Monday, June 3, 2013

The Kentucky Promise of Parking: Freshman Privilege Creates Shortage

Allyson Lough, Marketing Intern

While the University of Kentucky continues to boast that freshman students are permitted to bring their cars to campus, the recently revised Master Plan creates a parking shortage that requires reassessing freshman privileges.

The restructuring of the Master Plan includes an overhaul of campus. UK has contracted a private building company, Education Realty Trust (EdR), to provide 9,000 undergraduate beds through the construction of new residence halls. As EdR broke ground, staff and students felt the unpredicted side effects of expansion. To date, students have lost 450 parking spaces within the past year with no end in sight.

Growing Pains

During this time of growth, UK should adopt a policy of extremely limited freshman parking because the construction of new residence halls is reducing parking availability to the bare minimum. With 26 percent of students bringing cars to campus and an increase in incoming freshman for the upcoming academic year, parking spots are scarce for staff, upper classmen commuters and freshmen.

A shortage of parking is nothing new on a college campus, but other universities, such as the University of Florida (a UK benchmark), have combated it by offering more alternative transportation services. Partnerships with the regional transit system and rideshare programs have reduced the students with cars on campus to 16 percent at UF. This policy would require an overhaul of the current bus system and ride share programs on UK’s campus, but it would alleviate the parking crisis surrounding the Master Plan. 

First Hand Experience

As a Resident Advisor at UK, I see firsthand that cars provide a crutch for students making the transition to college. They frequently travel home on the weekends and move the student culture away from the physical campus.

Restricting parking for freshman will entice incoming students to become more involved in their residence hall and UK community. Students will be able to use improved UK transportation services to navigate Lexington and campus for things they need. The inability to travel home for every load of laundry or grocery trip encourages independence and a stronger focus on academics and relationships with peers. I lived on campus as an out of state student without a car during my freshman year and it was a large factor in establishing myself at UK.

As an RA, I have witnessed residents leave UK because they do not feel a connection to the campus community. In my role, I am expected to facilitate a welcoming and inclusive environment where I connect residents to resources and each other. I am constantly challenged to give them incentive to stay for the weekend because they do not feel connected to the Lexington area. Providing freshman with an avenue to go home every weekend takes them away from their campus, their resident advisor, their peers and their academics.

As the flagship university of the Commonwealth, UK should not shy away from progress. A policy that restricts freshman parking to a very limited number may deter some students from choosing to become part of the Big Blue Nation. However, students who engage with their peers and professors on campus through a residence hall experience find a sense of belonging at UK. This immersion retains students and encourages a campus identity of achievement.

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