Residents are leaving Bell Hall because of the GC administration’s decision to convert the 84 spaces in parking lot 13 by Wilkinson Street and Montgomery Street to an all-employee parking lot effective Fall 2018.
“I am moving,” said junior Tyler Hooks, an economics and accounting major.
Hooks is a member of the Honors Program and has lived in Bell Hall for three years. He parks in lot 13, which, at a block away, is the only R-marked lot anywhere near his dorm. All other residential parking is located near the Centennial Center, a three-quarter mile walk from Bell.
So, Hooks will not spend his last year at GC in the dorm that has been his home since his first day on campus.
“The fact that the faculty-run senate was given the ability to vote on where faculty parks without any considerable student input that would actually have a meaningful change just says that the school doesn’t care about us anymore,” Hooks said.
Bell Hall is the only residential hall located on main campus. It houses the Honors Residential Learning Community, with a total of 190 available spaces for students to live.
“When a student lives on campus, they have everything at their fingertips,” said Executive Director of University Housing Larry Christenson, according to the GCSU housing website. “From study groups and tutoring opportunities to social programs and the advice of someone who’s been there before; on campus students have the full resources of the university just outside their door.”
Residents currently have 841 spaces in which they can park around main campus. When the Wilkinson lot is converted into an all-employee lot, the remaining 757 resident parking spaces will be divided between the Centennial lot, which houses 447 spots; the Sallie Davis House lot, with 11 spots; the Depot South lot, with 170 spots; and the Foundation lot, with 129 spots.
Again, that makes a total of 757 spaces for the more than 1,600 students who hold residential parking permits each year.
And the nearly 200 students living in Bell Hall will be forced to walk 15 minutes across campus to reach a vehicle parked in the Centennial lot, or even farther if their cars are parked at the Sallie Ellis Davis House or the Depot.
This is a safety concern for students who will be forced to walk across campus in the dark to get to and from their vehicles if they decide to drive anywhere at nighttime.
“As a woman, even in the day, it’s definitely a concern,” said Maegan Stephens, a freshman and Spanish major. “And those worries increase as the sun goes down, especially with this long of a walk.”
Although GC has other forms of transportation, such as SNAP and the Nightline shuttle, SNAP does not start running until 10 p.m., well after dark, and the Nightline shuttle does not stop at the Centennial parking lot.
“I like living [in Bell] because of the convenience, but almost the [entire reason] that I actually decided to be in the Honors Program was so I could live here [in Bell], but if I’d known coming in that we wouldn’t have actually had parking, there’s no way I would live here,” said junior Becca Hendrix, an accounting major. “This is going to deter the incoming Honors students from staying, so when they realize they don’t have anywhere to park their cars that’s not over half a mile away, then they’re not going to want to stay.”
Over a year ago, the city of Milledgeville informed the university of its plan to reclaim management of the right-of-way parking in 43 spaces on North Liberty Street and North Wilkinson Street. These are city spaces that had been used by the university for a number of years through an understanding between the city and the university.
All the spaces being reclaimed by the city are designated employee parking spots. In March of last year, the Parking and Transportation Advisory Committee (PTAC) came up with a plan to add employee parking to campus in order to make up for the pending loss of those right-of-way parking spaces on North Liberty and North Wilkinson.
This plan was also an attempt to go back to the principal GC adopted 10 years ago for allocation of parking in the heart of campus. According to the Parking and Transportation website, the principle states: “Parking in the heart of the central campus is primarily set aside for faculty and staff.”
The Parking Task Force and the PTAC began this plan of updating campus parking by converting the Kilpatrick lot and the Adams lot to all-employee parking. Next on the list is to convert the Wilkinson lot, where the majority of Bell Hall residents park, to an all-employee lot.
“If and when the city reclaims management of [the right-of-way parking] spaces, the plan is that the university will convert the Wilkinson lot from shared resident and commuter to employee,” said John Bowen, senior manager of Parking and Transportation Services. “Right now, if no other changes are made, [the residents who park there] will be parking in the resident parking around the Centennial area, and the commuter students will be expected to park in other commuter or perimeter lots on campus.”
The parking task force drafted, proposed and voted on the plan last year. They voted 6 to 1 to approve. It was vetted through the PTAC along with executive cabinets and university leadership who also approved the plan.
The PTAC consists of eight members: two faculty members from University Senate; two members from Staff Council; two members from Resident Student Association (RSA); and two members from Student Government Association (SGA), specifically commuter students since resident students are represented by RSA.
This committee was intentionally decided to be eight members, an even number of students and staff, since votes made by the PTAC are not binding for decision-making.
At a forum about the parking situation held in Bell Hall on March 1, residents shared their opinions on the matter, but that didn’t mean they felt heard.
“Every idea [discussed at the forum] without fail was explained exactly why it wouldn’t work and completely discounted,” Hooks said. “I do not believe anything is going to come of it.”