SGA discusses potential parking plan, approves two senator appointments

Director of Parking and Transportation Jennifer Tougas discusses potential parking plans with the senate during their Jan. 30 meeting.

Nicole Ziege

The Student Government Association had a guest speaker from Parking and Transportation, appointed two senators and approved a bill to fund vouchers for the Counseling and Testing Center during its senate meeting on Jan. 30.

At the start of the meeting, Jennifer Tougas, director of Parking and Transportation, spoke to the senate. Tougas said that Parking and Transportation was “in the process of developing” its “fiscal year ‘19” parking plan.

Tougas said Parking Structure 3 opened up 750 more parking spots. Tougas said that 400 residents parking on South Campus “are now going to be able to park on main campus.”

Tougas said that Parking and Transportation had two goals while “taking a look at the parking plan,” “to get the residents back up to main campus” and “to improve the parking experience for commuters.”

“We felt a little more frustration from commuters this year,” Tougas said.

Tougas mentioned the oversell ratios that Parking and Transportation was using, saying “we still had parking available within the commuter zones.”

“Just like we see this semester, it takes a week or two for students to figure out what the patterns are, and then once they figure out the patterns, they’re pretty well set for the semester,” Tougas said.

Tougas said Parking and Transportation ran a survey in the fall semester, asking if the students using parking permits would “like to keep it the way it is” or if they would “like to go to a premium and non-premium-based parking.”

Tougas said with premium and non-premium parking, students with premium parking permits would have the option to park in non-premium zones, but sales for those premium zones would be limited.

Tougas also discussed overselling permits.

“The smaller you restrict parking to smaller lots and smaller lots and smaller lots, the less oversell you can have,” Tougas said.

Tougas said the “oversell ratio” for commuters was “much higher” because the “average commuter is on campus for five hours a day.”

Tougas used Parking Structure 2 as an example of one of the premium parking zones.

“We believe the non-premium zones to be a first-come, first-serve license, but what we’ve done is improved the experience for 1500 students to the point that when they get there to Parking Structure 2, unless we have an event, which happens, there’s going to be a parking space for you when you get there,” Tougas said.

Tougas said the premium parking option would move about half of the students to main campus.

Tougas said the last version of the parking plan is “taking the designated parking that we have for our housing students,” limiting “everything” and “only sell as many as we think we can reasonably say.”

With that, Tougas said the goal was that when “you get to this particular lot, you will have a parking space when you get there.” 

“The downside of that is that it leaves us as many people on South Campus as we have today, which is kind of strange because we just added 300 spaces to our parking inventory,” Tougas said.

Tougas said she wanted to “talk directly with the commuters in the room” and opened the floor for suggestions and feedback on how to “make the parking experience better for next year” for commuters on campus. Tougas also said Parking and Transportation is working on a campaign to help people know how and where to park.

During the Judicial Council report, the senate voted on the approval of the senate appointments of Cassidy Townsend and Stephen Mayer, whose appointment was postponed during the SGA meeting on Jan. 23. SGA President Andi Dahmer provided a Powerpoint presentation with excerpts from the candidates’ applications submitted to become an SGA senator on the presentation slides.

WKU sophomore and nominated senator Cassidy Townsend spoke about herself first to the senate. Townsend said she was a member of SGA during her freshman year, and she said she resigned to study abroad in South Korea.

Townsend said she “wanted to take what I learned off of that” and “hopefully apply it to our university.” She said she wanted to “make this a better university for everyone.”

Nominated senator Stephen Mayer said he enjoyed “listening to ideas from a diverse group of students and being able to collaborate with them with different types of legislation.”

When voting for the candidates, Public Relations William Hurst voted against taking the vote by unanimous consent for the appointments, and the senate voted for Townsend and Mayer individually.

Townsend’s appointment was approved with a 26-1 vote, with 5 abstentions. 

Senator Lucas Knight asked Speaker of the Senate Ryan Richardson for a “vote by acclamation.” The motion for a vote by acclamation was approved by Richardson, and Mayer’s appointment was unanimously approved.

The senate also voted on Bill 1-18-S, which proposed allocating $400 to a “new voucher program” with the Counseling and Testing Center, “providing twenty registration fee vouchers for the Counseling and Testing Center.”

Bailey Morris, one of the co-authors of the bill, said she lived in Minton Hall, and she said she remembered “a student who was really struggling” and “sitting down with her.”

Morris said she suggested that the student go to the Counseling and Testing Center “to get free help.” Morris said the student said, “Yeah, but it’s 20 bucks, and I don’t have that kind of money.”

“That kind of took me aback, and $20 for mental help is a no-brainer, of course, but for some people, that’s a lot of money,” Morris said in her speech for the bill. “We’re lucky enough on campus to have a phenomenal counseling and testing center that offers free services, but it does come with that $20 registration charge.”

Morris said there was “already a huge stigma on campus, in Kentucky, across our nation of mental health and the problems that it brings.”

“That $20 may stop them from ever going,” Morris said. “If I can lower that for at least 10 or 15 students, then I’ve done what I can.”

Morris said the voucher would “offer free counseling services for your entire time at Western.”

“You’re in and you’re done,” Morris said.

Morris said she and Public Relations Committee Chair William Hurst, who was the second co-author for the bill, had already spoken to the Counseling and Testing Center. Morris said they liked they idea, but they were concerned about confidentiality. She said SGA would not be allowed to know the contact information of the students who received the vouchers.

Morris said students can pick them up from the SGA office.

Senator Will Harris said he “would like to friendly amend the bill” to change the $400 to $500, increasing the number of sponsored students to 25 instead of the previous 20. Morris accepted the amendment.

Campus Improvements Committee Chair Garrett Edmonds said if the senate discretionary fund “had a lot of money,” he wanted to “give you all more than $500.”

Morris said she did not want to “overshoot and waste.”

Administrative Vice President Kara Lowry said the senate had $5,539.54 in the senate discretionary fund. Lowry said the money for vouchers “did not roll over year to year.”

After debate, Bill 1-18-S was unanimously approved by the senate.

News reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.