Megan Sjodt pre-dials her cell phone to 911 every night as she walks back to her parking spot in Parking Structure 4, about half a mile from her lab in the Molecular Sciences Building.
Sjodt, a graduate student in biochemistry who often works at her lab past midnight, said that she and other graduate students have been restricted from parking in Parking Structure 2 since last year. The lot is closest to where she and many other graduate students have their lab, she said.
Graduate student leaders met with UCLA Parking Services officials last week to discuss ways to improve parking for graduate students. A student also started a petition last year appealing the parking limitations and calling for Parking Services to allow graduate student researchers to park closer to where they work.
In response to the graduate students’ efforts, UCLA Parking Services announced in an email Wednesday they would allow permit holders in parking structures 3, 4 and 7 to park on the roof of Parking Structure 2 until Sept. 16. However, because the lot’s usage will increase during the academic year, Parking Services will resume restricting the parking lot once fall quarter starts, according to the email.
UCLA Transportation has limited Parking Structure 2 parking allocations to graduate students since last year because there is not enough space to accommodate all staff and students said UCLA Transportation business analyst Mike Flaxman. Some students who work near Parking Structure 2 were redirected to parking structures 3, 4 and 7, Sjodt said.
Andrea Hadjikyriacou, a biochemistry graduate student who created the petition appealing the parking restrictions, said she thinks Parking Structure 2 is not as full as Parking Services says it is and can accommodate more cars.
“I’ve been to the lot at 10:30 in the morning, and as far as I’ve seen, it’s pretty empty,” she said.
Flaxman said UCLA Transportation does not ban graduate students from parking in Parking Structure 2. He said Parking Structure 2 is 95 percent full during the academic year.
“Transportation sympathizes with Bruins who cannot park as close as they would like,” he said. “It is not possible … to park everyone next to their work or study location.”
In response to graduate students’ complaints, Parking Services has allowed students to park their car in Parking Structure 2 after 4:30 p.m. during the academic year, Flaxman said. They have also encouraged students to use the evening van service or Community Service Officer escorts.
However, Hadjikryiacou said she thinks these suggestions are not helpful.
“We cannot move our cars when we are in the middle of conducting experiments,” she said. “And sometimes we work after 1 a.m., when there is no CSO or van service.”
Hadjikyriacou added that UCLA receives many research grants from outside institutions and graduate students are responsible for a lot of the research that brings those grants to UCLA.
“Graduate students are the workhorses of UCLA,” she said. “The least it could do is let us park close to where we work.”
Graduate Students Association President Michael Skiles said he thinks Parking Services officials and academic departments prioritize staff instead of students when allotting Parking Structure 2′s limited spaces.
“I hope staff members ask themselves whether their convenience is worth more than the safety and well-being of their students who work there late into the night,” he said.
Flaxman said UCLA Transportation does not govern how departments prioritize employee parking. He added UCLA Transportation plans to reach out to departments to let them know they are free to assign parking permits as they wish.
Hadjikyriacou said graduate students face additional limitations when there are campus events.
When parking structures 7 and 4 are reserved for special events in Pauley Pavilion, for example, graduate students have additional difficulties in finding parking, she said.
“In addition to not being allowed to park in Lot 2, sometimes we aren’t able to find spots in the lots we have been reassigned to,” she said. “It seems that UCLA cares more about making money from events.”
Sjodt said that while she is glad she will be able to park in Parking Structure 2 for the rest of the summer, she hopes that graduate students will eventually be allowed to park in Parking Structure 2 through the academic year. She said she thinks Parking Services should at least allow graduate students to park in Parking Structure 2 when special events take up parking spaces in parking structures 7 and 4.
“While this was a nice step forward, this is only a Band-Aid for a problem that requires multiple stitches,” she said.