Opinion: Instructional assistants deserve more convenient parking

Toni Mac Crossan, Opinion Columnist

Faculty can get around campus without riding the bus with perhaps their greatest job perk: The red parking permit. Red parking lots are found closest to campus buildings and allow their bearers to park in commuter and resident lots when restricted spaces are not available.

Texas State has shown its faculty the mercy of ensuring that, on a campus where parking is notoriously difficult, they may always find a space. Of course, since undergraduate and graduate instructional assistants are not faculty, they do not have this option, since they are not an instructor of record for their courses.

Perhaps it would be too much to ask that IAs be allowed a red permit for an entire academic year, but a hang-tag, similar to Texas State’s carpool permit, which would allow them to park in restricted lots only on days they teach, would be a life-saver.

Texas State students have been there, or at least somewhere similar—the bus is still passing by Strahan Coliseum, and in five minutes, you are hoping and praying that you can get to your designated location in time. You are grabbing your bags, legs primed to jump out of your seat and elbowing anyone in your way to begin the sprint from the bus stop to class.

Or worse, the bus just rockets past your stop as you jog to catch up, heavy backpack slowing you just enough to make you late—30 minutes if you wait for another bus, maybe 15 if you walk. But is walking worth it in temperatures ranging from 90 to 100 degrees, when you turn up to class panting and drenched in sweat? The answer is no.

Now picture this: The class you know you will be late to is the one you are supposed to be teaching. Sure, you can open up the Canvas app and shoot off an email to your students that you promise you will be there eventually—but will all of them check their emails? It does not seem realistic.

Students around the country have the (erroneous) belief that if their teacher does not show up after 15 (or 20, depending on who you ask) minutes, they are free to go—class is automatically canceled. This is not true at the majority of universities, but it has persisted for years, with variations like graduate instructors only being worth a 10-minute wait while full professors deserve a 20-minute wait, and so forth. Rest assured that Texas State has no such policy listed.

IAs are placed in an awkward position—they are students, but also employees, and cannot quite fit into either category. Their needs often mirror the needs of faculty, yet they do not receive the same privileges, despite the expectations that they have things prepared just as a faculty member would. Depending on their lab coordinator, IAs are expected to print out quizzes and assignments either at home or on campus (where printer limits make it a difficult task) and be in their lab room early for class.

It is time IAs received some convenience to match their expectations. With the limited demand for parking this semester, Texas State is more than capable of making accommodations.

A hang-tag could act as a red permit—in addition to the IA’s existing green or purple permit—only for the times when they teach, with an hour-long cushion around their lab time. For example, an IA teaching Tuesday and Thursday from 2-5 p.m. would be allowed a restricted parking spot every Tuesday and Thursday from 1-5 p.m. This would ensure that IAs are not abusing their special permit just to get to their classes on time and just using it to show up for the classes they are being paid to teach.

Implementing this solution for the fall semester would be convenient, as commuter students who park in the far-flung commuter lots like Bobcat Stadium fear being left behind by buses with reduced capacity.

With the painstaking measures lab coordinators and their IAs have taken to make sure their labs are accessible in person during a pandemic, it is only fair that IAs not have to undergo the further stress of finding a place to park on the other side of campus and getting to their labs on time.

-Toni Mac Crossan is a biology graduate student

The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinion Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.


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