Saturday, January 19, 2008

For want of a parking pass

"For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for the want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail." Attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

I teach at Portland Community College and there’s a lot to love about the place. Mostly the students and a hearty crew of dedicated teachers.

But I also have a lover’s quarrel with PCC when it comes to how it is run.

Somebody isn’t taking care of business — little, nail-small business that can add up to big business.

Two pieces of information, taken together, give an inkling of the problem. Both crossed my path within minutes of each other early Friday morning,

The first was a front page Oregonian story about PCC’s plans to put a $374 million bond measure before the voters in the fall. That's big business. The money would be for new buildings and improvements to old ones.

The proposal, which has yet to be approved by the PCC board, is ballsy. PCC’s enrollment is declining, the taxpayers are still paying off an earlier $144 million PCC bond measure approved in 2000, and Portland Public School likely will be asking for more taxpayer money on the same ballot.

But, hey, I love PCC, right? A big part of loving is listening, so I’m open to hearing the arguments for the big bucks.

So I fold up The Oregonian and open my e-mail to be greeted by a student’s explanation for why she missed my class Thursday. The problem was the machine that dispenses those little parking passes you place on the dash. Parking is at a premium on the PCC Sylvania campus and it is enforced with vengeance.

The parking pass dispensers are a salvation until they don't work, which is often.

I’ll let my student explain:

I arrived on campus at 9:00 a.m. yesterday and attempted to purchase a one-day parking pass. After putting $3 into the machine, nothing came out. Then I attempted to use my debit card to purchase a pass...still nothing. So, after driving clear around to the other side of the campus to purchase a 10-week pass, then walking yet farther to the far end of campus to collect my refund of $3, which they refused to give me, I had missed an hour of class, and didn't want to walk in one hour late and disrupt class. Needless to say, by this time I was very upset and not at my best! Mr. Seifert, could you kindly let me know of any assignments that I've missed so that I can do them over the weekend? I will be sure to be in class on Tuesday. Thank you very much.

This is no “the-dog-ate-my-homework” story. I gave up on these parking pass dispensers a long time ago. If this seems like a crank's complaint, consider:

• This student paid for a class she wasn’t able to attend because of a neglected, malfunctioning parking pass dispenser.

• I have spent an extra half-hour e-mailing her the assignment. (I have also written the higher powers about this, but I won’t log that time. Call it therapy.)

• This story, and no doubt hundreds like it, will make the rounds.

• How many other students Thursday had the same frustrating experience, which cost them and their instructors time and money?

Finally, “frustration” is not a word to be taken lightly, as I pointed out to the campus parking czar via e-mail (copied to my dean, who also gave up on the machines after her credit card didn’t work, then did, resulting in her being charged twice. Wait until my student gets her card statement next month. Want to bet whether there's a $3 PCC parking charge on it?).

Guess what? I’m not inclined to be so open about PCC’s ballot request for money any more — at least until the folks running the show take care of business.

They should start in the parking lot.



Blogger Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

A couple of years ago I finished up my graphic design degree at PCC.

Loved the place, loved the people. Hated the parking situation. Couldn't believe it had gotten that out of control.

Sad to see they still don't have a handle on it.

5:29 AM  

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