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Student Association works to get free student parking at games

Students charged a fee for parking in certain lots during the Saturday, Sept. 14 home football game will be eligible for a refund.

Last year, SVSU began charging students to park in lots C and C1, which are closest to Wickes Stadium, and Lot E, which belongs to the Ryder Center. Students were not supposed to be charged for the lots if they showed their school ID.

On Friday, Sept. 6, SVSU Athletics announced students and non-students will be charged to park in any lots near the football stadium for tailgating.

Nora Lipetzky, the SA house speaker, was tagged in a Sept. 10 post to the Facebook group “SVSU WE’RE BOSS” with a complaint about the fee and a link the Athletic Department article about the $5 parking fee.

Lipetzky began collecting students’ concerns over the fee so SA could address the problem with Athletics. On Wednesday, Sept. 11, she called John Decker, the director of athletics.

“He has been incredibly helpful through the process,” she said.

After talking with Decker, Lipetzky said Decker told her students would not be charged for lots D, F, K or R if they showed their student ID. Students would still be charged for lots C, C1 and E, which were the lots Athletics began charging non-students for last year.

After the Sept. 14 game, Lipetzky said she received complaints that students had been charged for lots Decker said would be free.

On Monday, Sept. 16, she said she reached out to Decker about the issue.

Students will need to bring their student ID and their parking ticket to the Athletics administration offices in the Ryder Center to receive the refund.

“There were a lot of concerns with the people who were facilitating the lot charging, such as students who were getting confrontational with other students,” she said. “I received a concern that the cheer team as well as color guard and the poms and dance team had been charged to get into the lots even though they were there for professional reasons.”

Athletics could not be reached for comment about the concerns.

After talking to Decker, Lipetzky said he told her the changes were not communicated to every student-athlete and coach. Decker told Lipetzky students who were charged will be refunded.

After the Saturday, Sept. 21, home game, no students posted on “SVSU WE’RE BOSS” that they were charged as they had after the previous home game.

Many students are upset over the $5 parking fee, including criminal justice senior Sydney Walker. She was one of the students charged for parking in a free lot last week.

“In this situation, compromise is necessary, and I am more than willing to do so,” she said. “Athletics should be able to fundraise for their programs by charging the general public for parking, and even students in the lots next to the football field. I’m totally cool with that.”

Walker said some lots should be free to students since many students cannot afford the parking fee.

“Not a lot of people can afford to spend an extra $5 when that could otherwise get them a meal or a jug of laundry detergent,” she said.

Walker said she believes the charges will prevent students from attending the games.

“If the university keeps charging students for parking, attendance to the games might even go down as some people might think that it’s not worth it to spend the money,” she said.

Codey Cook, the SA ombudsman, disagreed. He said the fee is necessary to pay for maintenance and police officers who have to work during home games.

“As a student, giving my opinion, I don’t think a $5 is a problem,” he said. “Honestly, it’s just $5 just to go park closer so people can get drunk or let loose. Plus, if you look at the parking lot afterward, it’s trashed.”

Lipetzky said students still would have to pay for the C and E lots since they were “the most heavily attended lots by students.”

Lipetzky said Decker told her the $5 fee would go toward maintenance.

“The rationale behind that was a lot of oversight with having to have a police presence there to ensure students and tailergaters are safe, as well as a groundskeeper to keep the lots clean because it’s inevitably going to get dirty from everyone leaving in and out,” she said.

In a statement to The Valley Vanguard, Athletics said other GLIAC universities also charge for parking at football games, with some “charging even more than SVSU.”

“We also took into consideration that the parking charges are per vehicle, so that the actual cost per person for attending a tailgate will in almost all cases be reduced substantially,” it stated.

Lipetzky said the fee would go to Athletics and not to the baseball team. Last year, she said the fee was a fundraiser for the baseball team.

“Athletics explained to me that it was just going to Athletics as a whole to help cover a convenience fee, so groundskeeping, police oversight and the like,” she said.

During the Thursday, Sept. 12 President’s Forum, President Don Bachand said the $5 would cover maintenance and police patrols related to the home football games and tailgating.

Eric Brookhouse, the director of athletic communications, said this year’s fee is part of a baseball fundraising, just as it was last year.

“The parking fees go toward the baseball team as part of their fundraising efforts,” he said.

Athletics could not be reached to clarify what the fee will be used for.

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