Unfair Parking Prices for Grad Students at UMB During COVID19 Pandemic
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We are writing to you today in response to the recently announced parking prices for students this semester. We believe that charging $440 for the rest of the semester starting October 1st is an extremely steep price for your graduate students, especially when you consider that our stipend (which has essentially not seen an increase in almost a decade, and certainly not a cost-of-living increase) is among the lowest in the area. $440 is about half of a paycheck for us, and considering that the cost of our health insurance was increased by roughly another 50% this year, this is yet another serious hit to us during a global pandemic where we are already struggling.
Graduate students are far from exempt from the ever increasing costs of housing, food, etc., and these increased financial burdens are extremely difficult for us. Furthermore, many of us are not even allowed to come to campus every day since we cannot conduct research at full capacity due to social distancing protocols, and a resistance to increasing lab capacities. Thus, to be asked to buy a semester pass or pay full price out of pocket every day for parking is placing an extremely steep price on your already deeply financially burdened graduate students.
The price for the semester pass is not discounted; it is barely prorated for September. It is highly unjust to charge the students coming to campus who CANNOT opt to do their work from home (i.e. lab research) full price for parking during a global pandemic when the university is closed. We are paying full price to park when there are no food services open for us, there are no shuttles, etc. Additionally, we have been informed by the office of Transportation that even if we can afford to purchase the semester pass, it will not cover January as it did last year. Research graduate students consistently perform MORE research during the times in between semesters, because their workload burden is lighter, allowing for more time in the lab. Therefore, this means that graduate students, who will be on campus as many days as possible during that time period, will be forced to pay the daily rate out of pocket, which will cost us $45-$75 a week depending on how many days we are allowed on campus.
All this ultimately does is incentivize opting for the T, which is completely counter intuitive during a pandemic, as we are surrounded by other people in close, indoor quarters, increasing our risk of contracting COVID19 and spreading it to others on campus. Additionally, as no shuttles are running, it will not be safe or healthy to be walking from JFK to campus during rain, snow, bitter cold, and darkness. Most importantly, we research personnel cannot afford to not come to campus on days of inclement weather, since we are still desperately trying to catch up from being kept out of our labs until after July 1st, well past when other universities in the area were allowing their students to go back and resume research. This has significantly delayed ALL graduate students, extending out graduation timelines and costing students, labs, and the university more money. This progress is obviously further slowed by the reduced capacity we are being required to maintain, though transmission rate in MA is still quite low at 0.8% (as of 9/21/20).
We are not expecting to park for free for the rest of the semester, but we are asking for a significant reduction/ discount of 50% in parking fees and for the semester pass to cover through January (as it has done previously) for your graduate students, who make up the majority of people that are parking on campus this semester. We want to be able to safely and confidently continue conducting the research which the university both financially relies on and prides itself on, being the only public research university in the city. Below you will find the signatures of an overwhelming majority of graduate students who share these feelings, and who are asking the university to closely consider the burden they are putting on their underpaid, struggling graduate students.
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