An email conversation between a Fort Hays State University student and FHSU President Mirta Martin recently surfaced, displaying the growing frustration over campus parking stalls.
This has been a complaint from students every year I’ve been at FHSU. In fact, I remember writing this article as a sophomore for Tiger Media Network. But this year’s heavy construction at FHSU has made the parking lots increasingly congested to a degree that is worth noting.
“We are building, we are growing” is the unspoken political message students receive every morning when they walk to class looking up at the new Wiest Hall and the new themed housing by Lewis Field (which pretty much helped destroy Tail Great). A new Center for Applied Technology and Sculpture is erecting behind the union, wiping out a large swath of parking, and a new addition to Malloy Hall has wreaked havoc to Hammond Hall’s lawn due to reckless construction crews. I’m still detoxing from living in paint fumes from the freshly constructed Hansen Hall.
“Why couldn’t we just wait for one project to be done before working on another?” said Christopher Velez in his email to Martin, “The campus looks dirty to put it simple. None of these projects look like they will be done by the time it starts snowing so that tells me we will have to live with all this construction for the rest of this semester and the next semester.”
Velez also points out the hazards of widespread construction.
“With all the heavy equipment moving around someone is bound to get hurt,” Velez said, “For example we have dump trucks speeding through the campus.”
I know I’ve had at least one screw ruin a tire on my Ford since construction began.
Velez concludes the email saying that Martin isn’t listening to students.
“You say you came from a nation that didn’t want to listen to its citizens, but now you are acting the same way to us students,” Velez said, “We are crying out to give us proper parking but all we get is more and more spaces taken away. Nothing given to us in return. If nothing is done to help us I have a feeling students will take it upon themselves to make the situation better. I know I already have.”
Martin begins by denying any of the “accusations” Velez made in his email.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I am distraught at the tone of your email,” Martin said, “The accusations you have made are unfounded.”
“While you have every right to voice your concerns and I am thankful that you have, it does not, however, excuse the rather rude and disrespectful tone of your note,” Martin said.
The president stated she is building a “21st century campus for the 21st century student”, and called the current residential halls “antiquated” and “not suitable for students”.
“Economies of scale” is the reasoning cited by Martin for doing all of the construction at once.
“Buildings cannot be put up one by one,” Martin said, “The economies of scales come in when the same company is able use its workforce in several projects at the same time.”
All of the projects were bidded out to different independent contractors, so this argument doesn’t hold much water.
Martin deflects the notion that parking has decreased as a result of construction, citing the addition of new parking lots and shuttle buses to create a net gain of 147 parking spots. It is unclear how these extra spots distribute between on and off campus students.
Martin’s response ends with a little bit of hot sauce, telling Velez to “search your soul”.
“I do not appreciate threats,” Martin said, “I expect students to be polite and respectful. You have been neither. I expect more of you. I am sure your parents do the same.”
The interaction below shows one student’s righteous indignation and a university president’s maternal lecture in regards to the parking situation, exacerbated by the construction frenzy:
From: Christopher Velez [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, August 30, 2016 7:21 PM
To: Mirta Martin <M3Martin@fhsu.edu>
Subject: A student’s perspective on parking
As a student I would like to voice my opinion about the worsening parking situation we students have to deal with. I believe it that no input was gathered from students about the recent construction projects impact on parking. How the choice came to be to remove a large parking lot in favor of putting up a building is beyond me and most students. Having students that live in the dorm park in Hammond Hall’s parking lot was also another horrible decision. I know of staff that has been that are also baffled on these recent decisions. As one of my professors put it “all Hammond Hall’s parking lot is, is just car storage.” You have students that leave their car parked in the same parking spot for days on end. I have even seen university vehicles left parking there. Why is staff allowed to take up our parking spots when if I park in staff parking I will get a ticket?
I know that you and the staff want to push people to park in the parking lot of the coliseum yet you and your staff want to keep all the staff parking. I have not seen one parking spot lost for staff with everything that is going on. Maybe you and your staff should give up you spots to allow students that need to drive to class a place to park. One other thing about parking at the coliseum. When it rains and when it starts to snow this winter people are not going to want to make the long walk to class nor wait for the shuttle to come around. While I bring up the shuttles I also want to mention that I have seen them run stop signs. I’m not going to ride on a bus that is driven by someone that doesn’t know what to do at a stop sign.
