By April Lynn Newell
Cramped classrooms and walkways, full shuttles and an even more aggressive fight for a parking spot.
This is what many returning University of the Incarnate Word students have found for the start of the 2011-2012 school year.
Parking problems were accentuated around the middle of the first week of school due mostly to miscommunication when about 100 spots in the Economy parking area were closed for a Welcome Week concert featuring the Spazmatics the evening of Aug. 25.
An e-mail containing information about additional parking available on Broadway south of the campus was only sent to faculty when it was meant for faculty and students, according to campus security officials.
“I missed my private lesson because I was trying to find parking,” music industry major Thomas Bazan said. “I got here around 1:20 p.m. (Thursday, Aug. 25) and didn’t find parking until 2:15 p.m. on the ninth floor of the [Ancira parking] garage.”
Campus Police Chief Jacob Colunga said he was surprised to hear students were unaware of the additional parking he and Lou Fox, an assistant to the president, Dr. Lou J. Agnese Jr., for community relations and campus security, worked so hard to contract for the days they had to close off parking for the concert.
“I will work with the promoters of future events to ensure more details are sent to our students,” Colunga said. “Knowing that (students) didn’t get the same message as our employees did we’ll definitely work on that because I didn’t realize what was sent out did not translate the same message to y’all.”
Colunga and several other officers were stationed around the campus and ready to direct anyone who couldn’t find parking to the other lot down the street.
Students are encouraged to check their Cardinal Mail for future updates on parking closures and directions for additional parking.
While some parking was closed from Wednesday through early Friday morning, it was still an issue for many students earlier in the week, who worry it will remain a big problem throughout the semester.
“The first day I barely got a parking spot,” senior psychology major Caitlin Stultz said. “I got the last spot on the top of the [Ancira parking] garage, the people behind me did not get a spot, and I didn’t even try to go to the shuttle.”
As of 8 p.m. Aug. 25, Fleet Manager Sam Wages said an estimated 12,178 passengers — UIW students and faculty members — have been shuttled from and to various places on campus since school started Monday, Aug. 22.
With a record high enrollment of approximately 8,100 students, according to officials, it is not surprising that the fleet of four shuttles is also making records this year.
“I’m bragging about my folks because they work hard every day,” Wages told the Logos.
Last year, with three shuttles, the amount of students and faculty transported from Monday through Friday during the first week totaled 10,973 with 2,692 being transported the first day.
A total of 3,516 passengers were transported this past Wednesday. Administration encourages students who are able to begin walking when the weather cools down, so the shuttles can be more available.
This is the better and healthier option, Fox and Colunga explained.
The 2011-2012 school year has brought in more students than ever before at UIW, a feat that seems to have directly impacted many on campus, professors and students alike.
“Classes are overenrolled and quality of instruction and classroom experience will change,” said Dr. Maria Felix-Ortiz, an associate professor of psychology. “I feel like we have no choice but to move to blended delivery, unless we buy property on South Broadway to expand. There are always two or more students who complain that they came to UIW to obtain a bricks-and-mortar experience, and who resent or dislike the online component of the class.”
There has been some talk of changing the average schedule of classes to accommodate the growing student body.
Fox said he and others are looking at the times students are currently on campus and seeing when the campus may be open on Fridays and Saturdays to relieve student traffic throughout the more populous times of the week.
“The high enrollment is affecting the classrooms and class times, which means that we are teaching in new rooms and that in the spring we will offer many more classes outside of the popular times between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. as well as on Fridays,” said Dr. Tanja Stampfl, an assistant Professor of English. “So, I guess it lengthens the official class day and week on campus for faculty and students. As for the individual classes, students seem enthusiastic and committed so far.”
Still, for many students, parking remains the highest concern this semester.
“They [administration] could have picked another location [for the concert],” biochemistry major Michael Hernandez said. “This was an awkward location and put us in a really bad position.”
Stultz also proposed designated parking for students who carpool.
Regarding future plans for expansion, Fox said he could not give too much detail aside from the fact that plans are in the works.
“We’re meeting with people to talk about off-site housing and additional parking, those discussions have not essentially been finalized but yes, there are plans to move out,” Fox said. “We’re also looking at a property on the northwest side of San Antonio for campus extension. We covered this at the University Planning Commission meeting [and] there was a discussion about different modules outside this main campus because we’re pretty well boxed in. We can go up (adding stories to buildings) but there are very few opportunities for going out.”
For parking, students should expect a wait and arrive at least an hour before their first class begins.
“What I am observing is that some of my students are frustrated with the length of time they have to spend trying to find a parking space before they can even get to a class,” Dr. Patricia Lonchar, assistant dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, said.
“Space, or lack of appropriate space, in some classroom assignments affects the learning environment,” added Lonchar, an English professor. “Faculty seem more aware of this particular issue than do students, at least at this time. My classes occur outside the ‘popular’ class times; thus, less issues have surfaced with space for my classes. Such is not the case for a number of courses.”
“A clear consequence of the semester’s enrollment numbers is the realization by most faculty that class scheduling must be carefully reviewed so that the peaks and valleys that have long characterized our fall and spring semesters will become more balanced — an issue the university administration has discussed for some time. This issue will now be addressed (with the full support of the deans, provost and president) in the appointment of a special task force ‘on scheduling’ who will report back to the provost and deans by the October break.”
Editor’s note: Logos staff writer Kara Epstein also contributed to this story.