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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Parked in Neutral: Does Anyone Care?

I am not in charge of parking. And frankly, I have never wanted to write about it. But when students are unhappy about things I do want them to come to me. This year I have heard from more students with parking concerns than in the past. This may be because of the limited parking to construction. It may also be because we stopped notifying students in the fall when we hosted community events - and the associated parking - on campus. That was done to reduce email clutter, but we have since resumed notifying students. But there doesn't seem to be any particularly good place to complain about parking on campus. That's because no one is in charge of parking, really - and no one wants to be.

TUPD, of course, is charged with formally managing parking through their Parking Services area. They do a terrific job. But just as Residential Life manages a residency requirement it doesn't own, TUPD is saddled with responding to parking concerns they don't control. Clearly they oversee traffic issues, issuing parking permits, and writing tickets. When it comes to enforcing parking policies, writing tickets is really done on behalf of those who have permits. When non-students park on campus students want them ticketed, which means our own students without permits will also be ticketed.

There is apathy from the staff and faculty about student parking. These groups are here to enlighten and broaden the minds of students, not worry about parking. Besides, most went to schools where parking was scarcer and cost more. I went to a school where you had to take a bus to the parking lot. Add to it our reasonable fees, generally enough availability, and decent proximity, and this issue just doesn't get traction. Plus, faculty don't always feel the love for students who park in their spaces.

The student worker in my office, Mai, researched some urban schools to see what students are paying elsewhere. (Here it's $73 per year.) That is similar to TCU in Forth Worth and Rollins in Orlando, and $20 less than Georgetown in DC. At American University, also in DC, students pay $988. Other annual rates include Wash U in St. Louis at $480, Marquette in Milwaukee is $452, SMU is $270, and on the higher end, Penn in Philly costs $1,725. Ouch. In Chicago at Northwestern, Loyola, and the University of Chicago, you can expect to pay about $500 per year or more. UT dorm garages are $743 per year and commuters pay $602.

Some commuting students are especially consumed by parking issues, particularly when outsiders take their spaces. The naturalization ceremonies here, as well of the hosting of schools for educational programs and commencements in Laurie Auditorium, are ways for us to be part of the community. We want to not be insular, but a handful of times each year there is a cost to breaking the bubble. It is important in terms of community relations. While they sometimes claim in exasperation that they pay $40K per year to park here, students, in reality, pay at most the $73 fee. But in paying their tuition they reason, convincingly, that they should be able to get to class.

For off-campus students, paying $38 a semester seems pretty reasonable. But students try to save money, and most days Alamo Stadium offers a free and convenient alternative. There was a piece about this in the Trinitonian this week and Pete Perez of TUPD did a nice job explaining that this is a privilege. In fact, use of the Alamo Stadium lot was painstakingly negotiated with the San Antonio Independent School District.  TUPD is in charge of making sure the lot is cleared by the agreed upon times. The arrangement allows for free, easy parking, but with a few restrictions (during football games and track meets). But it is their property, not ours.

Millsaps in Jackson and Rhodes in Memphis don't charge for parking. The costs are likely buried somewhere in the operating budget, but it does show there are different ways to do this. Where students do pay, such as here at Trinity, the revenue from permits and tickets goes, in part, to pay the people who give out the permits and tickets. So why do it? Well, it is more than that. Paving and striping lots comes from these revenues.

But we don't even know who should discuss such options here.

Perhaps as close as we come to having an entity that oversees traffic and parking is the committee, aptly named the Traffic and Parking Committee. That committee mainly hears ticket appeals. The committee has student, faculty, and staff representation. They probably don't want to be the heavies, though, when it comes to parking. Likewise, if ASR addresses parking with the administration they may get eye-rolling. But maybe the Faculty Senate, the Staff Engagement Committee, ASR, and the Traffic Committee need to come together to discuss issues and make recommendations, or at least decide to whom people should complain.

