Opinion: Parking changes limit access to student healthcare

Posted on Aug 23 2017 - 8:02am by Jake Thrasher

The now-rescinded parking rule about pulling through and backing into parking spots was not the only change that the university’s parking and transportation department created this summer.

Making your way around campus, you will notice a lot of changes, but what you might not notice are the unnecessary barriers the parking and transportation department has created for students seeking medical attention and counseling.

The parallel parking in front of the student health center was converted into a bike lane, and student health parking spots are now beside the health center.

While the relocation of the parking spots does not create difficulty getting to the health center, the policy for those parking spots creates an unnecessary financial barrier for students seeking medical attention.

To park in those spots, you need a temporary permit from the health center, as well as a valid Ole Miss parking permit.

This is a ridiculous financial barrier that makes seeing a doctor on campus much more difficult for those who do not have a parking pass.

Students who rely on the bus system or who simply don’t have a parking pass are not allowed to park in the health center spots anymore.

Yes, those students could take the bus to the health center, but not only is that unnecessary since there are open parking spots, but it also exposes everyone else on the bus to the student’s ailment.

One could argue that there are other doctors’ offices that students could use in Oxford, but a university that has students from different financial backgrounds, with different insurance plans or no insurance, has a responsibility to make medical care cheap and easily accessible for all students.

Students trying to get counseling on campus will also face challenges due to parking. The counseling center is located in Lester Hall, far from any student parking.

The George Hall parking lot sits at the bottom of the hill Lester is located on and used to be student parking for on-campus residents but is now a pay-by-plate parking lot. This is the only parking lot relatively close to the counseling center, but with a rate of $1.25 an hour and a climb up one of the largest hills on campus, this lot is not very helpful. Paying for parking is especially frustrating if you already spent hundreds of dollars to park on campus anyways.

When people have serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, things like looking for parking, paying for a spot and walking long distances can become serious obstacles that can prevent people from getting the help they need.

Ten parking spots sit directly in front of the doors of Lester Hall. One of these spots used to be an emergency spot for the counseling center.

Unfortunately, the university no longer designates that spot there for emergencies.

All the spots in front of Lester are reserved for the HR department and, ironically, parking services. Mental health issues are serious and common on college campuses, and parking services is adding to this problem by not providing any parking for the counseling center, not even for emergencies like suicidal thoughts.

There could be spots reserved for counseling center patients in one of the faculty lots near Lester, or the new metered parking could have free, reserved parking for the counseling center. In the eyes of our university, the mental health of its student body should be more valuable than the $1.25 an hour that parking services can make off of students who are trying to get help.

The University of Mississippi and parking services should take immediate action to remove these unnecessary barriers to getting physical and mental medical attention on campus.

Both the health center and counseling center should have a couple of spots designated for all students who need those services, regardless of whether they have a parking decal. Also, one or two of the parking spaces in front of Lester should be reserved for the counseling center for emergencies like it was in the past.

The physical and mental health of students should always be a priority of the University of Mississippi, but currently, parking and transportation services is not reflecting that priority. The time is now for the university to solve this easily fixable problem and make student health a priority.

Jake Thrasher is a senior biochemistry major from Birmingham, Alabama.