Award-Winner: Parking problems plague campus
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 29, 2018. Cecilia is currently Editor-in-Chief of Pacer Times and has held several positions in the newspaper, including Arts and Entertainment Editor.
Recently, Pacer Times won five awards from the South Carolina Press Association’s News Contest. This article won second place in the News Story category. Congratulations, Cecilia! We are proud to have you on the team.
All semester students have complained about their struggle to find parking on campus, forcing university officials to look into the matter.
Public discourse about the topic began in the USCA Student Life Facebook page, when students posted about their struggle to find parking on-campus. The original post, by Graham Adams, later received over 20 comments and over 100 reactions from students who seemed to agree.
“We as students shouldn’t have to miss classes because we can’t find a spot to park in a timely fashion …,” replied Isaac Harby.
Another student, Philisea Matthews, agreed and asserted that new rules implemented by some professors demand that students be on time to class or be marked absent.
Student body president Brandon Eberl was also tagged in the post, later publishing his own statement on the Student Life page.
“We are going to monitor the parking over the next few weeks,” promised Eberl. “If it continues to be an issue, we will investigate what can be done to help resolve any further problems or concerns at that time."
He recently doubled down on that sentiment, stating that “SGA, in conjunction with university administrators, has been monitoring the situation” and a method of data collection is currently in development to help them to “get a better handle on the magnitude of the issue.”
According to University police department Chief Kevin Liles, USC Aiken’s administration began surveying the parking lots after the last drop date. They used a drone to take aerial photographs during daylight hours, from which they will infer whether another parking lot is necessary.
Eberl addressed the monetary concerns surrounding the issue, stating that it would cost over $100,000 and “would not be possible without increasing student tuition.”
According to the previous survey by campus police, there are 1,118 parking spots allotted for students in non-housing parking lots and 262 reserved for faculty and staff, along with 29 accessible spots.
However, there are 1,882 commuter student vehicles registered with university police and 642 vehicles registered to faculty or staff members. There are also 580 student resident vehicles registered, though those students cannot park in non-housing lots until after 2 p.m. on weekdays.
Some students expressed concern with the addition of the on-campus high school, fearing that the students and faculty would take much of the parking that they are already struggling to compete for. According to the university’s News and Information director, Leslie Hull-Ryde, this fear is without merit.
“The full-time faculty for the high school who are here five days a week … is nominal,” said Hull-Ryde. “I mean, three full-time people.”
She explained that much of the faculty is on rotation from other schools, commuting to USC Aiken to teach “a class or two” and then returning to their schools. Liles confirmed that he has spent time in the building and has seen no more than five faculty members at a time.
As far as students go, the high school currently contains 50 freshmen who are below driving age, meaning that they are unable to drive themselves to school. Each year, 50 more freshmen will be added, while the students continue to move up from class-to-class. There will eventually be a maximum student body of 200 students, containing only 100 students who will be of driving age.
Liles explained that while he cannot yet confirm whether a new parking lot is necessary, the university police continues to give out hundreds of tickets every week to cars parked in the lots without decals. He said that there seem to be a large number of students who have not registered their vehicles but continue to park in the parking lots.
Hull-Ryde and Liles both suggested that students consider parking in the Convocation Center lot and walking the 10-15 minutes to class. In this lot there are 491 spots available for students that are typically empty during the weekdays, unless an event is happening.