On Oct. 26, Associate Vice President for Sustainable Facilities Operation and Capital Planning Andrew Feick sent Swarthmore students, faculty, and staff an email in response to an illegal parking incident that resulted in the death of two trees. The email listed designated parking areas for each respective group and stated that Public Safety will proceed with appropriate consequences for any further violations.
“When your vehicle is parked illegally, it presents a safety issue for pedestrians and other drivers. For instance, two large delivery trucks maneuvering around illegally parked cars in the circle recently toppled and killed two specimen trees and damaged the stone wall. So please abide by the parking regulations in these locations,” Feick wrote. Specimen trees are unique plants that are carefully selected and positioned as the focus point of an outdoor space.
This incident and subsequent email detailing designated parking space, though, has ultimately illuminated inequities within parking permits on campus, and students’ dissatisfaction with parking.
In an interview with The Phoenix, Director of Public Safety Michael Hill shared his thoughts on student parking and problems regarding illegal parking that Public Safety has been encountering recently. When asked about the ticketing policy moving forward, Hill explained that Public Safety plans to ticket more meticulously following the accident.
“Sometimes [employees in charge of ticketing] look the other way, because I feel like there are people who get stuck, but we can’t do that. Where those cars were parked, it was definitely an obstruction, otherwise the truck wouldn’t have hit the tree. It could have been a fire issue as well, because of where they were parked,” he said.
Hill explained that the issue of illegal parking extends to students.
“Students don’t always park where they’re supposed to. [The rule] right now is that students park in Cunningham South parking lot or Mary Lyon (ML) parking lot. It may not be convenient, but we have enough parking,” Hill explained.
He went on to explain that one student parking in the wrong area can unbalance the entire system.
“For parking, it’s a ripple effect. So you know, students don’t park where they’re supposed to park, it displaces staff or faculty, and so on, and so on,” Hill said.
Parking exclusively in Cunningham South and ML is not popular among the student body. Jenna Takach ’24 and Ruthie Njagi ’25 expressed their concerns on restricted student parking. Takach cited accessibility and move-in as major reasons to increase parking availability, while Njagi questioned the current parking policy for academic building lots.
“My main concern is [that] there isn’t enough student parking on campus, and the areas that do exist aren’t super accessible. Obviously we don’t live on a big campus, but I feel like expanded parking access near academic buildings might give students with disabilities more freedom without having to rely on the shuttles, on top of more options for housing further from campus if they’re able to drive to campus rather than walk,” Takach pointed out.
Takach also mentioned that the logistics of moving in and out of campus dorms are currently difficult to manage, an issue that expanded parking could help alleviate.
“It would be nice to have more parking near dorm buildings in particular, purely to make move-in and move-out processes a lot smoother,” she said.
Njagi suggested the parking lot near Singer Hall as an alternative for student parking.
“I understand that they only have a certain amount of spots in Cunningham, but Singer has a huge parking lot in the back that is usually empty. That’s also [true] for other [parking lots] on campus,” she said.
Njagi also mentioned a parking permit for faculty and staff that she thinks should become available to students.
“One thing I think they should do is that there’s a pass they give to the faculty. I feel like students should be able to get one of those if they pay. There’s a little thing that faculty can put in front of their car[s] and park on campus,” she added.
While student permits do not allow parking on campus aside from the designated lots, Public Safety allows temporary parking for a prorated fee depending on availability and need.
Despite student complaints about parking availability, Hill said that the current amount of parking spaces on campus is adequate. He mentioned a parking survey done several years ago which determined how much parking was necessary for students, faculty, and staff on campus.
“The study was pretty extensive when it was done. And it’s going back [about] five [or] six years … what was determined was that we didn’t actually need any more parking. Cunningham South lot was created and that was a big to-do to get that parking lot approved [by] the borough and everything,” Hill said.
Currently, there are 160 available parking spots for students in Cunningham South and 20 parking spots in ML. According to a June 11, 2021 email from former Director of Student Activities Andrew Barclay, for the 2021-2022 school year there were 140 parking permits available to students. There are also a number of spots set aside for students with medical accommodations who were unable to receive permits during the permit application cycle.
Although there might theoretically be enough parking for students in the Cunningham South and ML lots, students have expressed concern on how the parking spaces are being allocated. Currently, the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) manages the allocation process. In June, OSE sent out the parking permit application for the 2022-2023 academic year. The application asks students to provide a reason for their parking request.
Rebecca Weintraub-Barth, Director of Student Activities and Leadership, commented on the criteria used to determine parking eligibility.
“Parking is a limited resource on campus. Parking applications are released each year. Priority is given to seniors, followed by juniors, etc. (by class year),” Weintraub-Barth stated.
Takach recounted their experience when applying for parking for the previous academic year.
“I tried requesting one last summer for the 21-22 academic year, because I have an off-campus job. My application was denied because spots on campus go to juniors/seniors first, so I appealed because I’m a FLI student, and it’s a lot more expensive to park in the ville,” Takach explained. “They still denied it on the grounds of seniority, so I ended up just paying the extra and having less disposable income.”
Njagi applied for a parking space this past summer and also did not receive a spot in Cunningham or ML.
“My reasoning was that if I had a therapist near my house, I’d be driving there twice a week and it’d be nice to have my car for that. Also, in the spring I’ll be volunteering at a hospital so I need my car to drive to the hospital on Mondays and Fridays,” she explained.
Students have expressed distaste for OSE’s seniority-based policy, which doesn’t allocate parking for students with financial, health, and other needs. Hill, though, is open to hearing concerns about parking.
“I don’t know if students have other concerns, and so I’d be happy to hear what those might be,” Hill said.