Posted tagged ‘Clark Kerr’

The key problem at the heart of every university

September 25, 2012

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.

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And now for the real university issue: car parking

November 16, 2008

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.

In fact, another bon mot also attributed to him is that a university is “a series of individual faculty entrepreneurs held together by a common grievance over car parking”. 

All of this is wholly true. In my time in DCU, some of the most intractable problems have concerned car parking. We have a small campus in a residential area, and so we have had to make whatever use we can of parking space, which has involved two surface car parks and one multi-story car park. It has been made clear to us that the local authority, Dublin City Council, will not give permission for the construction of any more parking spaces, as it is pursuing a policy of persuading people to use public transport. In any case, times being what they are, I am not sure we could raise the money for any further construction of car parks.

Our problems have been exacerbated by the fact that many students now own cars and drive them to their classes, so that faculty and staff are no longer able to be sure that they will have a parking space. And this is causing a whole lot of tension. In fact, I have sympathy for both staff and students, as our university is not easily accessible by public transport unless you are coming from a small number of specific areas.

I do not know how this problem will be resolved, except that it won’t be soon. I suspect that at some point we will need 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. Maybe universities elsewhere have managed to deal with the issue in imaginative ways – I would love to hear about them.