Posted for Faculty Senate’s consideration on behalf of the Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Organization:
To Whom it May Concern,
This is an open letter in response to the recent decision by WSU Cougar Health Services administration to implement a parking fee for the parking lot in front of the Washington building.
The building this lot is attached to is Cougar Health Services which houses the student medical center, the psychological services center, and the Access Center—where students go to receive disability services.
For context, this parking lot has historically been free but required obtaining a parking token while receiving services in order to exit the lot. In advance of the 2020-2021 academic year a meter was installed in this lot which now requires anyone parking there to enter their plate number and pre-pay for parking time above 15 minutes. If someone does not pay or does not pay enough, they may receive a parking ticket.
Now more than ever, health disparities are being highlighted in this country. It is apparent that economic inequality maps strongly on to health outcome inequality. Requiring students to pay a parking fee creates one more barrier that may prevent them from receiving the medical and mental health care they need. Amid the current global pandemic, police brutality, and systemic health inequalities occurring right now, barriers to care are the last thing students need.
We were informed that this decision was made due to the burden of cost on CHS to pay for the upkeep of this parking lot. Specifically, CHS pays approximately $40,000 per year to manage this lot. We recognize that such a cost is significant, and we do not want CHS to eliminate any services or service providers to cover this cost. However, passing the cost to the students also seems problematic. We request that other options be considered by the University administration.
As a comparison, the University of Washington has a parking lot in front of their student health center with no-cost stalls reserved for individuals with permanent or temporary disabilities that impair movement including: bone fracture or sprain, respiratory illness, or other illnesses limiting movement. This free parking is also available for use by individuals with babies or children as well as those who are pregnant. Eligible patients provide the make/model of their car at the front desk to avoid a ticket. Providing free parking allows these students, especially those with disabilities or dependents, to access services and resources they need without adding financial stress. Ideally, free parking at CHS would be reinstated; however, at a minimum, an arrangement similar to the one at UW would be available for WSU students.
Enforcing further economic hardship on students while they try to access the very services they so need right now, is not in alignment with who we are as a WSU community. We hope a resolution that reinstates free parking when accessing CHS services that does not put undue burden on CHS can be found. As a graduate student organization, we have also communicated with GPSA about this issue.
The Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Organization (CPGSO)
Response from Ellen Taylor, Senior Associate Vice President e-mail to John Shaheen, Director of Parking Services and Matt Hudelson, Executive Secretary of Faculty Senate:
Matt and John,
We have communicated with CPGSO as well as GPSA about the decision for CHS to stop subsidizing parking near the Washington building. Our budget situation simply does not allow us to absorb this cost any longer.
Let me know if there are further specific questions we can answer.
The following memo was provided by Joel Schwartzkopf, CHS Executive Director and John Shaheen, Parking Services Director:
This memo outlines steps to resolve the parking issue, including a short-term offering of free parking for the remainder of Spring Semester 2021, along with investigations into longer-term resolutions of this issue.