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COMMENTARY: U. must acknowledge student parents' need for parking help

I am Leo Chiaet, and I am the Public Relations coordinator for Rutgers Students With Children. If you see fliers around campus advertising our group in the student centers, they are there because of me, and if you are interested in social justice I strongly recommend reaching out to us at rustudentparents@gmail.com. We need your help. 

We met with the Department of Transportation on Wednesday, Feb. 28, and we walked in with the expectation of being heard and working out the pressing issue of student-parent parking exemptions. It has been very difficult to get a meeting with anyone from the Department of Transportation, and so when we had gotten one with Jack Molenaar, the senior director, we were excited, but cautious. We have been to many other meetings with other administrators, and have walked away empty-handed, so we wanted to keep a realistic vision in mind for this meeting. We wanted him to grant the student parents at Rutgers passes to park on other campuses and to forgive outstanding ticket debts. I, personally, was expecting him to compromise on something and meet us somewhere in the middle.

Molenaar did not compromise on anything. He instead wanted to lecture us about the history of his job, and what he did to make traffic less congested, with all of the details and logistics that go into moving traffic through linear places like George Street. It almost felt like he wanted us to tell him how intelligent he was (even though we did, and we asked him to put his intelligence to use in figuring out how to make traffic allowances for student parents, and yet his answer was a firm no from the outset).

It seems Molenaar’s scope of concern ends at traffic. It seems he does not care that certain populations of students are more vulnerable to barriers put up by parking regulations than others. He only sees students and the cars they drive as numbers. He does not care that students raising children have busy schedules and cannot drop their children off an hour or even half an hour earlier to daycare or school to park in a designated commuter lot and have time to ride the bus to their first class, and he does not care that the student-parent population is likely small enough to have a minuscule impact on traffic or that a delimited number of parking exemptions could even be set aside for student parents, such as they do at UCLA. Furthermore, he definitely does not care that student parents on campus are being saddled with hundreds of dollars of debt in parking tickets every semester from parking illegally in order to make it to classes on time, that they have their cars towed and financial holds put on their accounts and that this has prevented many of them from obtaining an education. 

Parking presents a big barrier to student parents completing their courses, and often times they have to park in illegal spots in order to make it to class on time, because a lot of classes count late comings as absences. But Molenaar believes that if a student parent parks and accrues tickets, then that is their choice, and that there is nothing he could do about it. Why would a student parent make the choice to accrue hundreds of dollars in tickets?

When there is a group of people who have dismal drop out rates and the University does not accommodate for them, what the University is saying is that these kinds of people do not belong here. And while the University always totes policies that say “you are a student first and a (fill in the blank) second,” it does not provide that same support to parents that allows them to believe that they are a student at all if they are parenting. 

This was just an example of another administrator deciding that student-parent populations do not matter. In a school where retention rates are the pride of the administration, and diversity and inclusivity is touted as a rallying banner, it is a damn disgrace that Rutgers ignores the dropout rates of a group of people who are disproportionately affected by issues of racism, sexism and classism. The complete lack of respect and concern for this population is problematic. To Molenaar, you are wrong if you think student parents are not worth it, and I wish you could see that. And to the rest of Rutgers University, I sincerely hope you will not make the mistake of underestimating this population.

Leo Chiaet is the public relations coordinator for Rutgers Students With Children. He is a School of Engineering sophomore.

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