UM Parking and Transportation released an email Wednesday afternoon in response to criticism from students, faculty and staff about a new parking policy that was slated to go into effect July 1.
The new policy would have made pulling through or backing into a parking spot a violation on campus.
Wednesday’s email stated that “based on feedback received over the past two days, we have reconsidered and will not be implementing the policy.”
“As with all decisions sometimes they work and sometimes they do not. This is one of those times it did not,” Director of Parking and Transportation Mike Harris said. “We however will continue to look for ways to be more efficient in our operation and help the university to move forward.”
The original email that came out Monday afternoon stated the university was looking into implementing LPR-License Plate Recognition software, a change that would have saved the university $100,000 a year. The new software would be able to read the license plate of vehicles and determine if a parking permit had been purchased for the particular zone a vehicle enters.
Had the original policy been enacted, vehicles would have been required to park so that the rear license plate would be visible to parking officers from the aisle.
Although the policy has been revised, the LPR technology will still be implemented within the next few years and accommodations will be made to the software for those who back into or pull through parking spots.
Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, Harris said that implementing this new policy was the first step towards the gradual use of the new technology.
“The LPR system does not go into effect this year. It will start next year fall 2018 when we will roll it. We will use a dual system for that year, both permits and LPR, to make sure all works properly,” Harris said. “Then the following year fall 2019 we will drop permits altogether, if all works properly.”
Following the initial announcement of the policy, senior Associated Student Body Senator Hunter Story started a change.org petition titled “Help NOT make Ole Miss parking any worse.” With over 1,800 supporters, the petition lists several reasons why preventing students from pulling through or backing in is a mistake.
“The potential for avoidable wrecks that would take place while trying to park forwards into a small spot for some students as well as the overall prospect of being told how to park is not a well thought out policy for the school to impose in the best interest of current and new students,” the petition reads.
But the petition is not the only way Story says students planned to voice their opposition. He says the response he received might have led to some type of student-led demonstration.
“Other feedback included students, faculty and outside community members curious about this petition possibly leading to a day or longer of protest on campus. And I can say at this time myself and other senators will fully back a protest to recall this ridiculous policy if the administration refuses to repeal this rule.”
Taylor Delaney, recent graduate of Ole Miss, was also confused by the new policy, saying that parking on campus, regardless of any policy changes, is still sub-par.
“Parking is a student need. You’re making that need harder to have, and to have comfortably,” Delaney said.
Students were not alone in their disdain for the original statement. Assistant professor of electrical engineering Matthew Morrison posted an email to his Facebook timeline that he sent to UM Parking Services regarding the policy.
“any policy implemented by our university should be inclusive and promote the safety of the students, staff and faculty,” Morrison said. “The National Transport and Safety Authority states that ‘267 people are killed and 15,000 injured each year by drivers who back into them, usually in driveways or parking lots’ and that reverse parking you are discouraging through your policy would save the majority of those lives.” (This statistic is actually provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
The retraction of Monday’s email seems to be welcomed by the Ole Miss community.
“I think the petition was a great tool to show how much opposition there was to this policy from students, faculty and parents alike in a quick and efficient manner,” Story said in response to the new email.
“A quick retraction of this policy was the outcome we all wanted and I am glad it all worked out before the policy went into effect.”