By: Kyle Grant
Managing Editor of Content
For the first time in its history, the oldest public college in Rhode Island will feature a designated parking plan.
Forged by Vice President for Administration and Finance William Gearhart and enforced by Campus Police Chief Fred Ghio, the purpose of the changes is to make parking at Rhode Island College more predictable instead of the inadequate “hunt and find” system currently in place.
“I would like to see a predictable situation,” Gearhart said. “Students will know where they’re supposed to park, and it will reduce the uncertainty.”
Both Ghio and Gearhart assured that this policy is the only constriction that administration will place on campus parking.
Under the new system, which will be enacted in the fall semester, commuter students, residential students, and faculty and staff will each have their own assigned lots. All vehicles will be registered with Campus Police, and students will be giving a sticker identifying which lot they belong to.
Commuter students will have blue stickers, resident students will have green stickers and faculty/staff mem- bers will have red stickers. These stickers will be placed in the back driver-side window, which is easily viewed during patrols.
Lots will be open to the public during certain events held on campus.
While the way registration will occur is still unclear, the hope is that all vehicles will be registered online. It is also uncertain whether RIC itself will handle parking registration or if a separate parking company will take the job.
“I would prefer if one company handled parking, but it is a matter of cost,” said Ghio.
Registration of cars will not cost students anything, while at colleges such as the University of Rhode Island car registration can cost up to $250 for a full year. The stickers will be current for two years, making them valid until fall 2014.
“Students are getting something for nothing here,” Ghio said.
According to Gearhart, an additional benefit to the plan would be that predictable and convenient parking will allow for students to spend less gas looking for an empty spot.
“If students are spending less time driving around, it will reduce our carbon footprint and make the campus greener,” Gearhart said. “That’s not the reason we’re doing it, it’s just a positive side effect.
Enforcement of this new parking policy will be administered by Campus Police, spearheaded by Ghio. The stickers will feature barcodes for officers to scan. The barcode-sticker idea is an alternative both Ghio and Gearhart much preferred over the hangtags currently used by faculty.
“In a sea of thousands of blue stickers, it’s easy to spot the one red one,” Ghio said, “which makes enforcement much easier for campus officials.”
Under the new policy, resident students will not be allowed to bring their cars into commuter lots during the day to park closer to their classes.
“During the day, I’ll drive through the resident lot and I see 75-100 empty spots,” Ghio said. “What that tells me is that resident students are using up two spots.”
After 6 p.m., however, resident students will be able to park in areas such as the newly renovated Recreation Center, which will be fully operational in the fall.
After a grace period to allow students to be accustomed to the new policy, any vehicles that are unregistered or in the incorrect lot will be given a $50 ticket.
“The plan will not work if not adhered to,” Gearhart said .“We have to be serious about enforcement. We expect some issues once people start getting tickets.”
The idea for a new parking program occurred when Gearhart first came to RIC two years ago, when he first arrived on campus.
“I heard stories about how bad parking was, but I knew something had to be done once I got here,” Gearhart said.
However, Gearhart decided to wait before promoting his new plan, believing that he should “look, listen and learn before he started speaking.”
“Fred was also interim director of Campus Police at the time, so I wanted to make sure he would stick around to enforce it,” Gearhart said.
Being the first assigned parking system in the history of the RIC campus, Ghio and Gearhart expect to face several obstacles for the first year. In order to face these challenges, both plan to be flexible in order to meet the needs of faculty and students.
“If faculty doesn’t have enough spaces, we’ll allot them more parking, and same with students.” Gearhart said.
In the future Gearhart hopes to add gates to certain lots, such as the residential lot or some faculty lots. Also, those visiting campus will have to go to either to the Welcome and Information Center or to Campus Police to get a visitor pass.
Gearhart first informed the student body of the new parking policy during a Student Community Government, Inc. Leadership luncheon two weeks ago.
“They all seemed pretty favorable; I don’t recall any negative responses.” Gearhart said.
Last Wednesday, Ghio discussed the parking policy with Parliament, and several representatives provided their own input to make the policy more student-friendly.
“President Carriuolo likes the idea; she wants to take care of the students,” Ghio said at the last SCG meeting. “She thinks we haven’t done anything. At least now we’re not doing nothing.”
So far, the only complaints Ghio has received came from resident students who work off campus, claiming that the new parking plan will inconvenience their com- mute from class to work.
While the new parking plan may be a radical change from the lawless lots RIC students are used to, Gearhart and Ghio feel that the predictability and consistency should benefit commute time and make the hunt for a parking spot much less stressful.
If anyone has questions, concerns or complaints about this new parking system, they are asked contact Campus Police.
“When it comes to a college campus, parking is a big deal,” Gearhart said.
The new system may have some obstacles at first, but with some flexibility and cooperation, parking at RIC may no longer seem like a problem.
– With additional reporting by News Editor Katelyn Hurd