The fall semester has officially begun and with it the university is seeing its largest enrollment of students yet. Excitement is in the air for returning students to reunite with their friends and for the largest freshman class in Ole Miss history to begin their first semester as college students.
The influx in students makes Ole Miss that much more dynamic for students and faculty alike. Game days in the Grove will grow into an even bigger experience for Ole Miss fans to enjoy, and football attendance is set to break records in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with the student section selling out earlier this month. Common spaces for students will be lively.
However, with all this growth comes the exacerbation of a problem that has existed for decades on campus: parking.
Parking has gone from bad to worse within the past year, and it is leaving students more than frustrated. Students with commuter parking passes must arrive on campus much earlier than their class time if they wish to simply find a space.
It is not uncommon to hear stories in which both students and staff waste 45 minutes to an hour patrolling their respective parking zones, hoping a space frees up. Typically, by the time a spot is secured, it is too late. The attendance scanners have already shut off during the 150-student lecture that mandates attendance in its syllabus. Luckily, students usually have three unexcused absences to burn.
For staff, the faculty meeting had already begun 30 minutes before. That means all the dad jokes about the heat and parking are already spent. Instead of being in on the fun, our tardy professor becomes the butt of the joke. Maybe staff have unexcused absences, too.
To add insult to injury, the Department of Parking and Transportation implemented a rule prohibiting students from backing into their parking spaces. Doing so will lead to a fine. A fine for backing into a parking space is nearly as outrageous as paying hundreds of dollars to park your car on the campus that students are a paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend.
Parking and other infrastructure issues on campus are not as appealing as an expanded Manning Center or a renovated Swayze Field, but that does not make them nonessential. Alumni contributions, the Lyceum, administrators who oversee development and even the Associated Student Body have the ability to redirect the campus’s attention to such an issue, but their attempts have not proven strong enough.
Head of the household Chancellor Glenn Boyce certainly is cognizant of the large enrollment and retention numbers at the university and takes pride in them. He, along with other senior staff in the Lyceum, always use these figures to exemplify how well they are doing at their jobs.
Conveniently, issues on campus and in Oxford are almost never addressed by the faces of the university until something goes terribly wrong. In other words, they issue a statement when they are forced to.
No, I am not saying they should get out there with a construction team and begin erecting a new parking garage — though, the extra hands wouldn’t hurt. What I and the student body are calling for is accountability.
Beyond parking, over-admittance has stressed not only the university campus, but also the entire city of Oxford. Oxford, a college city with just about every small town attribute, is scrambling to develop quickly and accommodate a swollen student population. Five o’clock traffic down Jackson Avenue has worsened, and turning left across the road during busy hours is a task unfit for novice drivers. Simply put, the development of East Oxford is critical if the university wishes to see continued enrollment records shattered.
These matters seem simple, and parking probably is not the biggest issue the campus faces. It is certainly up there, though. It is a problem that every single student faces. No student should be fined multiple times for parking backward or need to arrive an hour early to class in order to find parking. The time has come for swift action. To all the parties responsible, the clock is ticking.
David Ramsey is a sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications from Madison, Miss.