Parking and Transportation Department. I had planned to buy an Aggie Terrace pass as I have done in previous years, but I was informed those were sold out. While this would cause me to have to walk a bit further to my classes, I was assured there would be plenty of parking spaces in the designated lots. Boy, was that a crock.

When I was the features editor at The Statesman last fall, one of my writers worked on a story about student complaints with the parking services at USU. The piece reflected only the views of students and received criticism by those who thought the writer wasn't telling the whole story. No parking department officials were quoted in the article, but that's only because they refused.

When asked by this student journalist — and there’s a heavy emphasis on the word “student,” because that's who these officials really work for — to comment on and respond to any complaints, the head of the parking department refused because he wouldn't aid any "sensational journalism." When did it become sensational to give someone the opportunity to clear the air?

Since then, I've seen USU's parking situation get worse throughout the 2013-14 school year.

When school started in August, I allotted myself a 30-minute time frame to secure a parking spot before a class was scheduled to begin. As fall semester moved forward, I found I had to set aside more and more time. By December I had to arrive to campus at least 75 minutes before my classes were to begin.

I realize most people would say this is just a problem that comes with being a student at a growing university. That's just one of the prices a guy has to pay to get an education. And I'd agree if that was as ridiculous as these situations got.

Several times this spring I've arrived to campus at least an hour early to try to park, but I've been faced with completely full lots — including those for which my pass is designated and the lots, such as the TSC terraces and the Blue Premium lot to the east, which charge users $1.75 per hour. This lack of parking is caused by events such as Tuesday's Huntsman Partners In Business Leadership Conference.

Let me be clear: I'm not placing the blame on the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business or any other groups or organizations that hold day-long events that provide networking opportunities and additional education for USU students. I am pointing the finger at the parking department itself.

Yes, I read the fine print when I purchased my pass. I know I signed the agreement and acknowledged that "my parking privileges may be changed due to large university events," but I don't classify something I pay a hefty sum of money for as a privilege. That's a product, and if you can't meet the basics of supply and demand from your consumers, maybe you should be the ones checking out the Huntsman Business School. It could teach you a few things.

I wouldn't even mind so much if I was to receive a courtesy email to inform me of days when such major events are happening. Come on, parking department, I know you have the addresses of all those who purchase passes — I've received the online surveys and the warnings of what lots students are and are not allowed in. Type up a quick 100-word notice of what major happening is going on and send it to your master list of recipients. It'd save us all a bunch of stress.

If you're like me, reader, then you must really want to further your higher education if you’ve gone through the motions and continue on. After all, I've been more than happy to pay an hourly parking rate even though I shelled out $100 for a parking pass I rarely get to use — I'll take any approach that gets me to class on time, I guess.

The next time you're circling around a full parking lot looking for an open spot — just like a starving vulture waiting for your prey to keel over so you can make a move — remember that some of your university officials don't think they have to answer to you. And if that gets your blood boiling like the midday sun, feel free to take to social media with #USUParkingFiasco. Let's keep them accountable.

Paul is the former features editor of The Utah Statesman and is a senior majoring in print journalism. Send any comments to paul.r.christiansen@aggiemail.usu.

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