Liberty University students have returned to a myriad of campus changes, including a new parking system.
According to Liberty’s administration the changes are showing promising results and will remain in effect for the following academic year.
“The first major part of the change was taking on campus parking spaces (primarily Hill and East Campus student vehicles) and moving them to newly constructed lots that were put up in the last couple of weeks,” Liberty’s Vice President of Financial Research and Analysis Richard Martin said.
Although having to relocate on-campus vehicles may not be convenient, according to Martin and other members of the administration, students have responded well.
“Liberty prides itself on letting our freshmen bring cars. Not too many big schools do that,” Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said. “We wanted to continue that, but we did have to change where the younger students park, and we do appreciate the way they have responded to that change.”
According to Martin, on-campus students have to walk a maximum of 20 minutes to reach their now relocated vehicles.
“If we had put commuters in the lot behind the Wingate there would have been thousands of hours generated a week of walking, but the same parking space used for on-campus students only generates a hundred hours,” Martin said.
According to Falwell and Martin, students were evaluated not by academic year, but by age, when determining which on-campus cars would need to be relocated.
“We have been using an age based cut off since 1992,” Martin said. “We had a lot of war veterans coming back from the Iraqi War, so we had a lot of older freshmen. That’s when the school made the change to look at it from an age standpoint.”
The administration offered younger students Flames Cash incentives to relocate their vehicles.
“Students have responded positively to the incentives, but having incentives did not mean students were either getting punishment or a reward,” Martin said.
According to Falwell, younger students relocating their vehicles was a decision that was made and was mandatory for all students fitting the pre-set standard.
With the change, more than 600 parking spaces have been converted into commuter spots.
“The change has positively affected commuters,” Liberty’s Director of Planning and Construction Charles Spence said. “It really opened up the availability of commuters to be able to park.”
Commuter decals were sold at an oversell rate of 1.7 decals per available spot last year, according to Martin, which resulted in the negative response of students who were unable to find parking during peak hours. However, this semester the oversell rate was lowered to 1.2 decals per spot.
“We still have some challenges during the 10:50 a.m. time slot, but other than that we are seeing major improvement,” Martin said.
However, there are still parking lots that are not being utilized by students, even during the 10:50 a.m. issue, according to Martin.
“The parking lot behind the ice center is open for students, and I have never counted more than 15 cars there,” Martin said.
According to Falwell, Spence and Martin, there is plenty of parking on campus for students who have paid the annual fee.
However, there is one major problem that the administration is looking for student assistance is rectifying, according to Falwell.
“Last week we had a 30 percent violation rate, with students who did not re-register their vehicles and parked on campus,” Martin said. “This week the violation rate was down to 16 percent.”
Though the violation rate was down, the administration is still urging students to comply with campus policy.
“Some students think this is a financial game,” Martin said. “We have a very prominent student who was bragging on a social network site about not buying a decal for his eight semesters here. Well, when that one student parks without a decal he is causing students who have paid for a decal to be left without their rightful spot.”
The administration is asking students to assist in making parking easier by notifying LUPD when cars are continually seen out of compliance.
“Take your camera, take a picture and send it to the LUPD,” Spence said.
Students need to understand that compliance is necessary because it is the only way to make parking work, Falwell said.
“We still have 15-17 percent of students out of compliance,” Liberty’s Executive Vice President Neal Askew said. “We need students to help us locate the students who think they can beat the system.”
Students can email LUPD@liberty.edu with pictures and location descriptions of illegally parked cars.
“I think students will do this because cars that are parked illegally aren’t hurting us,” Spence said. “They are hurting the (other) students.”