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General student senate and graduate student senate band together to improve winter parking ban

The University of Maine Student Government (UMSG) and Graduate Student Government (GSG) delivered a joint statement to University Parking and Transportation Services requesting approval for an alteration of the current regulations and received a surprising response only a matter of days later. 

Cameron Bowie, treasurer of the GSG, drafted a composition of potential solutions to unnecessary fining concerns, specifically about winter season ordinances. The suggested modifications would solve both the issues of ticketing during nighttime hours as well as into the spring semester when the need for parking lot snow removal becomes superfluous. 

Firstly, parking should be permitted in alignment with public building hours. This problem has a simple fix, which is to extend that allowance one hour longer. That way, student workers, especially laboratory employees, are able to do their job until 1 a.m. rather than being forced to finish at midnight.  

“What this leads to then is students who are forced to work inside their graduate facilities staying on campus and still getting a parking ticket just for doing their job,” Bowie said. 

Secondly, the ban, which begins officially on Nov. 1 (or October), could very well be lifted on April 1 of each year rather than the first of May, as the need for plowing is diminished by that point in the season. Snowstorms seldom occur past mid-March. 

Student input was greatly considered as over 20 cases throughout the spring semester were brought forward regarding a pervasive dissatisfaction with winter parking ordinances. 

Bowie took it upon himself to co-lead a bill for approval in collaboration with undergraduates. This is one of the first joint actions between the two senates in three years. He emphasized that they are looking to work more closely together from this point forward.

Bowie is a second-year MBA student who received his bachelor’s degree in 2019. He earned his undergraduate degree in history and political science and further earned a master’s in school policy and international affairs in 2021. Furthermore, he is an Orono local of 25 years who had been tasked with delivering a resolution from two separate bodies that represented around 10,000 students.

“I was a single representative there on the goodwill of the senate to say their words. And yet, they were more than willing to help,” Bowie explained. 

Both governments were involved in the finalization of this request. The request was officially submitted since it received senatorial approval and was passed by both chambers. It was then a matter of waiting for a response. Thankfully, the head of Parking Services, Meredith Bryant, quickly addressed these grievances. 

“Within four days of submitting our proposal, I was sitting in the office of the head of parking, one Meredith Bryant. She was most helpful in both explaining what could be done, what should be done and how it could be done with the least amount of harm to parking services and the best benefit for students,” said Bowie.

Bryant did express a particular issue in terms of extending late hours in that plow workers do require ample time to prepare for snow removal. As of right now, night passes are currently issued to departments, which are subsequently responsible for the distribution. Unfortunately, many departments have proven to be unresponsive in doing so. 

Bryant’s suggestion proved entirely self-sacrificing. She offered to start issuing those overnight passes directly from parking services despite the extra burden put upon their department. Parking services would still budget a certain amount of passes for each department but would distribute them without a middleman. 

“That struck me immediately, as I was expecting to go in there and get stonewalled. Instead I got many suggestions that quite frankly made their lives harder only for the gain of going by the words of the senate. That’s a rare thing at this campus,” said Bowie.

A second point made by Bryant is the winter parking ban date cannot be officially moved, as materials have already been printed with the current ordinances, and it is too late to change that. However, they can officially end the period as early as requested, so long as there is no major snowstorm around that time of year.

“The best of both worlds. They get to keep their principle and policy, don’t have to do any reprints. We get the exact thing and the major thing we were asking for. Everybody wins, policy doesn’t have to change and everything is done in quick order,” Bowie said.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that one can appeal a parking ticket. There is a significant period of time between the date a ticket is issued and when interest fees are added on for not complying with the original payment. 

Bowie noted, “I’ve been told it is easier to waive a ticket than it is to refund a ticket. Many students fall into that trap.”

Bryant made it clear that parking services would like to be contacted directly regarding any problem at all. In fact, they are eager to take on the issues at hand and encourage students to call with complaints or suggestions. 

“For the first time in my time at the university, I saw a system not only actively do its job to at least the letter it was sending, but go above and beyond the call of duty,” said Bowie.

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