Upcoming freshmen at the University of Tampa will get to learn a lesson in public transportation. Beginning Fall 2015, the university will revoke the parking privileges once extended to freshmen students.
Dean of Students Stephanie Russell Krebs assembled a small committee in Fall 2014 to discuss the parking situation.
“This group evaluated the parking needs of our campus, consulted with students and also looked at best practices for first year students in regards to their engagement,” Krebs said. “The committee came to the conclusion that restricting first year parking would benefit our campus and also the first year students.”
This decision affects freshmen students who will begin their studies at UT during or after Fall 2015. New students who bring in credits from high school are not exempt from the policy, even if these credits place them as sophomores during their first academic year.
“If I’m a sophomore [by credits] I want to be treated as such,” said Sofia Santa-Cruz, a prospective student. “I like being able to drive and if I want to do things like take a last minute trip home, it would be easier if I have a car.”
Krebs explained that the university has not found data demonstrating any negative influence from the parking change on student enrollment decisions. Research done by UT showed that most comparable universities do not allow freshman parking privileges.
“At most major universities, the freshmen don’t have cars and they’re actually not allowed to park on campus just because a lot of them are influxing from different areas and this is their first time in the area,” said Samuel Blair, junior film and media arts major. “It’s downtown Tampa and it’s really not that big. They can get around here pretty simply.”
The updated parking policy specifies that it “…does not apply to local students who live off campus and commute to campus” and “…does not apply to students who matriculated prior to fall 2015.” This means if a student begins their first semester of freshman year this spring, they will not be included in the parking policy for the coming fall, their second semester.
Upperclassmen can find solace in the fact that finding parking next semester may not add an extra 15 minutes to the commute and require an extra gallon of gas.
For a while now, students have made UT parking into a popular running joke – falling just behind the status of the school’s wifi.
Although additional parking is under construction, the growing population on campus makes it difficult for the university to offer parking to each and every individual on campus. During special events like career fairs and games, spaces for visitors are in high-demand.
“Our number of registered vehicles on campus continues to rise,” Krebs said. “Even with the new parking garage, availability for parking for students, faculty, staff and visitors will barely meet demand.”
The revised policy includes a warning which explains how falsifying information to receive a parking permit, or having an upperclassman student purchase the permit will result in a revoking of future parking privileges and possible student conduct action.
Students have the opportunity to request an exceptional transportation waiver under special circumstances. The accepted students may request the waiver by sending his or her rationale to the admissions office – each request will be reviewed on a case by case basis by a committee chaired by Dr. Krebs. More information on the exemptions can be found in the January 2015 Freshman Parking Policy.
The new policy states that first-year students should spend their first academic year experiencing all the campus offers, which is the driving rationale behind the decision.
“I like [the policy] because I feel like freshmen should be on campus their first year anyway,” said Sedrika Sargeant, junior pre-med major. “As a commuter, we need those spaces because we don’t live here. Most freshmen live on campus so I agree with it.”
Bianca Lopez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org