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Nov. 26, 2012

Parking problems continue

Part-time staff struggles with changes

By Samah Assad

In the opening weeks of fall semester, Cleveland State University Parking Services implemented a revamped parking plan with a three-tiered rates system based on location of campus garages and lots. Many students were in an uproar — they considered the hangtag prices astronomical and the entire system to be inconvenient.
Parking Services responded by creating more options, including cheaper hangtags for students.

Now four months into the new program, while students have settled into comfortable parking regimes, a segmented group on campus is still feeling the repercussions of the new parking system — but their frustrations were not as visible on the surface. Next to their full-time faculty cohorts, part-time faculty members believe they were not taken into account when Cleveland State devised its new parking plan.

Part- and full-time faculties currently pay the same price for hangtags — $343.20 per semester for green hangtags and $312 per semester for white hangtags.

Because full-time faculty receives larger pay than part-time faculty, many part-timers deem it unfair that they must pay the same amount for parking. Full-time faculty receives annual pay, but part-time professors are paid by the course.

And while parking prices continue to soar each year, part-time faculty pay does not follow suit.

“While they’ve continued to increase the price of parking on a regular basis, they haven’t matched it with increased pay to part-time faculty,” said Betty Clapp, a part-time communication professor.

Because it cut a huge chunk out of her paycheck, Clapp decided to cut parking on campus out of the equation completely. Although she purchased prepaid hangtags in recent years, she decided against it this year due to the increase in price. Instead, she chose meter parking since it is cheaper by day based on her teaching schedule.

“I can’t afford to park here right now,” Clapp said. “The increase in parking so you can park close to where you work is a significant amount of what they pay people to teach part-time.”

Aside from prices, Clapp cites another struggle of hers to be that she carries a significant amount of teaching materials to the Music and Communication building from where she parks on the street.

“I have to trudge with all that stuff, and it’s difficult,” Clapp said. “I feel it in my shoulders at the end of the day.”

Clapp has been a professor at Cleveland State for 22 years, and although she has been employed at the university longer than many full-time faculty members, she feels disrespected that part-time faculty were not a part of the big picture that is Cleveland State parking.

“They obviously didn’t talk to anyone who teaches part-time when they set this whole thing up,” Clapp said. “I think that there’s almost a discrimination against part-time faculty in terms of what’s reasonable expectations. [The price] is significantly more than what seems fair to expect part-timers to cough up, and it shows a lack of respect for part-timers.”

About four years ago, Cleveland State ended a parking system that incorporated two-day, three-day, or five-day passes for students and faculty who would benefit from purchasing passes based on the number of days they were on campus.

According to Kathleen Mooney, assistant director of Parking Services, the reason why the parking department steered away from the old program was the complexity of customized parking paired with Cleveland State’s unavailable technological resources.

“It just blew up into something that took major resources from our IT department on campus to even begin thinking about structuring that sales portal on CampusNet,” Mooney said.

Patricia Burant, a part-time public speaking professor, wishes the options of the original program were still available as the new parking system poses issues for her. Since part-time professors do not receive any faculty benefits, she said, the parking system is not necessarily fair given how much they are paid.

Also working as a part-time professor at Case Western Reserve, Burant noted that she pays $48 to park there — a significantly small amount compared to what she pays to park at Cleveland State. She is unable to utilize public transportation as she has to get from one job to the other in a short amount of time.

Clapp and Burant agreed that Parking Services should implement a part-time pass designated for part-time faculty that is a fraction of what they’re charging for full-time professors. While some professors teach only one class, they still have to pay the entire cost of a full-time semester.

“There needs to be a process that takes into account how much we make and how much parking costs,” Burant said.

Along with a more practical price, part-time professors stressed that the process of buying hangtags, specifically for part-time, should be much simpler.

“We were told we can simply get online at a certain date and order the hangtag,” said Howard Friedbeg, a part-time math professor.

But it didn’t go that way for Friedberg. After attempting to purchase a hangtag online, he learned that because part-time professionals are not automatically in the computer system like full-timers are, the four-year professor had to go through a lengthy process before receiving his hangtag. The math department had to sign his contract, followed by his own signature, and once this was entered into the system he was able to receive his hangtag.

