Our View is a staff editorial produced collaboratively by The Rocket Staff. Any views expressed in the editorial are the opinions of the entire staff.
To review our editorial policy, which includes our blotter policy, click here.
The age-old issue of parking on campus has returned as students come back for in-person classes. With the on-campus student population increasing so drastically over such a short amount of time, students are left fending for themselves when it comes to finding the last spot in the entire commuter parking lot by Boozel Dining Hall before running to the Quad with three minutes left before class.
The Rocket has covered this topic over eight times since 2015, and, of course, students have brought up this issue at the start of every academic year. For some students, it may be hard to feel heard by the university because this issue is repeatedly discussed with no solutions introduced.
But for those students who have been ticketed, been late to class or have to walk long distances to their class in rain and cold, this is a persisting issue that needs university intervention. It will continue so long as the university student population continues to grow, and the parking lots consequently continue to shrink.
If the university wishes to grow its community both on and off campus, they need to account for the logistics of that growth.
In The Rocket’s “Students voice their concerns about parking” from February 2020, students complained to the university about ticketing and possible unsafe conditions walking large distances to and from their cars. In “Parking issues have blinded students’ perception of SRU” from February 2018, The Rocket recognized students’ frustration with renovations to Bailey Library, while neglecting the increasingly dire parking situation. In “Now is the time to address SRU’s commuter parking problems” from September 2017, the staff discussed the university’s hope that a new president would solve the consistent campus parking problem, to no avail.
When thinking of SRU as a whole, there are an estimated 6,700 students that have in-person classes this semester. With such a large student body, there should be enough parking lots to compensate for a large majority of the population.
The parking lots on campus provide a fraction of the parking it should. About 1,000 parking spots for residents, almost 950 for staff, over 880 for commuters, about 800 open parking spots with permit and 400 spots in the West Lake Lot for staff and commuters. Even at first glance, these numbers seem minuscule compared to enrollment rates.
SRU sold over 5,100 parking permits for the 2021-2022 academic year, with as little as 4,000 parking spots available on campus. This number includes other permits like vendor, handicap and medical. More specifically, the university sold parking permits to more than 3,000 commuters, almost 1,500 residents and 166 staff.
To compensate for lack of parking, commuters must arrive on campus much earlier than class time just to guarantee a spot at all. Even then, students arrive late to class because of parking complications. Resident and commuter parking spots are never guaranteed. Although everyone parking on campus has a guaranteed parking permit, the availability of spots is never secure.
This is especially true during prime parking hours on campus, which fall between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. During this six hour period, there is a high demand for parking spots as students move to and from campus for classes.
At the peak of this time, spots are few and far between. Often, students must park in the open with permit lots located by the the Jack Critchfield Park, Mihalk-Thompson Stadium Complex, the Storm Harbor Equestrian Center and the Women’s Soccer and Softball Facility.
Directly correlating with location of parking is the time spent actually walking to buildings located around the Quad. After securing a parking spot, depending on the location of the lot, students can be walking five to 10 minutes before reaching their final destination. This adds into the time that students have to give themselves when planning to make it class and meetings on time. As an exact location for parking is never known, students may plan for too much or too little time spent obtaining parking, which in turn affects arrival time to classes or meetings.
To avoid being late, students often illegally park either in the grass, staff parking lots or other unmarked locations, but this results in tickets and citations. So much so that there was roughly 5,300 parking violations that totaled about $23,325 in citations from Aug. 1, 2019 to Sept. 1, 2021.
With such dismal parking circumstances, students are frequently left feeling anxious, stressed and inconvenienced. There is a certain dread that students know all to well when driving up and down rows of filled parking spots trying to find just one open space.
Despite all of this, we are grateful that the parking permits are generally only $25 per year. At other Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities, parking passes can be anywhere from $75 per semester to $225 per year.
We also recognize that Slippery Rock allows freshman students to have a car on campus. It’s convenient in a more rural area such as Slippery Rock where Walmart or Target are a 20 minute drive, and walking outside of the downtown area of the town is difficult and dangerous. This is a huge perk that allows incoming freshman to have a sense of freedom.
Considering the mass student displeasure, there must be a way to even partially solve this issue. We suggest that there be an allotted number of permits given out each semester or year. With less permits given out, the university could control the ratio of permits to parking spots and not oversell parking permits.
The university could also limit the areas that are reserved for staff parking only. While SRU staff do deserve designated parking areas, there are currently many available options specific to staff.
Staff permits only account for 166 of the total 5,100 permits allotted this year. Out of the 4,000 available parking spots on campus, there are roughly 950 spots reserved for staff members only. Based on the numbers, only 17% of staff parking will be fully used this year. By limiting staff specific lots or creating more areas that are for staff and students to park, both parties would see parking options. Students would see the availability of more parking and staff would just experience a shift in parking lots.
Finally, SRU could create more parking for commuters and residents. Parking garages or the creation of more paved lots that would be designated for student parking are just a few options.
Parking on campus is an issue that continues to plague students every semester. There needs to be legitimate action taken in response to the concerns of SRU’s student body. As students ourselves, we hope that the issue can be addressed soon so we can fully focus on our academics and not be concerned with circling parking lots everyday.