Nothing says new beginnings quite like move-in day for first-year students and their families. Boxes filled with colorful highlighters and fluffy pillows help to mask what can be an emotional and overwhelming day.
And as most first-year students leave all that is familiar, many returning students feel the same sense of unfamiliarity. Had they come back to a different Lehigh?
As minivans maneuvered around Upper Cents, the move-in crew’s hardest job was not lifting the ironically large mini fridges and fragile TVs. Rather, the heaviest weight of the day was explaining the new move-in day parking situation to families.
“Goodman what?” Lehigh newcomers asked as mothers strung lights across dorm walls.
This past move-in day, first-years and their families were directed to Goodman Campus, where they could park their cars and catch a shuttle back to campus in order to finish moving in.
And while many families did not know any differently, the lack of access to convenient and affordable parking at Lehigh was hinted to families upon arrival. While first-year families moved to Goodman, many returning students arrived with $433 parking permits in hand, along with new parking restrictions.
As the university pursues expansion plans, intending to admit 1,000 additional students per class within the next ten years, parking has become scarce, expensive and at the forefront of the divisions between policy and student/faculty satisfaction.
At the turn of the new academic year, additional parking restrictions such as the closing of the Farrington Square Garage for students, the demolition of the EW Fairchild-Martindale Library parking lot and metered parking at Mountaintop have caught the wallets of students and faculty by surprise.
The $433 parking permit, while just $17 cheaper than last year’s permit, only covers parking in sparse residential lots across campus. Now that the Farrington Square garage is strictly available to faculty, many students on lower campus are left with off-campus options such as the New Street Garage permits, which are not valid for parking around campus.
While a lack of parking may appear to be a minor inconvenience, the university’s Path to Prominence plans for the future have not only dug up ground around campus, but they have also pushed the everyday parking needs of current students and faculty to the side.
This past week, over 500 Lehigh students demanded action through a petition that was posted all over Facebook. The petition highlights the concerns of students who regularly travel to Mountaintop Campus for class, research and collaborative work.
Students say that they are now required to pay $1 per hour to park on Mountaintop Campus. Per the petition, “It is absurd that Lehigh University took away our parking and is now forcing us to give them even more money on top of our $75k tuition, $433 parking pass and their recent $20 million endowment.”
The university must realize that current students are future alumni, future donors and the future voice of the Lehigh experience.
Sacrificing the quality of resources for current students not only contradicts the university’s values, but it negatively impacts future conversations regarding the institution. The Path to Prominence website states, “This expansion of our student body will bring new dynamism and greater diversity to campus as well as to South Bethlehem, while fostering an ever more vibrant atmosphere of creativity and collaboration.”
Unfortunately, a $433 parking pass, which fails to provide adequate parking options, creates a divided campus environment. And without spaces to collaborate, it is difficult to foster a dynamic and vibrant atmosphere.
For Lehigh to truly value diversity, collaboration and financial security, it is time to implement systemic changes for current students and faculty to flourish. With decreasing regard for today’s community, the university risks a complete diversion from the values that make this institution outstanding.