Administration double-parked, CC stalled

On Jan. 7, through a Daily Message sent by Security, the College announced students would not be allowed to use the parking garage, either permanently or in the interim. According to the message, the decision came after consultation with Town officials and College lawyers. As we report on our front page, however, the Town denies it played any role in the decision. On the contrary, it appears up to 67 spaces in the parking garage could be used for student parking, with no effect on the town’s required parking for the new Theatre and Dance Complex. Students parking in these 67 spaces would never be required to move their cars for any performance at the Complex, a concern that has been continuously cited by the administration as a reason for banning student vehicles.

Further, according to a planning report filed by the College and approved by the Town on Dec. 30, 2001, it seems the College initially planned on having 109 spaces in the garage dedicated to student parking.

Clearly something has changed in the last year. The original proposal set aside 115 of the 234 places in the garage for use by faculty and staff. This number would replace the 79 previously available in the old Greylock lot and supply 36 additional spaces needed for the building at 63 Park St.

Surely, the College has a valid reason for deciding not to devote any of the spaces in the new parking lot to students. However, that logic has never been satisfactorily explained, especially in light of the planning documents, which leave excess space for students’ cars.

Rising from this confusion are two questions. First, why has the College continually argued that it is the burden of removing student cars for performances that poses the greatest obstacle to student parking in the garage when this does not appear to be the case? Second – and more importantly, because College Council is the voice of the students and a liaison between the student body and the administration – why has the parking garage issue disappeared from the agenda? Where is College Council on this matter?

We do not doubt CC made an inquiry into the issue. Indeed, back in November it made a very reasonable request that students be allowed to park in the garage this spring as the spaces would not be needed for the yet-to-be-built theater complex.

Yet, CC did not follow up on the subject. Town manager Peter Fohlin raised an obvious contradiction when he stated to CC that town regulations had no role in denying use of the garage to students. This statement lies in direct opposition to the Daily Message response to CC’s November letter, which clearly indicated there were legal concerns keeping students out of the lot. Fohlin’s comments should have opened, at the very least, an inquiry into what the real story behind the parking space allocation is.

For all the talk of how uninterested the average Williams student is in campus issues – a point we have frequently made in this space – here is an issue on which the student body is begging for action. Yet, when we asked CC co-president Mark Rosenthal ’03 about the status of the parking garage discussion, he replied that it was a “dead issue for CC right now.” In addition, Scott Grinsell ’04, CC’s town liaison, has not followed through since inviting Fohlin to the CC meeting. Fohlin presented a line of questioning for the College on a silver platter, but CC has remained derelict in its duty.

Instead, CC has spent its time arguing over Rosenthal’s replacement as co-president for the final six weeks of his term. Surely, finding a replacement for Rosenthal was an important task for the Council to address. Yet, after five weeks of discussion about this issue, the Council found itself unable to elect anybody and will move on with only one president for the remainder of the term.

Another issue currently being kicked around by CC’s leadership is the name of the Council. In an e-mail to the Council, CC treasurer Mike Henry suggested changing CC’s name to “something like Student Senate, Student Government, or even College Governing Council.” According to Henry, there is “so much in a name, and I think this change could be one step in the direction of achieving more legitimacy for Council.”

CC is justifiably concerned with achieving more legitimacy from the student body. The way to do this, however, is not by spending five weeks haggling over its leadership or whether College Council is a “weak and ambiguous name.” The way to gain respect from the student body is to fight for causes the student body cares about.

Even if some consider parking a smaller issue, the broader question of transparency looms over this discussion. How did the administration use the same argument for months to keep students out of the garage when one piece of paper in town hall appears to refute the basis of the College’s entire argument, at least for 67 spaces?

Even if CC, for some reason, considers parking a small issue, there are other areas where it could focus its attention. The College’s plans for student services once Baxter is taken off-line – a subject the administration has said it welcomes and, in fact, needs student input on – is another issue CC should be actively pursuing. An organized student voice is needed as well to assure the availability of performance space for student organizations after all of the construction projects are completed.

Unfortunately, CC is not addressing these issues. That is why it has a legitimacy problem.