By Joe Passero
Campus safety is a top-notch priority for students like Jason Quackenbush, a junior musical theater major. Since his freshman year, he’s listened to the concerns of others, especially his fellow musical theater majors, about how their late-night rehearsals and club meetings are far away from where they parked.
While it seemed to be a matter of convenience at first, Quackenbush quickly realized this was about student safety late at night.
“Ever since I’ve been here, there’s been a problem among students who have activities on the academic side of campus,” Quackenbush said. “When I first got here, people were always complaining about how they couldn’t park close to [where their] activities [took place,] and then they have to walk across campus to get back to their cars, and I wanted to do something about it.”
Quackenbush offered a solution: starting at 6 p.m. and through part of the night, Rider could open up faculty lots, including the Memorial and Fine Arts parking lots. This would accommodate commuting students participating in activities in those buildings. When they get out late at night, there would only be a short walk to their cars, creating minimal opportunity for a safety issue.
Quackenbush said his experiences in Fine Arts for performance rehearsals would last late into the night, typically ending around 11 p.m.
“[Students involved in musical theater] would be [at Fine Arts] late at night and the closest we could park was in the turf lot, which is still a bit of a walk,” Quackenbush said. “You basically go back through the middle of the woods to get to your car.”
Another idea that Quackenbush had was to open the staff lot behind the Student Recreation Center each day.
“We open the staff lot at 4 p.m. every day and anyone can move their car over there, which is great,” Quackenbush said. “But the fact that we can’t do that campus-wide, especially when there are no cars parked in the academic lots, it seems absurd to me.”
Quackenbush reached out to Rider faculty and staff, including Debbie Stasolla, vice president for strategic initiatives and planning, who responded promptly. They began to weigh the options, but to gain extra support for the cause, Quackenbush put a petition together on change.org.
One reason why action hasn’t already taken place is because, in Rider’s contracts with faculty unions, there is a guarantee that faculty members will have a place to park and a certain number of spots will be available at all times for those faculty members.
“Anything we pursue will take some time and might not be able to be implemented until the new academic year,” Stasolla said.
Despite not being able to make immediate changes, Stasolla made it clear that Quackenbush’s concerns were valid and that the parties he reached out to have discussed potential solutions.
“We’re looking at capacity right now in nearby lots to see if we can accomodate students in those lots,” Stasolla said.
Stasolla offered up two solutions until a final decision was made: walking in pairs or groups and using student escort. While Quackenbush and Stasolla agreed that safety was a shared responsibility, Quackenbush was not fond of the suggestion to use student escort.
“You’re responsible for your own safety, as well as Public Safety [is], but if there’s more that could be done on the part of either side, then steps should be taken to [improve safety,]” Quackenbush said. “There’s one student escort car running at any given time that can accommodate four people, so when you’re making the call and other people are too, you’re going to be waiting for up to 45 minutes.”
Talk amongst the parties involved will continue until a resolution is reached, which can come at any given time.
To view the petition, students can visit https://bit.ly/2TrBCez.
Published in the 3/6/19 edition.