A group of around 40 students protested the price of parking on the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) campus on May 8. Protesters marched around main campus and stopped at popular campus spots such as the Otter Student Union and dining commons to chant and pass out flyers with a QR code to a petition demanding for free parking for all students.
The protest was a research driven class project with data collected from a survey for students and staff.
“I want our school to respect its students and hear us out and actually take the time to actively listen to us. I want them to show more love and care to us because we are spending a lot of money to go to school here,” said Kevin Nguyen, an organizer and fourth-year student.
“I’ve had a lot of issues paying for parking at the terminals [many are broken] and I’ve almost gotten cited for that many times, even though it’s not my fault,” shared Nguyen.
Nguyen and his fellow classmates in a psychology of liberation and healing course worked on collecting research and coming up with an action plan during a semester-long project to create social change. The students in this course quickly realized that parking accessibility and affordability is a huge problem that CSUMB students face.
“We’re protesting where the money is going, because they raise over $1.4 million in parking permits each year and that does not go back to the students,” explained fourth-year Mikayla Castillo.
She continued, “We want them to know that we do not want to have to spend more money for them to build more parking structures, instead we want to utilize the empty spaces on campus. There’s a bunch of empty lots that aren’t open to the public. There’s an empty lot behind North Quad, and they had PG&E park there for multiple weeks. If we opened that up for students, that would be a huge resource for students.”
Castillo explained that another goal of the protest was to instate a grace period during move-in weeks, since many students don’t receive their parking permits in a timely manner from the school, but are ticketed anyway.
A current academic permit that is valid for the Fall and Spring semesters is worth $378 for students, but is not valid for parking in the North Quad or Promontory lots. This means that students who live in either building have to pay an additional $100 to park in their respective lots.
“It’s robbery…Those passes add up and it seems like the university is trying to take advantage of us,” said third-year Donaesha Prestley, who is part of the class who organized the march.
Prestley continued, “[Professor] Rosales taught us that CSU used to be free. So when you think about how much we pay for tuition and then the cost of annual parking passes, it’s hard not to get behind the cause.”
“As expensive as parking is, it’s so limited. And how accessible is it really? Even in our class we have people who have disabilities; think about how far they have to walk just to get to class. It’s not fair,” said Prestley.
Assistant Professor Christine Rosales explained that “originally, because I don’t have to worry about [parking] I didn’t really see it as an issue. I only pay $140 per year and I’m able to find parking because I get here early and stay all day. So in the beginning I had to step back and really listen, and now I see it really is a profound issue. I don’t think faculty and staff are aware of how bad it is.”
Rosales shared that she is proud of her students for “dreaming big” when it came to this project. “There were moments where some people were like ‘Should we really be asking for more?’ One thing we talked about is why are we afraid to ask for what we need? Why are we afraid to take up space?” she asked.
Professor Rosales wants the university to know that “the most ethical thing [they] can do is reduce costs for students. If [they’re] interested in having more students come to CSUMB, let’s make history and be the first university to reduce the cost of parking. It would tell everybody that when students raise concerns, we listen.”
“I think the prices are a bit ridiculous, along with all of the tickets students get. It’s just unfair,” said Alexis Medeiros, a third-year psychology student who happened to pass by the march.
“Our school was originally designed to cater to low income and first-gen students, and the parking situation really doesn’t align with CSUMB’s original mission,” explained Medeiros. “[CSUMB] should care more about students than money.”