On the night of April 13, psychology senior Andrea Nelson was the only parking attendant working at the Church Street Garage. With an event occurring that evening at Northrop Memorial Auditorium, she expected to be busy — but she didn’t expect it to get ugly.
“A car pulled into the lot and a young man was driving,” Nelson said. “He asked if they needed reservations to park in the lot and that night was ‘reservations only,’ so I said yes. He said they had reservations, but I couldn’t find their name on the list. I asked them to pull around and out so that other people could park there.”
At that point, Nelson said, a woman got out of the passenger door and confronted her. The woman “came right up to me and started talking loudly and shoving identification and credit cards in my face.”
A University Police officer on duty at the garage came to assist, Nelson said, but when the woman identified herself as a member of the Board of Regents, he backed off. After briefly rummaging around inside the car, Nelson said, the young man found the official hang tag and parked the car.
“That was all I needed to see,” Nelson said.
The woman who confronted Nelson that night — Regent Hyon Kim — filed a formal complaint with the office of Parking Services. As a result, Nelson said, she almost lost her job. The only reason she was able to keep it was because the police officer corroborated her story.
Officer Lee North was directing traffic that evening and saw that Nelson needed help.
“The lot was understaffed that night,” North said. “The ticket machine was having problems, and all of the people that had prepaid parking were irritated.”
North would not comment further, saying, “I don’t want to get stuck between a rock and a regent.”
Bill Stahlmann, manager of public parking, said the lot was indeed understaffed that night and the brouhaha was the result of his error.
“I’m sorry this incident occurred,” Stahlmann said, “but Ms. Nelson handled it according to policy, and she has a clean record. It was nice, though, that someone else was there. I have talked to Officer North, but I’ve not spoken to the regents.”
Kim said she doesn’t believe Nelson should have lost her job because of the fracas, but, she said, she was definitely dissatisfied with the way she was treated.
“It would have been easier to get into heaven’s gate than to get into that parking lot,” Kim said. “I am proud of the work I do for the University, and (the regents) volunteer for this; it isn’t paid. The only perk we get is free parking in any lot.”
Unfortunately, Kim said, she met with a discourteous parking attendant and words were exchanged. University workers need to have a better attitude, she added.
Parking Services sent Kim a letter acknowledging the complaint and stating the matter was under investigation.
For her part, Nelson regrets being at the Church Street Garage that evening.
“I thought the regents were there to look out for our rights,” Nelson said. “It’s like somewhere along the line she’s forgotten what it’s like to be a student.”