On Sept. 1, three University of Southern Mississippi students updated a petition in response to the Elam Arms gravel parking lot’s unavailability and construction on new parking not being finished for another 12 to 24 months.
The students originally wrote the petition calling for more suitable parking on campus.
Kiara Cervantes, senior choral music education major and author of the petition, said the first day of class was mass chaos when everyone came to school.
“[The University] gave [students] a notice, but it was barely mentioned and far down in the Mailout,” she said. “I feel like they should have given us more information because it was a big deal – news [the lot was closed] was spread by mainly word of mouth.”
Cervantes said students were late to class or missed class because they could not find a parking spot.
“I felt like this was a good opportunity to do something about it,” Cervantes said. “I was frustrated. I felt like there were so many people complaining about it, and something needed to be done.”
Choral music education junior Katie Glydewell said the majority of students, not just a few, are complaining about parking issues.
“I think it’s ridiculous that they increased the price of parking but have fewer spots,” she said. “I’m already waking up around 6:30 a.m. for my 8 a.m. classes, so I shouldn’t have to wake up earlier.”
Junior choral music education major Nykkoa Morris said on Mondays, she goes to work at 3:30 p.m. at Laser Mania and that parking issues on campus have contributed to her being late for work.
“My ensemble doesn’t get out until 3:15 p.m,” she said. “I already have problems going through the school zone to get to Hardy. Parking doesn’t just affect my school life at this point, but it also goes into my work. It’s a butterfly effect. If I’m always late, I could lose my job.”
The petition calls for three solutions from Parking Management: Reevaluate the zoning designations, remove metered parking and negotiate with the current owners of the Elam Arms lot to allow students to park there until construction is complete.
“Our student body as a whole is not necessarily displeased with the quality of the lots currently provided,” the petition states. “Hundreds of students, however, are concerned with the distance from their available parking zones to their classroom destinations. Students are now under the impression that the institution is not interested in the betterment of the campus for their sake, causing them to feel unheard by their university government.”
It also outlines student concerns for more parking such as time management concerns, professionalism in how students dress, the price increase for parking versus fewer parking spots and student affairs not being prioritized.
The Printz reported on Sept. 1 that Parking Management said it plans to begin constructing new parking lots for student use and implement a mass transit system within the next 12 to 24 months.
“The wording in the university’s response makes it sound like there will be two brand new lots,” Cervantes said. “Even if this were the case, that would only add 235 spots, which doesn’t compare to the number of spots that were sold. But moreover, when you look at the campus map, it seems as though the university is only looking to pave and improve current lots rather than add new ones.
“This is being done with the revenue from selling the lot across Hardy Street, yet it still doesn’t address the needs of the students. Students aren’t concerned with the fact that they are parking in gravel. They are concerned that they are paying $162 for a decal to search for a spot and walk 15 minutes to their classes.”
“If they do just redo these lots then it will make parking worse,” Glydwell said. “There will be lines in those lots instead of students parking close together.”
Another issue the petition mentioned was game day parking.
Cervantes said students don’t have the lot on Hardy Street now.
“Residents move their cars to the parking garage to make room for fans and visitors,” Cervantes said. “If the parking garage is already full on a daily basis, I don’t know where visitors are going to go.”
In response to suggestions that students bike or walk to campus, Glydewell said with the weather walking or biking won’t always be
an option. Glydewell said she knows students who are bringing a change of clothes because the ones they wear to class are drenched in sweat after walking to class.
Cervantes said the petition has more than 400 signatures and that she does not plan to stop until she meets her goal of getting 1,500 signatures.
The petition is now available online at change.org under the title “Improve Campus Parking at USM.”