University of Lethbridge Isn’t Doing Students Any Favours

Originally posted on Facebook September 13, 2016, I wanted to publish this here to provide context for upcoming posts.

The stadium parking from administration was a Halloween kiss (you know, the ones everyone buys, but no one likes) handed to us as if we were spoiled kids. At the end of the Lethbridge Herald article published September 12, 2016, Ms Walker stated “The whole issue, too, is do we really have a mandate to provide 100 per cent parking for everyone that is here?” That statement trivialized the lives of the many students I’ve been speaking with for well over a week. The rest of the response is filled with “we might” and “we could” — Empty, loose promises made while dipping into our pockets.

Those are words spoken by people far too used to making a six-figure salary, who have not spent enough time on the bus or walking from the stadium parking lot every day to have an inkling of what many of our students are currently going through. If they cared, they’d have considered the many things I brought up in my open letter. They’d have talked to those of you who are going to be forced to drop out soon. They’d have given a response other than “not my problem” when we phoned in this summer to ask if there was anything being done, or anything we could do. How many of them are willing to walk from the stadium parking lot or take the bus? I would like to see them do both for two weeks each and see if they still have the same opinion.

Not once have we said the bus isn’t an option. We’re telling them it isn’t working in its current form and isn’t affordable. That has been greeted with the sound of crickets. Then, there are the songs of UPass and “but the students voted it down”. We’ve discussed this. We’re aware things went wrong. And you know what? Unless we have a group of highly dedicated students to push the “yes” vote, and unless they’re willing to drop the price of a pass while improving service, it will get voted down again. Why? Because the system doesn’t work. I gave up what? $1500 a month in income because they don’t have parking. This doesn’t include the hours of class time, study time, and personal time I have used to help desperate students find answers. Exactly how many of these things have they given up that they weren’t paid for?

If students weren’t in desperate need of parking, THEY WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN SLEEPING ON THE GROUND, IN FRONT OF A CHURCH, AT 3:45 AM.

Not once have we said the only option is more parking. We are demanding the parking system be changed so that those who have to have it are getting a spot, and the parking we have is being used efficiently. We need to add parking, but I’m not foolish enough to expect billions of dollars in investment over and above the billions spent on a much needed sciences building. (BTW, 180 spots? There has to be more than 180 new positions needed to staff that building once completed. Think that one through folks.)

We are not the same as students who went to university even 5 or 10 years ago. We’re parents, adults, full-time employees, who are required to not only get the grades, but also fit in co-ops, volunteering, PDP/guest lectures, etc. In addition to our degrees in the hopes of making more than minimum wage. (And if you think those things are unnecessary, I have an ocean-front property to sell you in Saskatchewan.) Many of us are unemployed, thanks to the economy, and desperate to eke out a living before the well runs dry and our families are out on the street. (Not saying that no one 5 years ago was doing this, but there are far more of us now.)

Just ask the economics department. They couldn’t figure out why no one was using the help desk until they talked to the students. They discovered the hours didn’t work because we were all working and taking multiple classes. And how did this happen? Because this was never the case in previous years.

We won’t mention the inflated costs of things such as tuition, which have risen an average of 3.2% across the country. Or, the money we get screwed out of every semester for text books. I don’t think having parking and a transit system that works for their students is asking too much.

They set up stadium parking without consideration for students. It was done as an appeasement because they had to do something. It wouldn’t have looked good if they hadn’t. If they did, shuttles would be addressed and information about the hours and cost made clear and freely available. The bus system would be addressed, and the stories you all have been sharing over the last week wouldn’t have been ignored.

The University left a free parking sign out on the first day of school, creating utter chaos. This was compounded when students parking where the “free parking” sign was indicated. They returned to their vehicle to find a parking ticket with a new increased cost of $50 on their windshield. (The Students’ Union found out about the sign and made sure all tickets appealed for that day were cleared.)

Details about Stadium parking were nothing more than rumour for a long time. Then, when they did come out, we were told they’re available 9 to 4. Amid much confusion, we were eventually able to sort out that it was, in fact, open 6:30am to 11pm, and that security measures were in place. Many students didn’t even know where the stadium was.

The Park and Pay is littered with broken meters students have complained about for well over a year. When the university mentions carpooling, they clearly haven’t crunched the numbers enough to figure out this, too, won’t work without more parking passes. The list goes on.

The professors and staff are getting fed up. The surrounding neighbourhoods are beyond frustrated. Area businesses are sick of dealing with the parking issue. And the students are tired of feeling betrayed and taken advantage of. At least, I know I am. If this is not dealt with, it’s going to get ugly. Things are going to build and the volcano of frustration is going to blow. There was not one single word in the VP’s response addressing any of that.

There’s no point in blaming the university for anything. But, I think they should be adults, admit there’s an issue, and help us fix it instead of tossing us band-aids and environmental cop-outs. (Transit use is up. Way up. Ask any bus driver. I did. Several, in fact.)

I love the UofL. I really, really do. I am not here to tear it down. I’m here to make it better than it was when I got here. I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t love it. I’m here to make sure students will never have to deal with this issue again and they can hold their heads high while wearing their UofL hoodies with pride.

Fiat Lux

Angie Nikoleychuk