Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Graduate students discussed the issues of parking and access to birth control at the GPSA meeting in the Physical Sciences Building on March 6, 2023.

March 7, 2023

Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Discusses Parking Issues, Passes Plan B Vending Machine Resolution

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The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly held its bi-weekly meeting on Monday where members heard a presentation from Ryan Feathers grad and Trevor Cross ’22 on the issues of campus parking for graduate students and voted on the Plan B vending machine resolution that recently passed the Student Assembly and University Assembly

According to Feathers and Cross, following changes in parking pass options for undergraduate and graduate students this year, graduate students are faced with bigger challenges regarding financial burdens. 

After the elimination of the student commuter parking permit in August 2022, and the subsequent switch to relying solely on ParkMobile — a mobile option to find and pay for parking — students end up paying more than they would have with the permit. 

“The main problem that we have here is that the way the parking structure always kind of has, but especially now, undercuts any claim of equitability,” Cross said. “In the last round of changes, parking has also gotten more expensive, while less available for grad students specifically.”

Feathers and Cross came to the GPSA in hopes of starting a conversation about initiating graduate student leader involvement in the parking structure and receiving assistance for crafting a proposal that finds solutions to this matter. 

Their argument stems from the Department of Transportation and Delivery Services’ claim that adjustments to the Daily Decision parking option makes parking more equitable to students by meeting the needs for the community. In actuality, the ParkMobile rates are a significant cost increase, according to Feathers and Cross. 

“All of the pricing is a separate issue from a lot of the hassles that come with not being able to buy an annual permit and having to be on top of pay through an app every single day,” Feathers said. “There’s less parking that we’re able to buy an annual pass for, but also the parking that we can’t buy an annual pass for is also significantly more expensive.”

Depending on the permit purchased, staff parking permits can range from $395 to $806, compared to graduate students who can pay over $1237 — the price for 250 working days — depending on the parking lot through ParkMobile services. 

Feathers noted that while Cornell implemented ParkMobile across the campus, features of the app have changed. There is no longer an option to extend parking for a couple of days to avoid the 45-cent fee, which was charged each time a user paid for parking. Instead, parkers must pay the fee every day to use the app — leading to a cost of $104 to ParkMobile a year. 

“[On the website they mention that] the cost of most Daily Decisions lots are below the annual former SC permit rate when you consider a typical academic year of 180 days, which, for undergrads, [that] would apply to,” Cross said. 

However graduate students are typically on campus for the same amount of time as most staff and faculty, as they do not follow the undergraduate calendar. 

“It’s really contradictory to what they say,” Feathers said. “Most lots are not cheaper, even if you follow this cost based on 150 days of parking. It’s actually one lot that is significantly cheaper and one that’s about the same price.”

Cross stated in his presentation that the University claimed to collect data on parking by recording and measuring the amount of cars in each lot, indicating how full lots are at different times. However, Cornell does not make the data publicly available.

“Not only was parking here pretty bad [before], but it seems to have gotten worse for grad students in particular,” Cross said. “I find that the way the TNDS has kind of spun it to be a little dishonest, and what we’re ultimately asking for is transparency… and to be able to understand and look into [the data] as a community.”

Following the presentation, the GPSA voted on Resolution 7: Dependable and Inclusive Supply of Pharmaceutical and Essential Non-Prescription Supplies. Resolution 7 supports a program through Cornell Health’s pharmacy that will carry essential non-prescription medicine in vending machines, including emergency contraceptives. The vending machines aim to increase health equity and accessibility on campus. The resolution was passed with 17 people in favor, zero opposed and one abstention. 

The University and Student Assembly submitted and conveyed the resolution to President Martha Pollack earlier this month, which she acknowledged in an email on Tuesday. 

“I support efforts to expand access to non-prescription health care supplies, including contraception,” Pollack wrote in an email obtained by The Sun. “Cornell health and campus partners are currently reviewing a proposal for such supplies to be made available via campus vending machines and I encourage your continued collaboration with them.”

If Pollack accepts the resolution, the vending machines are planned to be out on campus by this summer or fall, according to Kate Carter Cram grad, the president of GPSA.  

“It is my understanding that we can expect an update on this effort later this semester,” Pollack said. 

Correction, March 8, 12:47 a.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that President Martha Pollack acknowledged the University and Student Assembly resolutions on Wednesday. The article has been corrected to accurately reflect that Pollack acknowledged the resolution on Tuesday.