The faint sound of bells from McMurran Hall ring out, filling the Shepherdstown air with the hustle and bustle of a Monday morning. It’s 8 a.m. and, like clockwork, commuters are on the prowl to obtain a parking spot. Their mission: to make it to class on time. It’s just another typical morning at Shepherd University.
The fact that Shepherd is such a strong commuter school makes it unique in comparison to other universities; however, unlike most colleges with a high number of commuter students, sufficient parking is not provided.
Although there are several areas for commuter parking at Shepherd, these lots are inconveniently located on the opposite side of campus from most academic buildings. A-lot is probably the worst place to attempt to find parking. If observed the scene for short period of time, it would not be out of the ordinary to watch the same car compulsively circle the parking lot in hopes of getting a spot.
When a student is spotted walking toward his car, the chase begins. Several cars creep slowly behind him with their turn signals, only to come to the bittersweet realization that the student was simply getting a textbook out of his vehicle. When a spot does actually open up, like a game of musical chairs, cars rev their engines and chug forward hoping to claim that precious spot.
To avoid this unwanted game of “Ring Around the Rosie,” one might arrive well before one’s scheduled class time to get a guaranteed parking spot. Nevertheless, students have said even under those circumstances, parking is not always guaranteed. In which case, students resort to parking meters or worse!
Shepherd alumn Shane Lowery remembers the daily struggle of finding a parking spot at Shepherd. “There were times I would be parked at a meter and I would go to put more money in it, but I would get there a minute or two late, and I already had a ticket on my windshield,” Lowery said. He also recalled an event when his left side mirror was torn off of his vehicle due to a student trying to squeeze into the spot next to his.
It would not be out of the ordinary to spot an illegally parked car graced with a parking ticket on campus; however, some students say it is a risk they are willing to take. Political science major Lauren Caps knows the feeling of finding a parking ticket on her windshield all too well. “It just comes down to the question: should I be late to class and miss my exam or get a parking ticket? This can also be translated into: should I risk lowering my GPA or pay a $10 fine?” she continued. “The ticket will expire, but my grades won’t,” Caps said.
Lack of parking is an ongoing issue at Shepherd. Students argue that since they are paying enough in college tuition, the least the university could do is provide adequate parking. There are, indeed, other parking lots provided for commuters such as F-lot and G-lot; however, these lots are located on West Campus. For majors who utilizes the buildings primarily on east campus, parking in F-lot makes for a solid 10-15 minute walk.
In addition, students say, on average, they spend about 10-15 minutes looking for a parking spot at Shepherd, and some have even had to resort to covert tactics to get a spot. One student who wished to remain anonymous said she was 20 minutes late to class due to the insufficient parking that Shepherd provides. In a time of desperation, she parked in someone’s driveway to avoid completely missing an exam, and, in return, she was greeted with a $70 parking ticket, which wouldn’t have happened had there been parking provided.
While the parking crisis at Shepherd may substantially affect students, it does not seem to affect faculty members nearly as much. In fact, when questioned about insufficient parking at Shepherd, most faculty members stated they had not experienced a lack of parking. However, Robert Tudor, chair of the department of music, parks in faculty parking in front of the Frank Center and was able to recollect a time where he encountered a parking frustration.
“On the west side of the campus, parking has delayed me arriving to meetings and presentations frequently,” Tudor said.
The solution seems to be establishing a parking garage on campus for both commuters and on- campus residents to ensure parking is available in a location that would be convenient for all students.
Former Shepherd student Holly Pittman agreed the university would only benefit from the development of a parking garage: “I think there would only be pros honestly.” She went on to say that with all the development that’s going on in Jefferson County, building a parking garage wouldn’t make much of a difference in the appearance of Shepherdstown. Students would find more parking closer to classes, and residents of Shepherdstown would have less trouble finding spots on German Street.
Talk about the development of a parking garage has been going on for some time now; however, nothing has gone into effect quite yet. The postponement of this project is due to several key factors. The first is that Shepherdstown is a historic town and town officials do not want to taint the appearance of this old town with a newly developed parking garage.
The second is that the development of a garage has not fallen high enough on the school’s list of priorities. Things that have outweighed the school’s decision to go forward with a parking garage have been projects like the underpass and the HVC/window project that took place in Stutzman/Slonaker Hall.
Another factor holding back production is debt capacity. “Currently, we are at a low rate of nine percent; parking will add to the debt,” said Shepherd University President Suzanne Shipley.
Then, there is the cost of the production that serves as another deciding factor. How much money the school has and what will be given in support plays a big part in the decision to move forward with construction. The parking garage project would cost $10-12 million, and no one would help to fund the cost; the state will not give money for this project as it is dealing with budget shortfalls.
So, if a parking garage does occur in the near future, which just may be a possibility, the question at hand is: where would it go?
Shipley explained that the parking garage would be created by the nursing building. She went on to say that, ideally, Sara Cree Hall would be taken down and it, in doing so, would be replaced by an “all-student” parking lot, eliminating the “red decal only” and “green decal only” parking lots that currently are in place. Furthermore, the parking all along King Street would be taken down, making it a pedestrian mall.
The lot is said to have 600 spots, but will it be enough?
It is true that the parking garage is being considered; however, it appears that there is no sudden rush to move forward with this project.
It may all sound good on paper, but some still remain skeptical. Shepherd student William Welsh said that he is not fully convinced: “Let’s put it this way, I’m not expecting to see a newly renovated parking when I return back to Shepherd in the fall. I’ll believe it when I see it,” Welsh said.
The future of on-campus parking remains unknown and still brings up several questions: Will the parking garage solve all of Shepherds parking woes? Will current students be able to witness a easier parking experience before they graduate? Will the parking garage actually be built? Erik Jones, a professor in the music department, smiled and simply said, “If I knew things like that, I would spend more time at the racetrack.”
Until then, the parking predicament continues at Shepherd University.