Students and staff respond to new Connections changes

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The “Connections” parking plan, encompassed under Lehigh’s Path to Prominence initiative, is undergoing significant changes before the plan’s parking components are officially implemented on July 1, 2019.

Introduced in September 2018, Connections proposed to spread faculty and staff parking across the Asa Packer, Mountaintop and Goodman campuses and improve Lehigh’s overall transportation system.

The more recent changes include permitting faculty and staff who work on the Asa Packer campus to park on that campus next academic year, a faculty and staff salary raise of $250 to offset the new parking rates and a shuttle near SteelStacks which will run from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those parking in the free commuter lot.

However, this plan comes with a significant cost — parking permit expenses vary on parking location, so the closer you are to the Asa Packer campus, the more expensive it is.

The new plan will cost a person $500 to park on Asa Packer campus, $250 on Mountaintop Campus and free on Goodman Campus and at the new commuter lot near SteelStacks.

These changes have raised concerns among undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty.

David Braun, ‘19G, said he believes the salary raise for faculty and staff to offset the increased parking cost is inconsiderate of graduate students who have compact and busy schedules.

He said this increase creates a large disparity between faculty and other Lehigh community members who have cars on campus because while everyone within a parking location pays the same amount, only a specific group of people are being financially aided to park by the university.

“Even though faculty and grad students would have to pay the same price to park in these lots, they are compensating faculty and doing nothing for us,” Braun said. “It’s sort-of like, ‘We’re going to make these policy changes and hopefully faculty will be OK with it and grad students will go along with it because they have no choice.”

Braun said he believes the university lacks transparency and inclusivity in its decision-making process and that the Connections parking plan makes it clear that the interest of the overall graduate student population is not a priority.

Sardis Gonzalez, a Lehigh Dining staff member, plans on driving to work at the beginning of the fall 2019 semester but said she is worried about the time commitment and cost the Connections plan entails. She said come July, it will be “irritating” to have to “come to work an hour early” to find a parking spot.

Gonzalez believes that the parking situation is going to affect Lehigh staff “tremendously” and may even force some Lehigh Dining staff and maintenance members to quit.

“It’s not fair. We are not students. We are not paying tuition,” Gonzalez said. “We are simply working for the university helping the students as much as we can and providing their needs. It’s ridiculous that the staff have to deal with this situation.”

Albin Rosado, ‘20, usually parks his car at Warren Square and other times on Montclair Avenue to avoid the parking permit fee.

“I expect the parking on campus to be a lot more competitive after the parking changes are implemented,” Rosado said. “For some students, having a car with them is their best method of transportation to go home for the weekend or for breaks. Less parking availability for students entails more competition for the limited number of parking spots.”

Rosado said he thinks the Connections plan isn’t fair but is necessary, given the changes that are happening to the university through the Path to Prominence. He said he hopes as the Path to Prominence progresses, the university will continue to accept feedback from the community to make necessary changes to the Connections plan.

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