Again, I am happily not in charge of addressing campus parking concerns. No one is, it appears, and no one wants to be. It is a no-win, uninteresting, and tedious undertaking that makes people crazy. And there-in lies the problem.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Paige. What would she do?
I was already starting to get a little uncomfortable with the ease of the off-color language at the recent Senior Roast. Then I saw Paige, a sophomore I know well, two people over. From what I know of her, I would assume she is more conservative with her language. But if she were at the microphone, would she talk this way? Would it be so natural and acceptable as it seemed to the roasters and the crowd? After all, the two ladies at the microphone seemed like Paige to me too. I had mostly seen them singing with the Acabellas, including many sweet songs, including Christmas Carols.

I am not judging by the way. At least I don’t think I am. I try not to be a big curser, especially in public, or in front of my kids. Or anyone’s kids. I regretted a phrase that resulted in being called out by a parent in a recent post, though I still maintain it was more figurative than literal. Something about a bird and flipping. And you can’t watch the Spurs and Packers as much as I do and not help but let a few bad words fly once in awhile. Plus, I don’t think of myself as prudish. I am not offended by foul language in films either, unless it is gratuitous. Which it usually is.

I love Jon Stewart and have no trouble with his swearing on The Daily Show. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t bleeped out, but actually, knowing what he is saying and not having to hear it just feels better to me. My favorite comedian, BrianRegan never curses. Tony Dungy may be one of the only non-cursing coaches ever to win a Super Bowl.

Some of my favorite people swear though. I won’t name the past and present administrators at Trinity who swear. Except for former VP Felicia Lee. She is a master of cursing and it seems hilarious coming from her. This brings up the first issue. Is there any relationship between swearing and character? Well, I don’t really think so. Some of my favorite people swear, including Felicia. But there are other favorites, such as Wanda Olson, who have never sworn in front of me. It would be really odd if she ever did. My wife doesn't swear, but she listens to hip-hop music that sends me straight to confession.

The second issue is about the setting. I recently watched a Conan O’Brien documentary and wasn’t surprised that he swore a lot. But I didn’t expect it based on his network persona. I guess in hindsight, I didn’t expect those angels from the Acabellas to swear either. But I shouldn’t be shocked. When it spills over into public settings though, I wonder why we should simply accept it. I first felt this way when my kids were little and we went to Trinity sporting events and students, in casual conversation, were dropping the f-bombs without any regard for the setting. I think every parent eventually faces their entrance into being a fuddy-duddy. This was mine. A student recently relayed to me that when hosting a prospective student and family in Mabee she had to apologize for the language being used the next table over. Have we lost awareness? Civility?

And finally, the issue settles on whether or not cursing is necessary. Swearing is so commonplace that it really holds no meaning for most people. It is used for emphasis and humor. But imagine Humphrey Bogart saying "Of all the f***ing gin joints in the world, that sl** walks into mine..." Sometimes there is more power without the bad language. I remember trying to explain to an old girlfriend's father that the language in films was just reflecting reality. He challenged me, asking, "is it really?" Needless to say I broke up with his daughter. But I see his wisdom now. It really is only reality if we make it that way. And it isn't everyone's.

As for Paige, I know her, from among other things, for being a member of my running group. One day during a run she turned to the side and spit like a major league baseball player. My goodness, I didn’t expect that. But why not? And it isn’t just because I can’t spit. (Which is very embarrassing, by the way.) I think of Paige as quite elegant and classy. Then I found out she was also teaching student Katie Ogawa to spit. Now that I expect. Does Paige swear like everyone else seems to?  In the end, I don’t think I really want to know. And I'm not sure that it really matters.

Weigh in on the poll, upper right.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

HOT Dog!

Student Paige Carlson, above, holds The Dog Jurgens at the Dean of Students home following a weekend walk. By now, most on campus people have learned about Jurgens as she has become a bit of a media darling. Maybe I should start peeing on the carpet too.

Click on The Dog Jurgens Web page to learn more about this TSA puppy being fostered on campus by Campus Publications and the Dean of Students. Or go directly to these pieces: Trinitonian coverage, a local TV news story, and a Trinity press release. You can follow the campus antics of Jurgens on her Twitter and Facebook accounts too. She is better at social media than much of the Student Affairs staff.

Jurgens is a hit with the students. I find, as well, that when I walk her around campus students will warmly greet Jurgens. (As though I was invisible, no less.) As for Paige, she had already been a TSA volunteer and was there when Jurgens was merely days old. Now she has home court advantage!