Sewanee has always had a parking problem. Sewanee is in the middle of the mountains, at the top of the Cumberland Plateau. To get around, you kind of need a car. Speaking as someone who doesn’t have a car here, for a number of reasons, it gets complicated. To get off campus for breaks, I need someone to drive me to Monteagle, where I catch a Groome shuttle to take me to the Nashville airport so I can fly home. It’s an arduous process that involves spending a lot of money and making sure one of my friends is around so I can even get to Monteagle. And that’s just for breaks; I have to arrange trips to get to the grocery store, and I’m lucky I have a roommate with a car who is kind enough to drive me to CVS twice a month to get my life saving medications.
So it’s clear, it’s pretty necessary to have a car on this campus. (At least until Sewanee creates a shuttle program to get students to the grocery store or CVS.) So why is parking such a hassle? All students are given zones that they can park in, based on where they live, and most of the parking lots on main campus are off-limits to students, given that they’re being saved for visitors and employee parking. The other problem is the unfair ticketing. Students are constantly given tickets, yet despite the new painted yellow lines, visitors and community members don’t appear to be ticketed Sunday mornings for parking on University Avenue. It’s become a joke among the students. While I agree with not allowing parking on University Avenue, I wish the Sewanee police were consistent with who they ticket.
There are also students who commute to campus. Some students live in Monteagle, while others live in the Lemon Fair apartments, an apartment complex behind the Lemon Fair store in the Sewanee village. Hope Murphy (C ’24) is one of these Lemon Fair commuters. In an interview with The Purple, Murphy expressed frustration at the lack of parking “near academic buildings.” She said she couldn’t imagine driving to campus if she didn’t have the added resource of her sorority house parking lot.
Students are risking not registering their cars so that they can park in more spots, instead of paying 105 dollars to register their car. That means the potential to “also get slammed with parking tickets,” Murphy said. There are times when SPD tickets cars just because their stickers haven’t updated yet. And the appeal process is biased and almost humorous. When this happened to Murphy, she said, she got “four tickets in the span of one week” SPD waived “two of the tickets, but not all of them.” The ticketing process feels aggressive and charges students at least fifty dollars, which a lot of them can’t afford to pay. “It almost feels like a punishment for registering your car, because then you’re more likely to get parking tickets,” Murphy said.
Murphy also works early in the morning at FitWell. “I work the 5:45 a.m. shift, and I work most days until 8 a.m., but sometimes until 10 a.m… I’m allowed to park there until 8 a.m., and then I have to move my car if I’m continuing my shift,” she said. “I get really annoyed about that.”
Murphy has the option to walk to campus, but in the early mornings or in the dreary weather that is becoming more common as winter approaches, that option becomes more annoying and unsafe. “I am a smaller woman, I’m scared of walking by myself at 5:30 in the morning, and I can’t park in the student spots or [even] the blue spots when I’m acting as a staff member.” For the students who live in Monteagle, walking to campus isn’t an option any time of the year. The spots for them are limited, and the only large parking lot open to students all the time is the Tennessee Williams Center lot.
“I think it’s stupid that our one parking source is all the way by Gorgas and there’s not a similar thing by Georgia or on this side of campus,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of space over here, I don’t know why it’s not being used.”
Fulford lot is one of the lots on main campus that is closed off to students, except for a small aisle of spots for students who live in Smith and Cannon. As a student who lives in Smith, when my roommate has to park in the Benedict overflow lot at two in the morning after returning to campus following a night out, and I see a sea of empty space, I get annoyed. As Murphy said, Sewanee is not the most well-lit campus. Walking back to a dorm in the dark, alone when there are parking spots open feels unnecessary. Those spots are reserved for faculty and visitors but go mostly unused. There are days like the Installation, or Homecoming, or Family Weekend, where those spots need to be open for visitors, but Sewanee sent out an email requiring all faculty to move their cars out of the Fulford lot prior to the Installation, so why can’t they open up more spots to students and require them to move on big event days?
It’s not a permanent solution; that would be building more lots closer to central campus. But it’s something that would make life just a little bit easier for the students who are here now. I want to have a car here, too. It would make my life so much easier, but I shouldn’t have to worry about getting fifty-dollar tickets or checking the parking policy every day to make sure that I’m not parking in the wrong spot. The rules should be clearer, consistent, and kinder to students.