In February, IU Trustee William Strong proposed the University look into the possibility of leasing its parking operations in exchange for immediate funds for University academics and other expenses. Ohio State Univesrity’s decision to privatize its parking generated a $483 million lump sum.
Email your thoughts about the parking proposal to IUSA executive Jarad Winget at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although still “miles away” from submitting a request for proposals in the possible privatization of University parking operations, trustees raised concerns about the flow of information between officials and stakeholders during Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting.
Since Trustee William Strong proposed the idea in February, IU faculty, staff and students have expressed opposition to the proposal, citing possible price increases as a key reason.
At the meeting, Bloomington Faculty Council President Carolyn Calloway-Thomas reiterated the council’s position, which was presented earlier in the week in a written statement submitted to board members.
“Members of the Bloomington Faculty Council are opposed to the idea of privatizing parking,” Calloway-Thomas said.
She delivered a summarized report of the council’s reasons, citing three main concerns: parking operations at IU are currently well-run, leasing parking would be a tradeoff between short-term benefits and long terms costs and privatizing parking could abolish the sense of community IU faculty and staff share with the University.
“The University should take the lead in trying to preserve what’s left of public life in this country,” Thomas said. “Business values have permeated the most every aspect of our lives. Let’s not let this happen at IU.”
Trustees acknowledged that a gap in communication between administrators and faculty exists and is a sizable concern.
There are many unknowns surrounding the proposal, Trustee Thomas Reilly said, including the amount of money IU would receive from a concessionaire for the long-term lease.
Without knowing the potential gain, trustees said, it is difficult to determine whether the benefits outweigh the costs.
The only decision made at last week’s meeting was to hire a financial adviser to obtain more specific information about the proposal to fill in those unknowns.
When the trustees inquired about the cost of hiring a financial adviser, Treasurer MaryFrances McCourt said it would depend on whether the plan is successful, which raised additional concerns. She then said the committee would hire a second adviser for a second opinion.
Terms of the contract have yet to be discussed.
IU Parking Operations Assistant Director Amanda Turnipseed said the possibility has been fairly well discussed within the office since June, and Director Doug Porter has been involved with a committee of stakeholders who meet periodically to discuss the proposal.
“Being within the transportation industry, we’re pretty collaborative with a lot of the other universities, cities and municipalities,” Turnipseed said. “It was not a complete unknown situation to us. We’ve kind of been following Ohio State since we first heard about their looking into it last fall.”
Ohio State University became the first public university to privatize its parking operations when trustees approved a 50-year lease to QIC Global Infrastructure in June in exchange for a lump sum of $483 million.
If the University follows through with its parking proposal, IU will be the second public university to do so.
Ohio State officially transitioned its parking operations in September. While it is too early to observe long-term effects, including changes in the availability and price of parking, Ohio State signed into its contract caps for rate increases to protect those who use it, said Lindsay Komlanc, Ohio State director of marketing and communications for administration and planning.
“There is language in the contract that limits parking increases 5.5 percent for the 10 years and then a maximum of 4 percent, or in line with the consumer price index, whichever is higher, for the remainder of the contract,” Komlanc said.
Ohio State also worked with parking employees during the transition to keep job loss to a minimum.
Former Director of Transportation and Parking Sarah Blouch said before the transition that Ohio State made a commitment to parking employees to place them in other areas of the university if they chose not to transition into the local branch of the concessionaire’s company.
Blouch, now president of parking lease-holder CampusParc, said the privatization affected 75 Ohio State parking employees, 12 of whom decided to transition into the new company.
If IU pursues the privatization, about 40 individuals employed by parking operations would be affected.
In addition to those measures, Komlanc said Ohio State officials provided updates to the campus community throughout the process using a website.
The IU Student Association appointed a committee to independently research the proposal, focusing mainly on how the transition would affect students.
Senior Jarad Winget, a senior adviser to IUSA President Kyle Straub, said all communication surrounding the issue has been through the IUSA seat on the stakeholder committee on parking privatization.
“They have been more than accommodating for student opinions and everything by coming to us,” Winget said. “We’ve found it’s been a very friendly process thus far.”
Although the IUSA committee has several concerns in the preliminary stages of the proposal, it has not yet taken an official stance on the matter, Winget said.
Freshman IUSA intern Andy Braden, who sits on the research committee, said some of the concerns stem from the possibility that an adverse action clause, which would protect the concessionaire from anything negatively affecting the company, could interfere with University sustainability initiatives, such as an initiative to decrease the number of students who drive to campus.
Other concerns surround the possibility of increased parking rates, which would increase the overall cost of attendance for students, and complications in the parking appeals process.
The committee meets periodically to research and create recommendations to bring to administrators. During the next meeting of the administrative parking proposal committee, IUSA representatives will present findings and suggestions.
“If the University needs this money, then odds are they’re going to have to go and get it,” Winget said. “It’s our job first and foremost to be concerned with students.”