Affordable late-night parking a problem on St. Paul campus

Erin Ghere

New parking restrictions have exacerbated the unpleasant reality of late hours for graduate students conducting research on the St. Paul campus.
Until this quarter, Ph.D. student Rhoda Burrows was able to stay late on campus to finish her research; now, she must work under the constraint of leaving by 5 p.m. in order to avoid walking through campus at night.
Burrows and other graduate students, specifically those studying on the St. Paul campus, are upset over changes in the enforcement times of contract lots, which have made it more difficult for them to work late-nights.
Students who could previously move their cars closer to the buildings where they work after 4:30 p.m. can no longer do so. Beginning Jan. 19, the enforcement times of the contract were extended to 7 p.m.
“It is impacting the ability to do our work in an efficient and safe manner,” said Burrows, who is studying plant pathology. “By changing the time to 7 at night, it precludes (graduate students) from doing that.”
As a result, students worry about their safety. Options such as the escort service are sometimes slow, she said.
The Council of Graduate Students formed a committee to discuss the students’ options with University departments.
They are taking two courses of action: addressing Parking and Transportation Services and the St. Paul Campus Oversight Committee.
The group has brought its concerns to the attention of George Green, assistant dean of the Graduate School, and he will serve as a liaison to Parking and Transportation Services.
“We had a short meeting today and a longer meeting recently,” Green said.
Students first brought their concerns to Green’s attention on Feb. 11 when a group of council members approached him.
Green said no date has been set for the committee to meet with parking officials.
But Parking and Transportation Services officials were unaware of the students’ concerns, said Cari Hatcher, spokeswoman for the department.
The Council of Graduate Students is also focusing attention on the St. Paul Campus Oversight Committee.
The committee is made up of college deans, assistant deans and other University officials to recommend policy for the St. Paul campus.
The committee extended the enforcement hours after a recommendation from Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said Lisa Hartwig, assistant to the dean of the College of Natural Resources.
“Bob Baker proposed the changes and that is where those recommendations originated,” Hartwig said.
Baker suggested the extension to equate parking on both the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses.
Students were not involved in the final vote on the parking enforcement times issue, said Tom Horn, graduate student and member of the council.
The graduate students are proposing several options:
First, that contract lot enforcement times be changed back to their former ones. If not, the students are asking that evening parking contracts be made more affordable.
Parking and Transportation Services offered the graduate students evening parking contracts, Burrows said, but many students cannot afford them.
Two possible contract parking options exist for the students: an evening contract for $23 per month or a regular contract for $34.50 per month. The evening contract is more restricted, but less students use them.
“Most graduate students would say there is no way I can afford $34.50 a month (for the contract),” Burrows said. “They are just not affordable on most stipends.”
Lastly, the committee is asking that graduate students be able to purchase affordable hang tags so when they come back to campus in the evening to do research they do not have to pay event prices, Horn said.
“If changes are going to occur, we’d like to have a voice on these changes,” he said.