Frank Coots’s Response to Student Complaints about Parking
Students this semester were welcomed onto campus with a sudden realization: no one was going to get their parking passes anytime soon. This news was followed by information from Campus Safety, in the form of emails about the whereabouts of student parking and warnings about parking violations. In light of an email from Francis Coots, director of campus safety, in early September urging “that those of you that have a vehicle on campus respect the fact that faculty/staff have the need for the parking spots more than any student,” students rightfully felt their complaints needed to be heard too.
Upon receiving these emails, students felt like their voices weren’t being heard. One student, Peter D’Albert, Class of 2024, feels “the students' concerns [about parking] should be pretty level, if not held in a higher regard than the faculties.” Stella O’Brien, Class of 2024, lives on the south side of campus in Root Residence Hall, and said that she times the walk home from North Lot and it is “never under 23 minutes.”
Mr. Coots recognized there was not convenient parking available, but he did not seem to fully comprehend the student experience with the issue. In an interview with the Monitor, Mr. Coots was asked how long he thinks it takes to walk from North Lot to Root Residence Hall. He responded “As long as you didn’t stop, anywhere between 10-15 minutes,” contradicting O’Brien’s statement.
Students have also raised concerns over the priorities of campus safety in wake of their attention to faculty concerns. Student’s are wondering how much Campus Safety’s responsibilities are directed towards students, and Mr. Coot’s response is “All of it. Our only reason for being is the safety of our students.” So, who gave Campus Safety jurisdiction over faculty parking? Mr. Coots came to the conclusion that they have jurisdiction over parking in general, which does include faculty parking and therefore faculty concerns.
What was Mr. Coot’s reasoning to send an email about faculty concerns about parking amongst a flurry of student complaints? He said, “The reason for the email...I think everyone is due an explanation about parking that’s available. But specifically when it comes to faculty and staff, they had to drive to get here.” When asked to respond to the statement: “If you live here, you also deserve convenient parking?” Mr. Coots' direct response to this was “What I said is you deserve adequate parking, it would be nice to have convenient parking, but you deserve adequate.”
The issue is not that there is not enough parking: Mr. Coots assures that “there are far more spaces available than there are vehicles registered.” According to Campus Safety, the number of students who registered their vehicle this semester was 561 students. The amount of spots that are physically available for students on campus, not including faculty lots on the weekends, is 662. The issue that Mr. Coots said students bring to him the most is “that there's not enough convenient parking. And I have to agree with that, there is not convenient parking especially on the south side of the campus.” On the topic of providing convenient parking, Mr. Coots believed that “for me to say ‘everyone gets a convenient spot’, it would be impossible, first of all, but secondly it is that we are giving adequate parking, convenient parking is not available.”
What is perhaps most notable from the Monitor’s discussion with Coots are the projected solutions and opportunities for improvement that he introduced. He explained that there are “a couple of things we are doing to alleviate the issue, it will not eliminate the issue, but it will alleviate the issue.” He discussed two ideas that are potentially coming to life to address student parking. Mr. Coots explained them as “the parking lot that’s closest to Babbitt Pavilion has been designated for Bon Appetit personnel, and if I can manipulate moving certain spots from that over to other faculty/staff lots that don’t get fully utilized, we’re going to let students park there.” An important note to make is that this parking lot is not available for students yet. “The other one is the old tennis courts near the field house, which doesn't really affect the darkside of course...so that will be open for students as well.” While these are exciting prospects, Mr. Coots is aware that they are “not a perfect solution.” They will not eliminate the issue of the lack of “convenient parking” on campus for students.
Mr. Coots was posed with the idea of building a new parking lot. Mr. Coots described this idea as “not radical at all.” However, there are many aspects to consider: “It is expensive. There’s no if and/or buts about it. The design, the material costs, the actual environmental impacts, it has to be taken into account.” At the end of the day, it is something that campus safety and facilities are willing to consider because “could we build more parking lots? Yes we can, yes we can.”
However, they are not currently working on any new parking lot construction projects. Frank Coots repeated that the administration is the one to have to make a decision about this, but they are hesitant because the college already offers “adequate” parking. Mr. Coots said, “We talk about being environmentally friendly, is that being environmentally friendly to add more pavement to a green campus when we already have enough parking?” While there are a lot of solutions to consider, Mr. Coots is most inspired and driven to act by the ones introduced by students. Mr. Coots urges students to bring more ideas for solutions to him directly, at firstname.lastname@example.org.