Staff Voices Frustrations Over Parking Issues

El Vaquero Staff Writer

A forum was held April 18 to address members of the campus classified staff who have become increasingly impatient and frustrated over the past few weeks because of parking difficulties brought about by the construction of the parking structure in Lot B.

Former staff parking lots have been opened to students to compensate for the 350 spaces taken up by the Lot B construction, forcing staff to park off campus in lots and structures at the First Congregational Church and along Burchett and Verdugo roads.

A shuttle service takes them back and forth between campus and these parking areas at various times during the day. As a result, staff members are either late for work or are inconvenienced by waiting for the shuttle, which only comes once every hour.

“It’s a very funny situation, and very awkward,” said psychology professor Michael Dulay, who sent the first in a series of e-mail exchanges between faculty, staff and the college police regarding the parking situation. Many of these e-mail messages contain complaints and “well-made arguments and suggestions” for improving the situation.

“People who have been working here for many years are forced to take the shuttle,” Dulay said.

Dulay added that the staff and faculty are frustrated “by the lack of response from the college police,” who are primarily responsible for organizing and implementing the new parking system.
“The classified staff wanted answers from campus police,” Dulay said. “All we got was a couple of e-mails back.”

As a result, Lawrence Serot, vice president of administrative services, decided to conduct a public forum for the staff. About 30 classified staff members came to voice their frustrations over parking at the Science Center.

Campus Police Chief Steve Wagg and police spokesperson Nidal Kobaissi were present to answer questions and clear up misunderstandings.

The forum began with Serot explaining the construction and staff parking situations in detail. “Clearly we lose spaces because the contractor needs space to work,” Serot said. “We end up actually losing around 400 spaces.” He added that there has been “some real success” with the stacked parking system for students while acknowledging that it has indeed been more difficult for the staff.

Serot also acknowledged that the announcement of the present parking scheme was “last minute.” “It was last-minute only because we were [trying to] find alternatives from sending everyone down to Burchett,” Serot explained.

Steve Wagg added more details and said that e-mails regarding the construction were sent by President Davitt as far back as November. He also said that parking for staff was based mainly on seniority; those who had been employed by the college longer “get their choice of lot.”

“We did the best we could do under the circumstances,” Wagg said.
However, the staff present at the forum said that they were already very familiar with the system; their source of frustrations came from their not being involved in the decision-making process and the lack of response from the police, especially since more of them tend to miss the shuttle, show up late for work and end up having their pay docked.

“When you guys were planning this last fall, you should’ve put together a committee to come up with solutions,” said staff member Sarah Williams. “The upset is that we weren’t consulted; we weren’t made a part of the process. It’s very insulting assuming that we want to help but just saying we have to do this.”

Others complained that they did not see senior employees being prioritized for parking. “There are so many ‘reasonable accommodations,'” said another staff member, referring to the fact that certain employees are given employee parking if they are required to leave campus more than once during the day. One example is an employee who has to leave work to ensure the care and safety of her sick, elderly mother.

“We did make an effort to try and address people with special needs,” Serot said. “This wasn’t done bureaucratically. We made every effort to accommodate people, not going only on seniority.”
Another staff member suggested that the shuttle schedule be changed to arrive every 15 to 20 minutes during the rush hour, and every half an hour between noon and 2 p.m.

Serot, Wagg and Kobaissi all agreed that improvements need to be made. “I hope we clean up the process in time for fall,” Serot said. “If you want to pull together a group of people to talk about this, I’m willing to have an adhoc committee. We also need to bring faculty into this.”

Wagg said that the shuttle schedule will also be changed. “I’m sure we can have [the shuttle arrive] every 25 to 20 minutes,” he said.

A solution to the communication problems between the staff and police will be an online forum. “You can send in your concerns and special needs, and we’ll put them all up and address them,” said Serot.