College neglects accessible parking

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Graphic depicts a blond woman angrily driving because she cannot find parking
Graphic by Angela Vasishta / The Flat Hat

Parking on campus is a problem. This really shouldn’t need to be said, and yet the administration seems starkly silent. Whether they don’t realize it’s a problem or are choosing to just not do anything about it is anyone’s guess — though it’s obviously the latter, since not even their reserved parking spaces are enough to drown out the myriad of complaints. There are a few ways to address the issue. First is a question of priorities, next is a question of need and last is a question of fairness. 

The priorities of the College of William and Mary’s administration have always been a bit confusing and never seem aimed to help students. Do we need to better fund the Counseling Center, or can we just give them a nicer building? Do we need to renovate dorms to make them habitable, or can we just trade spaces? The list goes on and never gets better. 

For transportation, at least as long as I’ve been here, parking has never really been their top priority. The head of the College’s Parking and Transportation Services is Bill Horacio. From a quick glance at Horacio’s professional profile, anyone can tell that where the man’s priorities lie: biking. Evidently, these priorities have been realized. Biking conditions have been made safer over his tenure, and bikers will never want for space so long as fences remain in vogue. Bikes can fit just about anywhere, and aside from a few questions of blocking accessibility, they can be locked up anywhere too. Biking was never under the stresses that afflict parking. Cars are big, they need a lot of space and can only be parked in areas that are made for parking. No matter how much we do for bikers, there will always be a significant demand for driving. Carpool spaces, which I’ve never actually seen used, take up spaces that could be beneficial to people who need them. Nonetheless, I’ve heard nary a word from Parking and Transportation about efforts to improve conditions for drivers. Clearly, the administration does not prioritize the parking side of their parking and transportation. 

The question of needs reflects both the needs of the administration and the needs of drivers. Obviously, drivers need space to park. Commuters are lucky to find a space within a 10-minute walk of their class, and residents might as well not even try. Faculty and staff, who pay for their passes just like us, are stuck in these problems as well. Students and staff who choose to drive because walking would risk them being late find themselves late anyways as they search for space. Students and staff who can’t walk are faced with a limited number of handicap spots and are just as lucky to find any other space within a reasonable distance to their destination. On days where student parking is usurped for events, students are told to move themselves far, far away, and no accommodations are made for them. Ludwell Apartments, the campus-sponsored apartments that the administration dares to call “on-campus” accommodations, is just as far a walk to Old Campus as many other off-campus houses. An apt comparison would be to the Graduate Complex, yet Ludwell is lumped in with residents, draining the students living there of an ability to drive to school. The administration, on the other hand, appears to need order. That’s the best and only way to describe their actions. A system of haphazard and wanton fines. They certainly do not need the money from their tickets. Yet the order their system demands is insufficient. Students don’t stop parking out of their assigned places. Nor do fines thin out the overcrowded lots. Clearly, the needs of the students are not being met, and the needs of the administration are never in line with what is best for students. 

Last is the question of fairness, which is just a single gripe that underpins the entire manipulative and self-serving structure that is parking services: we already must pay $400 for a good that’s in serious shortage. Charging students more for parking out of place is an atrocity. We should expect when we shell out such a pricy amount that we’ll at least be receiving a satisfactory good, but when that expectation is not met, and we are forced to make the best of a bad situation, they have the audacity to ask us to pay more money? And to ask faculty and staff to do the same, when many of them are already given such meager salaries? It’s astonishing the level of authoritarian insecurity that must go into willfully being part of that force. 

The lack of parking is just a smaller piece of a much bigger issue about the College that’s been made clear in recent years: the administration does not care about its students. This is one of the most obvious reasons that the school has plummeted in the rankings in recent years. We’d rather buy an anatomically correct statue or add an unneeded addition to the Alumni House than care for the issues that afflict students. They care more about the importance of an ampersand, which I’ve been very careful to not use in this piece, than the importance of the people who live here every day. No, this school hasn’t cared about what students need for a long time, and the day they do is a long way off. So, until that day comes, I posit that we park wherever we damn well please. 

Email Abe Winterscheidt

at ajwinterscheid@email.wm.edu