Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, October 23, 2018

AU's parking policies are behind on responsibility

According to the University’s statement of common purpose, “The central commitment of American University is to the development of thoughtful, responsible human beings in the context of a challenging yet supportive academic community.” If this is the case, then why are university administrators not putting their money where their mouths are in terms of social responsibility?

Full-time employees at AU must pay $1,476 per year for a parking permit. For many workers at our University, some of who make as little as $24,000 a year, this amount is far too much. AU is a university that prides itself on a “commitment to public service,” and yet workers have to pay 6 percent of their salary every year just to park on campus. Then, every year when they get their annual raise, the parking rates go up as well.

If workers try to park off campus, even if they park legally, they are ticketed by Public Safety, because it is university policy that anyone coming to the University must pay exorbitant rates to park on campus. This is outrageous. The University must adopt a progressive parking policy that makes parking free for workers who cannot afford it.

When this issue was brought to President Kerwin last spring at a town hall he hosted along with the University’s board of trustees, he responded that subsidizing parking rates for the workers — who work tirelessly to keep our University clean and well run, feed us and consistently drive us to Tenleytown and back — would go against our University’s commitment to be environmentally friendly. He said subsidizing rates would provide an incentive for them to drive to campus, instead of taking public transit.

What Kerwin ignored is the fact that most of these workers, because they are paid so little, cannot afford to live close enough to campus to take public transportation. Others, such as many of the shuttle bus drivers and janitorial workers, must come and go from campus so early and so late that public transportation does not run at those hours.

If the University really wanted to be environmentally friendly, they would provide alternate means of transportation for workers who live as far as Prince George’s County in Maryland. A shuttle service for workers who live far from cam[us would go a long way to reducing our University’s carbon footprint and would not be very expensive for the University to run.

Parking is already free for many University administrators, such as President Kerwin, who make more than 25 times the annual salary of low-wage workers on our campus. This hypocrisy is astounding. The University claims it is out to create “Service Wonks,” “Global Wonks” and “Political Wonks,” but when students reach out to administrators to address a social injustice right here on our own campus, administrators ignore the obvious facts. It seems as if, though administrators like to prop up their own image by talking about AU’s commitment to social justice, they are really just out to create exploited wonks.

Ethan Miller is a member of the Student Worker Alliance Organizing Collective, which is currently organizing around this issue. To get involved, email

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