One last thing I would like to mention goes back to all the construction going on. Why couldn’t we just wait for one project to be done before working on another? The campus looks dirty to put it simple. None of these projects look like they will be done by the time it starts snowing so that tells me we will have to live with all this construction for the rest of this semester and the next semester. Plus with all the heavy equipment moving around someone is bound to get hurt. For example we have dump trucks speeding through the campus.
We pay thousands and thousands of dollars to come here, have to pay for a parking permit that somehow isn’t part of our tuition and yet are not given a proper parking situation. I know a parking spot isn’t guaranteed but we should be given at least a good chance. One of my classmates have mentioned that due to the parking situation people have resorted to parking in front of a house’s driveway.
So in all I would like to thank you and your staff for making an already bad parking situation worse and worse. You may not be the person that directly oversees what’s going on but it still falls on your shoulders due to the position you took. You say you came from a nation that didn’t want to listen to its citizens but now you are acting the same way to us students. We are crying out to give us proper parking but all we get is more and more spaces taken away. Nothing given to us in return. If nothing is done to help us I have a feeling students will take it upon themselves to make the situation better. I know I already have.
From: Mirta Martin <M3Martin@fhsu.edu>
Date: Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 8:56 PM
Subject: RE: A student’s perspective on parking
To: Christopher Velez <email@example.com>
Thank you for your email and for sharing with me some of your concerns. To be perfectly honest with you, I am distraught at the tone of your email. The accusations you have made are unfounded. While you have every right to voice your concerns and I am thankful that you have, it does not, however, excuse the rather rude and disrespectful tone of your note.
I will address your points so that you may have the correct information. First and foremost, we are building a 21st century campus to educate the 21st century student. Our residence halls are antiquated and not suited for our students. When the new facilities are up, our students will have exceptional access to living spaces where they can learn better and forge stronger bonds. Buildings cannot be put up one by one… the economies of scales come in when the same company is able use its workforce in several projects at the same time. By saving money that way, we can keep your tuition the second lowest in the United States.
As you stated, we took one parking lot (North Union Parking Lot) to build the new Applied Technology building. Its location supports the needs of the students and it was the right location. For your information, the closure of the North Union parking lot resulted in a loss of 200 parking spaces. Last Spring, we opened the replacement lot in the back of the University House which contains 271 spaces – a NET GAIN of 71 parking spots.
While 305 parking spaces at Wiest Hall have gone away due to the construction, the new infill lot between Stadium Place and Wiest provides 73 spaces. On Thursday afternoon, (tomorrow) around 2pm, we will open the Lewis Field parking lot, with 308 parking spaces. The net gain for students is 76 ADDITIONAL parking spaces.
So, we are far ahead in parking spaces on the campus than we were this time last year when the construction started.
Furthermore, we implanted a shuttle service to provide students with ample parking facilities and a convenient, free way to get to the academic campus. The shuttle schedule can be found on our website (http://www.fhsu.edu/reslife/Shuttle-Information/). The shuttle hours are as follows:
Mon-Thu 7 am – 11 pm
Friday 7 am – 1 am
Saturday 9 am – 1 am
Sunday 9 am – 11 pm
You may also download the app to view the current location of the shuttle: http://fhsu.doublemap.com/map/. This app affords you the opportunity to know the exact location of the shuttle at all times so you can plan accordingly.
Students pay $45/year for a permit. Fort Hays State University provides a shuttle service free of charge. Other Universities’ parking permit is $200; and they do NOT provide a shuttle service. Students have to walk in excess of a mile to get to class.
I am happy to listen to students. I am happy to help resolve their concerns. But I do not appreciate threats. I expect students to be polite and respectful. You have been neither. I expect more of you. I am sure your parents do the same.
We are here to provide you a superb education. We do it at the second lowest tuition in the United States. When students leave our university, I expect them to be good men and women of strong character who act with integrity, respect and who treat others the way they want to be treated themselves.
I hope that you will take a minute when you read this note to search your soul and figure out how you can learn these values and treat people with courtesy.
I wish you well,
Mirta M. Martin, Ph.D.
Fort Hays State University