The administration has again raised a very divisive issue: an extraordinary rise in parking fees for faculty, staff and students.
If adopted, it will pose undue hardship on many, especially lecturers (at the bottom of the faculty pay scale), staff — including clerical, service, and janitorial workers — and graduate and undergraduate students. This comes at a time of economic recession with a paltry 0.5% pay increase for faculty and no increase yet for staff. This is an injustice.
The administration’s argument, rubberstamped by the campus Parking and Transportation Committee and the Campus Planning Committee, is that in order to accommodate new academic and research buildings, existing parking lots need to be destroyed and replaced by the new buildings as well as by new high-rise or underground parking structures. The projected cost of these new parking structures is $89 million. To pay for them, the administration last Spring proposed a five-year parking rate increase that would raise rates from the current $35 a month or $420 a year — rates already too high — to a whopping $125 a month or $1,380 a year by 2005. This would amount to an over 200% increase!
The administration claims that state law restricts it from using public funds to construct parking facilities. Hence, parking lots in the past have been financed by the parking fees assessed on faculty, staff, and students. However, the Faculty Association, a non-administration group, has researched and discovered that there is nothing that would prohibit the use of state funds specifically for faculty and staff parking. Thus, the administration’s argument is bogus and a self-serving since it has been easier simply to tax the faculty, staff, and students for new parking.
The decision to raise parking rates has been made by the administration with little or no consultation with the faculty and staff, much less the students.
Last’s Spring’s proposed rate hikes were only stopped by the strong reaction on the part of faculty and staff. Over 100 e-mails were sent to Chancellor Yang protesting these hikes. As a result, he announced in June that the proposed rate hikes were being set aside while the administration further studied the issues. In a conversation with me, the chancellor went so far as to suggest that he never intended to support such hikes.
Nevertheless, as soon as this Fall quarter opened, the chancellor came right back and proposed basically the same rate hikes under a slightly different package. So much for studying the issues!
At a meeting last week of the Campus Planning Committee, the administration proposed these rate hikes in installments. The first installment would occur next January with a $15 a month rate hike (a 43% augmentation of the current $35 we pay per month) and the suggestion of another hike in July of at least the same amount. It is likely that by this time next year, rates will go from the present $420 a year to almost $800! This rate hike would go to pay for a $25 million, seven-story parking structure adjacent to a new engineering complex that would occupy the current Parking Lot 10-a lot already paid for and maintained by existing parking fees. This is an outrageous amount of money to spend on a parking structure at a time when many needs on and off campus go unmet.
It should be noted that this new rate hike is only the tip of the iceberg, since other equally or more expensive parking structures are already in the administration’s plans.
Chancellor Yang is the only person at UCSB who can undo this injustice.
He should rescind the proposed new fees and re-think the need for the new parking structures. He should look for alternative sources of funds, such as from the state or in the private sector, to pay for parking structures; or work out an agreement with the local bus service to provide new bus routes into more neighborhoods where faculty and staff live so that they can more easily use the buses. He should also eliminate the administration-appointed Parking and Transportation Committee and allow the Academic Senate to appoint its own independent parking committee.
But if Chancellor Yang won’t do these things and insists on going forward with the unjust parking rate hikes, then he should have the courage at least to submit his proposal to a campus referendum.
If the administration is stubbornly and arrogantly intent on going forward with these unjust parking rate increases, it will have to be resisted. I call on all concerned faculty, staff and students to express their dissent to the chancellor and to participate in the struggle that will commence unless he acts quickly and decisively to eliminate this contentious issue.
Mario T. García is a professor of history and Chicano studies.