Linnabary: ‘Innovation’ or imitation?

Changes on campus an exercise in delayed gratification or deception

Last week, more than halfway through the semester, the university announced that the new, hangtag-less electronic parking passes had gone into effect and enforcement would begin. Up to that point, students were allowed the luxury of being able to park wherever they pleased; no tickets were issued.

It’s a prime example of the “innovation” the university has given to students this year. The most recent campus additions – an unenforced parking system, floundering food trucks and a failing convenience store-bus – have thus far proven to be a failure, a series of misfires that the university has paraded as beneficial to students, but at what cost?

The university’s definition of “innovation” seems to be defined by unnecessary, frivolous investments. Although food truck representatives said actual sales numbers are unavailable, the Food Truck Plaza by NIAR can hardly be called a success. Yes, AirBus employees will soon utilize the space. But was it necessary to rush rolling out the Food Truck Plaza in a still-in-development environment? One can’t help but wonder, without a contract, when these vendors will bail out to more bustling venues.

Back to the new parking system. Did anyone, besides administration and parking services, feel a need for a new parking system? Well, let me rephrase that – did anyone ask for a new parking system that didn’t entail more parking lots and space?

Students who paid for parking passes feel cheated, but perhaps a better term would be “ripped off.” They paid a good amount of money for a parking pass. They should be refunded — at least a quarter of the year’s cost — for the price of their parking permits.

There’s also a superfluous factor that I think warrants attention. It was nice to see the visible hang-tag on someone else’s vehicle, immediately identifying someone else from WSU off campus. That’s no more, for the sole reason of ‘streamlining’ parking.

‘Streamlining’ removes the cost of a hangtag – but what other difficulties are overcome? The difficulty of having to run to Jardine to pick it up? Big deal. Is that enough reason to spend $100,000 to install cameras on police vehicles? How about the extra $10,000 to $15,000 cost of licensing the software? Where did that money come from? Money seems to pop up conveniently whenever the university decides something falls under the vague term “innovative.”

Speaking of convenience, the QuickShock convenience store bus at the Metroplex shop seemed like an unnecessary investment, with plenty of food options available on campus and a Kwikshop at 21st and Oliver. Students seem to think so, too, with the shop recently displaying a sign stating: “We average 50 customers per day. We need 120 to stay.”

Just because something is more technology-driven or different than an older system doesn’t mean it’s better. Yes, the parking services’ job would ideally be streamlined. But how long will it be before those jobs are replaced completely and the system is fully automated?

I would rather an “innovative” campus focus on what would likely be more beneficial to students than food trucks, parking permits and the flip-flopping promise of football – better classrooms that don’t leak when it rains or rattle with the sound of cockroaches scurrying away when the light switch flips on, better-paid teachers, and a more transparent and accessible administration that truly has students’ best interests in mind. These are the things we need and should be focusing on, especially considering the hiring freeze that much of the university is currently in. The success of this university should be defined by the success of its students, not the amount of capital invested in its amenities.