Mooney explained that Parking Services is working to mitigate these issues to make it easier for faculty to receive hangtags. She added that the department met with faculty senate to incorporate faculty’s feedback in the parking system before it was put in motion, giving at least four presentations between subcommittees and faculty senate.
“Faculty leadership was very well-informed of the changes in the parking program,” Mooney said.

However, Joanne Goodell, president of faculty senate, said there are no part-time faculty members in faculty senate, which may provide reason for why part-time faculty’s concerns were not heard. Full-time faculty input, she added, may not have been inputted into the system either.

“...To my knowledge there was no input into the new system by faculty, either full-time or part-time.” Goodell said via email. “Although there may been some consultation with a committee on which there were some faculty representatives.”

Although part-time faculty members yearn for a customized parking experience, Mooney explained students were the prime group that Parking Services focused on assisting when implementing the new program because they are the primary customer base.

“When we’re developing our parking program, we’re serving the majority,” she said. “And obviously, some people won’t be served as well as they could by customized, personalized sales that technology would provide us.”

Ben Roger, director of Parking Services, said that customized options cannot be put in place without the proper technology. Access control technology would be able to decipher the patron type as well as what form of parking he or she paid for.

“The missing element right now is technology,” Roger said. “You need technology to process who you are, when you come in and when you leave. Without that technology, it’s hard to go down to the fine detail level of access control.”

Differentiating between what type of student or employee is checking into the garage is finer calculation than what Parking Services is able to do, Mooney said. She added that it wouldn’t be feasible to talk about the future when “we’re still in the middle of the current.”

And although future technology in parking garages holds some kind of promise as Parking Services moves forward with commentary in mind, changes cannot be implemented as swiftly as faculty would like them to be.

“Right now we don’t have the technology in place yet, but it is a future goal of the parking project,” she said. “It’s not to say that it won’t happen, but right now we’re discussing it because we’ve just started to rack the surface on what [fiscal year 2014] might look like.”

However, Parking Services was able to make accommodations this year in response to students and faculty concerns regarding evening parking. In this, they created an evening prepaid hangtag which Mooney believes can benefit part-time faculty who are on campus after 5 p.m.

“My sense is a lot of part-time instructors teach in the evening,” Mooney said. “That was one accommodation we were able to make in the structure of the program.”

But this does not benefit professors such as Clapp who are on campus in the afternoon until 10 p.m and must pay for full-time parking or resort to meter parking.

“It’s stressful to think that I really want to find some place [to park] relatively close so when I go out at 10 p.m., I can move quickly into my car and go home,” Clapp said.

Mooney said she understands the pressures and price sensitivities among faculty memebers, but stressed that the new system is about balancing priorities. Although the prices are higher, if a professor has a hangtag, they are promised a space when they come to campus.

“Getting away from the price point and more to the service,” Mooney said, “we’re able to support a much better service delivery than we have in previous years because of the nature of this parking program.”

Roger added that he has spoken with numerous patrons who believe the new parking structure of hangtag types has drastically reduced the congestion in the garages.

“One thing that I think people need to remember is that if [parking] is how it was before the change, they might have been waiting an hour to get a spot,” he said. “Where now, the cost may be a little more, but there’s a spot there if they need it.”

With a goal to manage supply and demand, Mooney and Roger do not see the prices of hangtags for part-time faculty dropping in the future. And while they said there are a handful of options for the Cleveland State community to get to campus, it seems that the main factor influencing Parking Services’ decision on pricing is technological limitations. To many part-time faculty members, this appears counter-intuitive as technology enabled by software can play the role of customizing services and costs to the needs and paying capacity of various patrons.

Because of this, part-time faculty members continue to stand firm in what they believe is unfairness in parking.

“I think it’s disrespectful,” Clapp said. “For many people who work here, the professional background is a selling point in terms of [the university] appreciating your experience and what you’re doing in class. It’s a funny way to show that when you make it so difficult to be here.”