Many freshmen expected to leave their families and high school friends behind when they embarked on the beginning of a four-year adventure at the University of Miami, but perhaps they did not expect to leave behind one particular companion: their cars.
A decision that was reached last semester through several campus departments – including Business Services, Student Affairs and the Department of Transportation – went into effect this semester, keeping incoming on-campus freshmen from purchasing parking decals, and many freshmen are not happy.
“It’s very annoying. I can’t get anywhere without a car,” freshman Zack Nolan said. “It sucks to feel isolated your first year.”
This new policy was agreed upon with the hopes that it would cut down on congestion in parking lots and garages, contribute to UM’s GreenU initiative by limiting carbon emissions and keep freshmen on campus more often, allowing them to adjust to the community.
But when freshmen want to venture out and explore Coral Gables, it proves to be much more difficult for them than if they had a vehicle conveniently available.
“It’s really inconvenient when you want to go to Publix or Sunset Place,” freshman Nate Feldhacker said. “You usually have to walk or take a cab.”
Student Affairs has been receiving complaints like these since the semester began.
“We wanted to address the problem of students trying to get to these places on weekends,” said Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs. “So we have just started a shuttle on the weekends that goes to these places, like Whole Foods, Publix and CVS.”
Even though this shuttle runs from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, students still want to go at a time that is convenient for them, which the shuttles often do not provide.
Even freshman that are Florida residents, coming from cities just a few hours outside of Miami, are in a difficult spot, such as Sarasota native Sarah Altajar.
“It’s unfair. I live three-and-a-half hours away. It’s hard to take public transportation like the bus. But if you don’t do that, you have to take a flight to get there. And I’m not going to make my parents drive all the way down here,” Altajar said.
While freshmen may have their complaints, the decision seems to make sense to upperclassmen.
“I don’t think they should have cars anyway,” junior Adam McCormick said. “That’s how it is on most other campuses. Our campus is small enough so that it’s not too bad.”
Because of the policy, approximately 500 new parking spots are available on campus this semester. But some commuter students have mixed feelings about the difference they see in parking availability on campus.
“I have felt a difference, but I don’t know if it’s just because I get here early,” senior Elsie Gattas said. “When I leave, I see people fighting for my spot.”
Senior Ryan Hughes lives close to campus and does not need to drive, but has friends that do.
“My friends still have a lot of trouble,” Hughes said. “Many of them tell me that they will circle the lots for about 30 minutes looking for a spot.”
Whitely said that there are more parking spaces available, and the lot in front of the Bank United Center has been expanded, adding about 400 more spots.
Whitely also mentions that there are many reasons for freshmen to stay close to campus and many opportunities to get involved with student organizations. Student Affairs plans to launch more on-campus weekend activities.
“We are focusing on more on-campus programming, like on Sundays at the pool we have a DJ from 1 to 4 p.m.,” Whitely said.
Many freshmen have their opinions about the new rule and feel unlucky that they were the first freshmen to have to follow it. Nevertheless, some, such as Mathieu Gaultier, are trying to have a positive attitude and enjoy their first year at Miami.
“I think it’s a good reason to stay around, and it forces you into meeting new people,” Gaultier said. “The weather’s generally good, and I like the exercise.”