Two weeks into the start of classes at the University of Kansas, students are already annoyed and frustrated with campus officials.
The reason? Changes in campus parking fees and policies.
That has prompted a student petition drive this week to push school officials to revert to last year’s parking lot setup.
Members of the university student senate met Thursday with campus parking officials about the changes that were made and why and how they are affecting students. Afterward, parking officials said they will evaluate the situation in three weeks to see whether changes need to be made.
Nearly 1,200 students had signed a petition started Tuesday evening by senior Alex Hardee. She said she was frustrated with having to drive around campus for up to 30 minutes every day looking for a parking place, all the while passing dozens of faculty-only spots that were empty.
She said that the changes are “a misrepresentation to the students” who had purchased yellow student parking permits and that they have “created chaos” on campus.
“Students did not get what they were led to believe they were paying for,” Hardee wrote in the petition.
Hardee said petitioners would like to see at least half the parking that was set aside this school year for staff and faculty be converted back to student parking.
But university parking officials said students actually gained 70 parking spaces this year. But the bulk of student spaces are in remote areas of campus, as has been the case for years. Students may have to park far from class and walk or take one of the campus buses that run frequently from the lots.
You’re not likely to see professors hiking across campus to class because most of their parking is close. In fact, two lots close to academic buildings that had been sprinkled with student parking stalls last year were converted to faculty and staff-only parking to give employees space near the buildings where they work.
That change also was an effort to make up for faculty and staff parking along Jayhawk Boulevard that was lost to campus construction, said Donna Hultine, director of KU Parking and Transit.
At the same time, parking around the now-closed Stouffer Place residence hall — a long way from academic buildings — was converted to student permit parking. There are 110 parking areas on campus, including 36 student lots. The rest are for residence halls, for faculty or staff only, or for state vehicles only.
Parking is a big deal on college campuses.
“It is difficult to have a campus as large as KU and not have parking issues, because parking is limited,” said Zach George, a senior in political science and student body vice president.
It is expensive too.
To fund part of a $15 million backlog in parking lot maintenance on campus, the annual cost of the standard yellow student parking permit was raised $35 this year to $260 for three semesters.
Faculty parking fees have also gone up — from $291 for a prime space in a surface lot in 2013 to $490, or as much as $570 for one of the 40 gold permits sold for a prime space in a covered garage location. On the low end, faculty pay $325 for a parking space.
Students said they don’t want to hunt for a space. But if they are caught parking in the wrong space, it could cost from $15 to $150 or more if the ticket fee is not paid within 14 days.
“I know a lot of people who are frustrated,” Hardee said. “They pay a lot to park on campus so they can drive to campus, park and get to class and not have to worry about the buses.”
Amber Lessor, a KU student, wrote on the Change.org website where Hardee’s petition is posted: “I’m a graduate teaching assistant and work long hours everyday and now this has extended because of the new (lack of) parking spots. I can’t leave for lunch now in fear of not getting a spot when I come back, even though my spot is still a great distance from where I work. I get irritated everyday seeing all these empty lots while we (the students who keep the university open) spend 30 mins to an hour a day dealing with the new parking situation.”
“We agree that no student with a parking pass should have to spend 20 or 30 minutes finding a parking spot,” Isaac Bahney, student body communications director, said in a statement Wednesday.