OPINION: Loss of Cougar Health Services free parking is disappointing

On top of all financial responsibilities laid on students, parking to use Cougar Health Services will be added into current costs

Students+will+now+have+to+pay+to+park+at+CHS+when+using+services.

MASON MARON

Students will now have to pay to park at CHS when using services.

GRACE LAPIERRE, Evergreen columnist

A Twitter post from the ASWSU President on March 1 brought my attention to the fact Cougar Health Services will no longer be offering free parking.

ASWSU President Curtis Cohen said he thinks the decision is disheartening because it adds another barrier that could impair students seeking physical or mental health services.

Cohen said he mentioned the WSU Athletics subsidy in his post as a frame of reference, illustrating that if the university can find two to three million dollars to dedicate toward Athletics, they should be able to find $40,000 for a parking lot that could affect student well-being. 

Cohen and I were both a bit stunned that such a small parking lot could cost $40,000 to maintain. Cohen estimated that the parking lot is perhaps a quarter of the size of a soccer field. 

He said he plans to reach out to WSU Transportation Services to request a cost breakdown, but at face value, the numbers seem a bit high.

As people notice this decision, Cohen said he expects students and families to “see that there needs to be more attention and funding directed toward health services, especially mental health,” as it requires national attention.

Cohen said universities should be community leaders when it comes to issues. So seeing WSU issue parking tickets to students who may have come out of an important medical or psychological appointment is not a decision he is pleased with. 

“I feel like this is something that is unfair, not just to all students, but especially to students who need to frequently use the Access Center and other health services,” said Emily Ferguson, sophomore with an undeclared major.

Both Ferguson and Cohen agree the timing, given the pandemic, is far from optimal.

Pandemic or not, Cohen said college students tend to struggle with mental health, so the decision would be a poor one because it is important that students have access to health services. 

Monetary concerns are also a large factor. Ferguson said, from her understanding, students have to pay for fifteen-minute increments in parking.

She and I are both quite confident that most appointments will last longer than fifteen minutes. Trying to estimate appointment length and wait time seems like a hassle. 

The pandemic has caused a lot of financial issues, on top of the added cost of CHS parking. Ferguson said she feels this decision is unfair to students, especially those who have been working through the pandemic just to make ends meet.

Ferguson said the amount of money that goes toward Athletics makes it seem like a higher priority. She said she feels like WSU’s research facilities end up overlooked as well. 

With all of the costs students are responsible for, Ferguson said this is just another cost we have to worry about. For some people, it could be too much. 

Parking permits are already expensive. Ferguson said. Students are lucky to have a nice bus system in Pullman, but that the buses don’t work with everyone’s schedule and may run late. Sometimes it is hard to figure out what bus line to take.

Ferguson is concerned students may feel like Athletics is being prioritized over students’ overall well-being, especially given this decision. She said it would be good to know what is being prioritized over CHS parking, as it is a resource every student in Pullman is likely to use at least once. 

Ferguson said her parents are already displeased with this decision. When my mother heard, I can’t say she was happy about it either. 

Ferguson said she wasn’t satisfied with the school’s response to questions about the decision, as the only response she is aware of was a two-sentence statement providing no specifics. The faculty senate released a statement about the decision in December 2020.

Cohen said he would not be surprised if WSU receives complaints as more people become aware of the decision, especially because Transportation Services has an aggressive ticketing style.

Ferguson and I had only just found out about this because of the recent post from Cohen, though the decision was announced in December. It is frustrating. Maybe we both weren’t paying attention, but I wish I had known earlier.

All three of us hope to see this decision reversed in the future. I’m lucky enough to not need to go to the health services much. I think I only ever went for the free flu shots, but I know I would be a lot happier about having to go if I didn’t need to worry about how much to pay for parking.

More information about this decision can be found here.