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GPSC opens meeting to talk about parking

At the Graduate and Professional Student Council Community Forum meeting Monday night, students aired their concerns about parking on campus and general assembly members continued to debate a proposed student fee increase that would help pay for GPSC-sponsored events.

The forum, which was the first of its kind that GPSC has hosted this semester, consisted of an open discussion among all interested graduate and professional students about their parking concerns.

Ticketing was the first issue raised. One student complained of getting a parking citation when "there were no signs saying that the lot was going to be closed." In response to this and similar complaints, Community Affairs Coordinator Heather Dean suggested that students sign up to receive e-mails about parking. "There is a mailing list that you can sign up for to receive news and announcements about parking, but unfortunately it's not well-utilized," said Dean, a graduate student in neurobiology.

Others complained that the Duke campus simply lacks parking space. Dean attributed the apparent decrease in available space to a new policy. "To encourage building they revoked the rule that the parking space taken up by new buildings must be replaced," she explained. "So parking kind of eats it when new buildings go up."

When one student asked about plans for parking expansion, Ombudsperson Megan McCrudden said administrators have been slow to start such projects. "They've been saying for the last two years that they'll do it next summer, and they haven't," said McCrudden, a graduate student in clinical psychology.

Some students pointed out flaws in Parking and Transportation Services' online features. "Can we redo the parking website so it's useable?" Dean asked. Other students cited the competitive nature of online permit registration and accompanying system crashes as problems.

Students with bicycles also had concerns. Alex Meyer, a graduate student in classical studies, asked about the possibility of taking bikes onto the Robertson buses. Eli Lazarus, a graduate student in earth and ocean sciences, proposed an even broader solution. "There need to be bike racks on all the buses- they're on all the buses in Colorado," he said. "I don't see why we can't have them here."

Eric Vance, a graduate student in statistics, asked about occasional parking. "I ride my bike most of the time but sometimes I have a meeting or something and need to drive," he said.

Lettye Smith, GPSC vice president and moderator of the forum, offered answers. "The obvious occasional parking is hourly parking in the Bryan Center and right across the street from Fuqua [School of Business]," the Divinity student said. Chris Oishi, a graduate student in ecology, pointed out that there are ways to purchase single-day parking permits.

Issues of personal safety in the Green Zone lots led to a discussion of driving safety. "It's unsafe to leave the lots through certain exits going in certain directions," Vance said.

The parking discussions were recorded so that a GPSC liaison will be able to take the students' questions to Parking and Transportation Services and report back at a later date.

The results of the recent online GPSC fee survey were also released. In the survey, 900 graduate and professional students were asked if they favored an increase in student fees in order to keep up with rising expenses. Thirty-eight percent voted for no change and 61 percent voted to increase fees.

Of those in favor of an increase, more than half voted for an increase of less than $5. "The majority were looking for a small to moderate increase," said Treasurer Scott Smith, a second-year student in the business school, who presented the results.

The students surveyed were also asked how many GPSC events they attend each semester. Over one third responded "Zero." About half answered "one to two," 11 percent said "three to four" and 5 percent responded "four or more."

Students differed in their responses to these numbers. "If 61 percent say 'yes,' it seems like it would make sense to increase the fee a little bit," said Patty Thomas, a graduate student in sociology.

Others questioned the logic of raising revenue without reducing expenses. "Why aren't you fixing the budget instead of fixing the fee?" one graduate student in chemistry asked.

Other students brought up the issue of financial transparency. "You should put both funding requests and results online so that anyone who wants to know can see how their money's being spent," Vance said.

Students opposing the proposed fee increase cited poor attendance at GPSC sponsored events. Dean argued that the council does not just benefit students that attend events.

"GPSC pushes for healthcare and childcare subsidies and advocates for things like parking, as we've talked about tonight," she said. "I think people underestimate how much they get from an organization like GPSC."

Members of GPSC will vote on the proposed fee increase at their next general assembly meeting later this month.

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