By now, everyone has heard the outcry over the changes to student parking this year. The warnings, tickets and the moved or reduced space for undergraduates have received a lot of backlash. A group happy about the changes, though, is the Coalition of Graduate Students, whose union was the cause of this shift in parking.
This could understandably be the cause of more frustration for some, but the process at work here is admirable. Graduate students felt slighted, so they rallied and pushed their union to action and the union negotiated a contract with the university to allow for more parking, among other things. This was a huge deal for the graduate students last year, and it has paid off for them.
While UConn could have certainly handled the reorganization of parking better, the university was not pushed to do so. Constructing new parking spots would cost money and effort planning, and if UConn did not feel the need or pressure to put in that time then there’s no reason to do so.
Note here that the issue is about UConn feeling pressure. Parking has been an issue for students, and especially undergraduates, for a long time. Complaints about availability and cost did not just spring up in 2018. Until the undergraduate population on campus can properly make the university hear their demands, though, nothing will change about the current situation.
Just as the graduate students had their union to stand up for them, undergraduates need some sort of representation of their own. Although graduate students are special because they make UConn a lot of money, undergraduates are just as necessary to the environment and ecosystem of the university. Furthermore, undergraduates represent their college for the rest of their life, and bitterness about representation can sour their memories (and thus the reputation) of UConn years later.
Currently, UConn is mainly interested in placating undergrads, attempting to keep them happy enough with amenities and improvements to campus without taking steps to listen and enact specific changes that the population cares about. This works when individual issues are small, but uproars like the one over parking cannot be ignored for long.
With a new university president set for next year, now is the time for students to make a grab for more power and representation. Undergraduates must make the upcoming administration hear their voices and set a new tone for the type of discourse that will happen here at UConn in upcoming years. With budget cuts and other tensions on the horizon, it is more important than ever to make sure we do not get swept under the rug.