UNION COUNTY — Although enrollment may be down at Kean University, it has not made it any easier for commuter students to find parking. In fact, students say parking was bad enough before, but now new construction is forcing them to park on the soccer field and take a trolley to the main campus.
Parking is so bad at Kean that students decided to start a petition to get the university president and board of trustees to listen to their plea.
The online petition noted that Kean’s solution to the parking problem was to “spray paint an extra parking lot on half of the soccer field located behind east campus.”
“Students should not have to fight over parking spots to receive the education they want and are paying for,” the online petition states. “This petition is to show that there is a parking problem and students and faculty alike are looking for a solution that has yet to come.”
The petition, which can be found online at www.change.org, goes on to ask Kean University
President Dawood Farahi and the board of trustees to “fix the parking problem.”
Some of the students signing the petition expressed how they felt about the parking situation at Kean, and did not mince words.
“I’m signing this petition because this has affected me for the past three years. After getting on campus more than a half-hour before my classes start, multiple times I have spent over an hour looking for a spot in every lot with no success, making me late to class or missing them entirely,” said Sarah Chirichella, adding that parking was a serious problem and this issue should be addressed before any new buildings are erected with no parking facilities.
Jasmine Wooten noted that she witnessed a student crying hysterically because she almost had to physically fight for a spot.
“She was so upset I almost wished she could park on top of my car. It shouldn’t be that way for a commuter based university. There should be more than enough spots, nobody should have to drive around for two hours for a spot,” added Wooten, pointing out she would rather commute two hours from her home in Delaware “than fight to the death over parking. Yet we keep building nonsense buildings that we could care less about.”
With an enrollment of 15,051 students and only approximately 4,300 spaces, finding a parking spot on campus is no easy task, and campus housing is limited.
James Castiglione, president of the Kean Federation of Teachers, agrees that parking is a very serious problem.
“Administrative mismanagement has resulted in parking at Kean becoming a nightmare, even under the current conditions of low enrollment at Kean’s Union campus,” Castiglione said. “Parking, always a challenge, has now become an academic crisis, preventing faculty and students alike from getting to class on time and thereby undermining teaching and learning at Kean.”
Every lot, including those at Kean Hall, East campus, Green Lane, Harwood Arena, Hutchinson Hennings, Wilkins, Bruce, Vaughn, Eames and the STEM building, are jammed every day, all day, from morning to late afternoon.
Students circle all of these lots until they hopefully see someone vacating a space. For some students it is more than frustrating, because after going from lot to lot for an extensive amount of time, they still cannot find a place to park.
“Are you kidding me? I have been here since 9:45 looking for a parking space and I have a class at 11,” said Janine, a junior, adding she just could not afford to miss another class.
“It’s 10:50 a.m., and I have a walk ahead of me to get to my class on time and its not going to happen unless I park illegally and that means a ticket. This just is crazy,” the student added.
Tareq Khan admitted he was fed up with wandering from parking lot to parking lot for up to two hours a day, and came up with a perfect solution, if only he could do it.
“I’m done trying to find a parking space every day. I’m going to camp in the woods behind Kean,” he said.
Another Kean student named Stephen said “it shouldn’t take a whole day to park my car, especially when I come an hour and a half before class.”
At yet another student named Evan thought getting to the university 45 minutes early would aid him in finding a parking space, but that failed to pan out, much to his frustration.
“I ended up being 30 minutes late to an hour-long lecture,” he said, adding “the parking scene is a real issue here.”
Although many students were quickly reaching the end of their patience by the third week of September, others tried very hard to maintain a good sense of humor.
This was especially true on the Kean University twitter site called “Not Dawood Farahi,” started by an anonymous student.
The site generates heavy posting, most relating to the parking situation at Kean and the other issues of too few trolleys available to haul students from parking lots, or the soccer field, to classes. One student comically revealed how he had a foolproof way to find a parking space quite easily, with a little help from a friend.
“Please send someone over to break my legs so I can have a handicapped parking space, signed an unparked student,” the twitter post read.
Manny Perez, on the other hand, figured if he left home for his 11 a.m. class around dawn, he might just make it to class on time after looking for a parking space.
“This is the third building they are putting up here at Kean and still no parking garage,” he said.
Perez was referring to the fact that in 2007, when Moody’s Investor Services downgraded Kean University’s outstanding debt obligations, they noted that enrollment was up by 15 percent to 9,451 students, but the university was only able to provide housing for 1,437 students, leaving the majority of students to commute to campus.”
Moody’s, though, pointed out in their report that the university’s outlook was being rated stable at that time because Kean would be using proceeds from a series of bonds “for the construction of two new residential facilities and “the construction of a 600-car multi level parking deck.”
The deck, however, was never built.
In 2012, parking fared no better. Things were so bad that year the university allowed students to park on the field next to the Vaughn Eames lot. This year, though, parking at that lot went from bad to worse because of construction of a new building that has taken up a good portion of the lot.
Jane Sweeney felt the university could have solved the parking problem quite easily if they opted to build a parking deck adjacent to the Vaughn Eames lot, instead of another new building.
Abby, who admitted she was losing her patience, said parking was so bad that she drove around looking for a parking spot until one minute before her class ended. Another student, Drea, had to miss her class because after driving around for two hours and not finding a parking space, she simply had no other choice but to give up and go home.
“This is why our graduation percentage is so low,” she said.
One student spent $114 on a parking pass that let him park on campus and then was told if he couldn’t find a spot he could use the free lot and take a trolley or shuttle to class.
Others, admittedly frustrated and discouraged, said they have no other choice but to park on the grass somewhere on campus and risk getting a ticket.
However, one student said grass took precedence over parking spaces at Kean.
“Welcome to Kean where they worry more about grass than parking,” he said.