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Why are we pissed?

Western Michigan University spent over $120,000 on renovating half of a parking lot into an ugly and  temporary  "outdoor plaza". We were mad enough after discovering how ugly it looked, but seriously, $120,000!? For years the administration has been saying that "we need to cut spending" and "we're in a budget crunch"... well, I wonder why? Hmm...

WMU traditionally has not been very open with its students about many of its spending decisions, at least with previous administrations. We hope that the current administration will reverse this trend, and actually ask for student input on projects such as this parking lot, so we can tell them something to the effect of  "hey, thats a dumb idea, don't do it". Reversing this trend is our current focus, now that we've definitely raised awareness about the parking lot. We've been very encouraged that the current administration at WMU has shown a willingness to be more open about this and other issues.

Let it be clear: we don't really care all that much about the green space (thats a whole seperate issue), and this whole thing isn't really about the parking lot (its just the prime example of what we are against), its about a bigger picture.

Yes, the previous administration probably made what they thought was the decision in the best interest of students. Well, we disagree. Next time, ask us. :)

What we've done

On Monday night September 17, a group of volunteers gathered at the ugly parking lot in question and proceeded to mark EVERY element of the parking lot with its price using chalk. We also proceeded to chalk around the area to draw attention to the chalk in the parking lot.

On Tuesday morning, it was evident that the project was a huge success! While standing there and observing people, you could tell that a lot of people were wandering around the parking lot looking at the prices. Asking random people what they thought about it always came back with the same answer: "What!? $2000 for those umbrellas?!".  Channel 3 came out and did a story on it, and we've also had a number of newspaper articles written already as well. There was a radio appearance also.

Subsequent discussions with many staff and faculty members indicated that they too were in favor of the project, and thought the parking lot was ridiculous. A couple of them even thanked us for raising awareness about WMU's spending in a way they weren't able to do.

Simply put, it appears most people agree -- that parking lot is ugly.


In 2005, the administration at Western Michigan University started construction on the new chemistry building, which many students argued was placed in a really bad place and removed all of the pleasant "green space". They closed down half of lot 49 and used it for staging for the construction, which was probably the most logical place to set that up. After the construction was finished, instead of opening the parking lot again, they painted crazy yellow lines all over the lot and set up some silly trees all over it (which was rumored to cost over $30,000 to do). Did they stop there? NO! This spring, construction happened at the parking lot again, resulting in the ugly mess that is there today, spending at least $120,000 in the process.

Why did they do this?

The official answer is something like this (from Lowell Rinker, Vice President for Business and Finance)

When the Chemistry building was erected , some open space area had to be displaced from of the center of campus , and the Sangren Hall parking lot was also needed to be used for construction traffic and other purposes, resulting in a major portion of the spaces being displaced for those purposes. The administration routinely engages the Faculty Senate Campus Planning & Finance Council on campus architecture and land use. Over the course of time, in those meetings, agreement was reached that the Sangren lot would replace the lost open space with a plaza in the area that was no longer being used for parking.

Regarding turning that area into a green space now, the University felt that it could not afford to pay for all the storm sewer, irrigation, new concrete, plantings, grass , etc., only to have to rip it up again when construction starts. A full green space project properly done would probably cost in the range of $800,000.

Our unofficial answer is a lot simpler (this answer actually has been collaborated by senior administration officials):

Every time parking is taken away, the affected faculty and staff complain a LOT. In a couple of years Sangren Hall is going to get renovated, and the parking lot would once again be needed to server as a staging area for construction. Since they really didn't like the idea of having to deal with the complaints when they took the parking away again, they decided it would be easier to not give the space back, and instead put the crazy yellow lines there at first, and then put the "outdoor plaza" there. All at the "small" cost of $120,000.

Note: This unofficial answer has been pieced together from various second-hand sources who will not be named as their comments were "off the record".

What we're planning

See for more details.

We will not participate with or condone any permanent changes to the parking lot, or any other unauthorized properties for that matter. A lot of additional details will be funneled through our facebook group. Click the link on the top of the page to go there.

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