Walk into any morning class, stand in line for Starbucks, or just walk through any hallway on campus over the last few days and someone is talking about parking. According to Parking Management’s website, “There are enough spaces on campus for the number of students, staff, faculty and visitors we have daily at Southern Miss.”
This seems to minimize students’ anxiety over the time required to find those spaces, but they do go on to acknowledge student’s concerns writing, “The problem is that we do not have as many convenient parking spaces.” This acknowledgement is small consolation to students forced to wake up earlier and walk farther.
However, as Daniel Glover a sophomore business major, said, “We are not literally desperate. It’s just not what we want and not what we are used to.”
This point was repeated by Douglas Vinzant, vice president of finance and administration. “We are trying to ameliorate the difficulties, but they are not something you can do in two days,” he said. “The first week or so of school is historically the hardest.”
As students, faculty and staff adjust to fall schedules the reduction in available parking is exacerbated. After 38 years at USM, Joe Paul, the dean of student affairs, said, “I don’t think anyone should have the expectation of an excess of convenient parking. Because here as well as any college campus, (parking) is always a stressful thing, specifically the relationship between available space and convenience.”
New construction has resulted in a movement in residence population as well as construction taking over some parking lots. This has been the catalyst behind harder-to-find parking spots, but the lack of parking in the middle of campus is something that students should get used to.
As Southern Miss grows over the coming years parking may become less and less available at the heart of campus for three main reasons. Safety, sustainability and aesthetics all led university administrators to propose that parking be moved outward. Safety is a huge concern, and the less that motorists, cyclists and walkers are forced to interact, the better.
Sustainability is also a concern; as we attempt to become entirely self-sufficient before 2050, we have to build now in ways that will make that possible. Aesthetics also play a role, albeit not such an important one.
When potential students visit our campus, we want to capture their hearts as well as their minds. If they can imagine sitting under the oak trees studying with friends or eating crawfish on Centennial Lawn, they will choose USM because they love the atmosphere as well as the academics.
One of the mottoes often spouted by many in the student body is that we want to “leave Southern Miss better than we found it.” We are living that motto now. When incoming freshmen graduate in four years, USM will be better than they found it in part because of the new construction and renovations.
Dealing with inconvenient parking now allows us to more vibrantly grow in the future, but for those bleary-eyed parking searches before your 8 a.m. class, Joe Paul has some advice. “Be calm, plan ahead and go to the periphery.”