Student leaders' parking privilege Howard college perk seems unfair to some

others take it in stride

November 10, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Every weekday morning, Shaun Koenig can wake up late, take his time eating breakfast and still find a front-row parking space at Howard Community College.

Koenig has what has become a precious commodity -- a parking spot a mere 100 feet from the main concentration of classrooms on the school's west Columbia campus -- because he is president of Howard's Student Government Association (SGA).

He can thank a 15-year policy at the school that reserves spaces for the student body president, the president of the Student Program Board and the editor of the HCC Times, the campus newspaper.

"I like the fact that I do have it," said Koenig, a second-year liberal arts major from Ellicott City who parks his Isuzu Impulse in front of a sign that reads "Reserved for the President of the SGA/By order of the President's Office."

"Especially when it's raining or the weather gets colder or I'm in a hurry, it's nice to know that I don't have to work my way around the lot and get a lot farther away from my destination," Koenig said.

But the practice is drawing criticism from some of the school's 5,081 students, who question the privileged treatment.

"I think that's stupid," said Marsha Sturgill, a first-year general studies major from Marriottsville. "Why are they so special? We all pay to come here."

Added Corey Beth McGrath, a second-year office technology major from Highland: "If they're students like the rest of us, then I don't think they should have their own spaces."

Other students defend the practice, arguing that the student leaders deserve some benefit for their work.

"They try to work hard for the school," said Ali Motamedamin, a second-year mechanical/automotive engineering major from North Laurel. "They need something."

Added R. T. Doddanna, a first-year accounting major from Columbia: "They're doing extra work for the school. If I was SGA president, I would want something like that, too."

Howard Community College is one of only two schools in the Baltimore metropolitan area that reserves spaces for student leaders. The other, Anne Arundel Community College, has saved a spot for its student association president for three years.

The rationale is simple. Many students leaders are expected to attend meetings, organize campuswide activities to attract students and find keep up with their studies.

That's what led Howard officials to adopt the policy about 1982, said Randy Bengfort, a spokesman for the community college.

"The administration is trying to highlight the fact that these are important positions and that students who run for office are serious and try to provide service for the students," Bengfort said. "Parking is one way the administration could show its appreciation."

Parking is a sensitive issue for many schools where students who commute outnumber campus residents.

At Towson University, about 12,000 of the school's 15,000 students commute. Officials are reviewing a proposal to build a parking garage to accommodate the vehicles.

Baltimore City Community College recently completed a 247-space lot on its campus. The University of Maryland, College Park has more than enough spots, but a considerable number are on the outskirts of its sprawling campus.

"It's unfortunate that parking is such a problem that parking near your classroom is such a perk," said Roland H. King, spokesman for the College Park flagship campus. "But that's the reality."

Koenig said he frequently uses his space while attending meetings and performing other duties involved with helping coordinate more than 100 campuswide events this year.

"This is just one of those perks you get," Koenig said, adding that he works about 25 hours a week as SGA president, in addition to a part-time job. "I didn't request it. It was here when I got here."

The other two spots belong to William Tarentino, president of the Student Program Board, and Jatufe Shushumba and Lou Ann Prosack, editors of HCC Times.

Koenig said he is not bothered when he hears criticism from other students.

"I let that run off my back," Koenig said. "People who say that stuff don't have a concept of what I do."

But Mike Van Geertruy, student association president at Anne Arundel, said that at times he feels guilty about having his own space. That's why he raffles off his spot to classmates who vote during student elections or contribute to fund-raisers, he said.

"Sometimes it's nice to have such a benefit," Geertruy conceded. "But anytime I can give a perk away and let [students] know that I'm here for them, I do it."

Pub Date: 11/10/97

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