Does parking off campus put students at risk?

“Working to create a great university, a vibrant community, and a better world, we agree to: Ensure that everyone is safe and free from oppression…” –UMKC’s Mission Statement.

Despite UMKC making this promise, it’s logically understandable that one entity can’t keep everyone in their environment safe. However, when that entity has the opportunity to decrease their risks of danger, they should.

UMKC has failed in keeping everyone on campus safe and one of the reasons why is because of parking inequality and costs.

One can’t ensure someone’s safety when that person is not in the boundaries of the safety net.

Off-campus parking is not only an injustice to the students who are paying tuition here, but it’s dangerous.

We’re willing to put our lives at risk for an institution who won’t even provide us with easy access to the classes they’re billing us for.

Parking permits are at least $135 a semester and with other financial responsibilities, some students like myself, are just refusing to buy them. Here’s the story of one of those students.

Third-year Biology Pre-Med major, Essence Blankinship, explains her troubling experience with off-campus parking.

“At one point I didn’t invest in a parking permit because I didn’t have the funds to purchase one. I figured that it would be smart to charge it to my student account but I couldn’t. I’m on a tuition repayment plan with the university and because of that, they don’t allow you to make student charges. I was confused because if I’m paying off my tuition, what would make them think I wasn’t going to pay off my parking permit?” said Essence.

The only options left for students with vehicles and no parking permits, are metered parking areas, which are $1.25 an hour, or off-campus parking.

“I parked on the side street by the Science-Chemistry Building, the Education Building side street, and the side street by Pickleman’s. I noticed that even students who had parking permits were parking off campus. That’s when I realized two shocking things.” Essence said.

“First, most students were wasting money on parking permits. Second, there’s a minimal amount of parking spaces for the majority on campus.” stated Essence.

Statistics show that in 2016 there were 25 percent of undergraduate women who were sexually assaulted while on campus grounds. Parking farther away from campus only heightens that number, especially if it’s night time.

Essence describes the fear she had on her long walks across campus to her evening classes.

“Not having a parking permit didn’t only inconvenience me, but it endangered me. Being a female made me paranoid about my safety at night. I felt like my safety was at risk because our campus isn’t private. Therefore, it’s a lot of homeless people and bus riders surrounding you. Every time I had an evening class, I kept my taser charged and made sure to always be on the phone with someone. It’s unfortunate that I had to take those extreme measures for safety when that’s the university’s job.” said Essence.

With the many problems college students face such as academic struggles, relationship issues, extracurricular activities commitments, jobs and internships, etc., Essence states that parking off-campus only added to this list of problems.

“Not having a parking permit caused me both mental and physical stress. I didn’t have the funds to purchase one so I had to charge it to my personal credit card, which caused me financial hardship.” Essence explained.

She also noticed that faculty and staff were privileged to have more parking than students.

“I notice it every day, especially by the Miller Nichols Library. To be honest, it’s not fair. Especially when you notice that not a lot of faculty and staff use the parking spots that are assigned to them.” said Essence.

Like many students who are tired and frustrated with off-campus parking, Essence eventually bought a parking permit, but not for the reason you think.

“I recently had surgery in January and it caused me not to be able to walk for long periods of time. I can barely drive. The long walks were putting a strain on my health and my body couldn’t take it anymore. I had no choice but to surrender another expensive payment to UMKC.” said Essence.

With such a life-altering experience, Essence didn’t want to just share her story, she wanted to propose solutions to this ongoing problem.

“I suggest that UMKC make parking more affordable and easily accessible to students.” said Essence.

Sounds like the most logical answer, but she also offered a technological solution.

“Once parking passes are purchased, there should be a system where Parking Operation employees can search if a permit was bought according to the license plate. Instead of ticketing students when we’ve spent nearly $135+ on a plastic parking pass that only gives 4-5 options of limited parking.” –Essence Blankinship.

Stay tuned next week for the third part of our student parking series! Want a sneak peek on what’s to come? Hmmm, let’s see what UMKC police has to say about this issue.

mtjgxb@mail.umkc.edu

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