At the risk of being labeled one of “a bunch of entitled kids,” as Professor Vogel of the Philosophy Department once suggested, I wish that we would all meet on Temple Green and shout what is now only whispered: “parking at Connecticut College is a problem!” Just this week, the campus community received two emails regarding parking, and if I see another one, I might just sell my car and Über everywhere.
Connecticut College is spending valuable time and resources in pursuit of better ways to penalize members of its own community. Slapping an egregious fine of $100 or more on a student’s windshield should not be my alma mater’s choice practice for deterring behavior. I’d like to believe that the Connecticut College community is not about crime and punishment. Instead, we should focus on peaceful, harmonious, and democratic cohabitation.
The College is handling the parking problem by setting up brief 5-minute meetings with students who have accrued a nice stack of post-cards hand signed by our Campus Safety officers, or as Meghan Thompson, the area coordinator for South campus, called them in an email to me: an “excessive number of parking tickets.” Displaying a complete lack of foresight, the College has determined that future generations of Camels getting tickets will not even receive handwritten notes; instead, their parking citations will be printed instantly, with a complimentary photo of their car to be found online. This new system, announced by the Office of Communications via email on Feb. 23, is dubbed T2, making it sound cute and harmless like our favorite Star Wars robot, R2D2. But in Camel land, T2 will make it virtually impossible for anyone to petition their crime. After all, Campus Safety will have a picture of their car.
The new parking system is a step toward the increased policing of our campus. Of the 21 types of parking violations listed in Sec. 20-27 of New London’s municipal code, only two penalties for parking violations have a fine of $50. The remaining 19 have a set fine of $25. On our campus, there are 25 possible parking violations, and only four of them carry fines of $25: ten carry fines of $35, five of $50, three of $60, and three separate violations respectively amount to $75, $80 and $90. Shall I delve into an analysis on how unjust and unnecessary the fines are? In what world can a college student, working six hours a week on campus, on top of classes, course work, demanding extracurricular activities and a healthy private life, afford to pay these fines? Let me tell you, not in this fine Camel land.
Placing such a high price on parking violations limits parking to students who can afford to pay their fines, neglecting concern for modern students’ lives. The student body, and by extension the school, places a large emphasis on sports and staying active. We have athletes who have 6 a.m. practices or have to carry heavy sporting equipment down to the AC, and having a car on campus eases these tasks. It is not more convenient for students to park their cars near their dorms only until 2:30 a.m., so it makes sense that a student-athlete would gamble with the odds of receiving a $25 fine at 4 in the morning so that when they wake up at 5:30 to make it down to the AC by 6, their car is in a convenient enough place to use.
A parking system that limits students to assigned areas does not make our campus safer. This practice only serves to segregate students living in South campus, a desert when it comes to parking. Many of my friends have expressed concerns walking from South lot to their dorms because the area is poorly lit, and they say that at times, strangers have seemed to be following students in their cars. Instead of trying to make our campus safer by finding new ways of fining members of our community, our resources would be better spent installing surveillance cameras across campus and lighting the pathways.
The new high-tech parking system should be used to monitor unregistered vehicles; after all, those would be the ones to arise suspicion. Taking a picture of a visitor’s car and writing down their information would make it easy for Campus Safety to know who is on campus. Campus Safety would be able to simply prevent students with unregistered cars from returning until their car is registered. Students would avoid a hefty $75 fine and be tempted to register their cars.
Instead of having assigned parking spots for faculty, staff and particular individuals whose job titles look good on parking signs, we should have a simple first-come-first-serve system. There is no need to have segregated parking favoring professors or other community members. All we want is a hassle-free way of getting from point A to point B. Assuming that we all pay the same price to register our cars, we should all have equal access to the resource. Perhaps the parking utopia that I have in mind is not ideal, but the current state of parking on campus needs to balance the needs of all members of the community equally.
The guiding principles of our campus are shared governance and the Honor Code, both of which should be observed in attempts to reinvent parking on campus. The College already spreads its resources between faculty, staff and students, so maybe it should consider sharing parking spaces equally, rather than selectively.