In his book The Uses of the University the former Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, Clark Kerr, suggested that a university President has three key tasks which his or her main stakeholders will expect to see achieved: ‘sex for the students, athletics for the alumni, and parking for the faculty.’ Only the last of these, he suggested, presented a problem.
Another related bon mot also attributed to him is that a university consists of ‘a series of individual faculty entrepreneurs held together by a common grievance over car parking.’
All of this is wholly true. In my time as President of Dublin City University, some of the most intractable problems concerned car parking. DCU has a small campus in a residential area, and so we had to make whatever use we could of parking space, which involved two surface car parks and one multi-story car park. It was made clear to us that the local authority, Dublin City Council, would not give permission for the construction of any more parking spaces, as it was pursuing a policy of persuading people to use public transport. In any case, times being what they are, I am not sure we could have raised the money for any further construction of car parks.
My current university, RGU, will also soon find car parking a difficult issue, as the population using the new Garthdee campus grows.
Car parking problems in universities are now often compounded by the fact that many students own cars and drive them to their classes, so that staff are no longer able to be sure that they will have a parking space. And while it may seem amazing to many of us that so many students now drive their own cars – not something that would have been common when I was a student – it is hard to argue that academics should have priority.
I do not know how this problem will be resolved, except that it won’t be soon. I suspect that the pressures will continue to be applied to universities to add to the available parking spaces; or else we shall need to organise transport to locations where people live or where they could park their cars. I suspect some universities have managed to deal with the issue in imaginative ways – I would love to hear about them.