According to the letter, Graduate Student Senate believes the new parking services, fees and regulations that will go into effect on July 1, 2019, will “significantly impact (graduate students’) financial stability, (graduate students’) ability to carry out innovative research, and (graduate students’) ability to carry out our duties as teaching and graduate assistants.”
As part of a pilot program, graduate students are only allowed to park in Alumni Parking Garage and Zoellner Parking Garage. When the upcoming changes take effect, graduate students who wish to park on Asa Packer campus will have to pay $500 for the academic year.
Iiona Scully, the president of Graduate Student Senate, said the new parking policy will be detrimental not only to graduate students, but also to faculty and staff as well.
Scully said the financial constraints of parking on Asa Packer campus is immense, as the fee is 2.5 percent of the average teaching assistant income.
A cheaper, yet more inconvenient option, would be parking on Mountaintop Campus for $250. Graduate students who have researcher assistant, teaching assistant and graduate assistant permits will also have the option to park on Goodman campus for no charge.
“These changes are very inconvenient for graduate students because most of us teach and work on Asa Packer campus,” Scully said.
Scully is also concerned that the parking pass is only valid during the academic year.
“Graduate students don’t stop working during the summer or winter breaks — as a matter of fact, that’s when we do most of our work,” she said.
Under the new parking regulations, graduate students will not be allowed to park on campus between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., which Scully said does not coincide with how a graduate student’s schedule works.
“We’re on campus until very late or very early for TA purposes or research,” Scully said. “If the libraries are open until 2 a.m. we should at least be allowed to park until then.”
The cost to park during the evenings and weekends during the school year would be $86 and $190 during academic breaks.
Graduate Student Senate’s letter also highlights the issue of parking accessibility at Saucon Village, where many graduates students live. Saucon residents’ current pass permits them to park anywhere on campus, but the new changes would restrict their parking to strictly Saucon. This new Saucon-only pass would not allow students to park there over the summer — even though many graduate students stay over the summer — unless they pay an additional fee.
On top of other inequities, Scully said faculty and staff will receive a $250 salary increase for the first year of the parking plan, which will not be offered to graduate students.
“We’d like to be offered an equitable amount of money, especially since we are on the side of lower income,” Scully said. “It doesn’t make sense for only part of the population that is being forced into this new parking fee structure to be given an incentive.”
Edward Gallagher, a retired Lehigh professor, has expressed concern over the new parking plans in his blog, “The Bethlehem Gadfly.”
Gallagher believes lower-paid graduate students, faculty and staff, such as maintenance and dining hall employees, will be most affected by the new parking system.
“My guess is that nobody is thinking of the people that are low in the hierarchy,” he said.
Gallagher said undergraduate students have a voice because they pay tuition, but graduate students, faculty and staff do not have the same kind of leverage.
“These are people that can be fired at will and are easily replaceable, and I don’t think (administrators are) thinking about how this will impact them,” Gallagher said.
Scully hopes the letter will persuade administrators to give graduate students the $250 salary increase and validate parking passes for the entire year. She supports a tiered fee system as well.
Parking Services has yet to comment on the matter.
Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s director of media relations, said in an email that Provost Pat Farrell’s Office, and others, are reviewing the letter to see if some adjustments can be made, and is planning to meet with Graduate Student Senate some time in December to further engage the issues that were raised.
Scully said she was satisfied with the Provost’s Office quick response, but will be more satisfied once she knows the outcome of the meeting.
Since Path to Prominence initiatives and graduate students themselves largely focus on research, Scully said the university should want to help them.
“Graduate students often feel undervalued at the university in general, and it would be nice to be shown that we’re not,” Scully said.