Student Opinions on Parking Regulations at Historic 

By Ellie Pratt

On Sept. 13, 2021, the official Instagram of the student government association for St. Mary’s posted a reminder that “Public safety can still ticket you if you park in Historic, even if you’re a patron of Enso’s. Avoid the $20 fine, take a bike and enjoy the walk!” This post sparked some controversy, with students questioning what made them any different to other patrons of Historic St. Mary’s City and why they could be fined. 

According to Public Safety’s ticket records, year to date–as of Oct. 1–out of a total 518 parking tickets issued, there have been 46 parking tickets issued for Lot A–Historic St. Mary’s City. Tressa Setlak, the director of Public Safety for St. Mary’s explained: “The college and Historic St. Mary’s City have a memorandum of understanding…in that memorandum of understanding, we provide patrol and security services to Historic, and we also have an agreement with them that they allow us to use a few spaces in Historic’s lot for faculty and staff specifically.” She went on to say “Part of the patrol security services that we offer is we enforce parking regulations on Historic’s property, so Lot A belongs to Historic.” 

Dr. Regina Faden, the executive director of Historic St. Mary’s City, told The Point News: “When people park vehicles in the State House lot and leave them there as they go to class or meetings, this ties up limited spaces for visitors to the museum. As the [Instagram] post explained, cars parking in bus spaces has caused significant problems in the past. When school children are visiting we need to provide a place for their coach buses to park, as the tour requires students to be on and off the bus through their four hours on site.” 

Junior Hannah Yale is mostly concerned with the accessibility of Historic for disabled students. She suggested a collaboration between Public Safety, Historic, and the Accommodations Office “to issue school wide accessible parking passes for students who have physical disabilities but don’t have a state-issued disabled parking placard. That way, students could use their own vehicles as mobility aids to help them get around campus.” 

Public safety has worked with OAS to work out an option for temporarily disabled students. Setlak explained: “There’s four or five handicap spaces right in the front of Lot A –which belongs to Historic. So I did work with [historic] and we share those spots now, so if we have a student from accessibility services that has some mobility issues temporarily they can get a permit from OAS that lets them use those spaces.” 

Sydney Lipsman, a senior, has mixed feelings about the situation. On one hand she understands why Historic must regulate Lot A. It is connected to campus, but is not the college campus and that should be respected. However, students do patronize Enso’s and Historic regularly, and Lipsman sees this as a big part of the campus culture, so prioritizing other visitors over St. Mary’s students is upsetting. 

“The parking regulations are kind of ridiculous sometimes,” she stated and expressed interest in alternative solutions like allowing students to park there after a certain time or on certain days in order to foster a better and more accessible relationship between students and Historic.  

The issue of student parking at Historic has been a longstanding issue; however, it is important to understand that Lot A is the property of St. Mary’s City, and Public Safety can only work within the agreement that has been established. Perhaps in the future, more flexible accommodations can be made for students, but for now the policy remains. 

Is the Full Fall Semester Better?

By Ellie Pratt

Fall 2020 was an incredibly strange time for most people, but especially for students. Here at St. Mary’s, the majority of classes were completely virtual, in addition to the semester being compressed. Rather than ending two weeks after Thanksgiving break, students went home the week before and had finals the week after online. 

This compressed semester did have its benefits. Due to concerns over a COVID-19 outbreak on campus, it made sense for students to not come back after visiting their families for the fall holidays. It also created a longer winter break, allowing many to relax after an incredibly stressful year. 

Senior Emily Corral noted that “The condensed semester allowed me to spend more time with my family and unwind before classes started again in the spring.” Corral also expressed concern for this semester, stating “Since the entire student population is on campus this fall, it leaves room for questions of if we’re going to experience COVID problems later in the semester when we all return from Thanksgiving break or even when a fair percentage of people go home and return from fall reading days.” 

Corral admitted that the 14 week semester with little to no break was “very mentaly and emotionally exhausting” and that being home and doing school virtually helped her through it a lot. She went on to say that the bumps and kinks of last fall’s compressed semester could have easily been solved for fall 2021 and that starting slightly earlier and adding a few mental health days–as the school did during the shorter spring semester–would have been simple and very possible. 

Sophie Hannah, a junior, expressed a different opinion about last year’s compressed schedule. To her, having a longer semester, “just makes work more manageable and prevents burnout.” Last fall was overwhelming for Hannah, as it was for many students, and she did not enjoy having to do the same amount of coursework in a much shorter period with no reprieves. 

Additionally, the lack of social and physical interaction during the school’s completely virtual semester was difficult to adjust to. Hannah put it plainly with, “The compressed semester was online and that sucked.” This blunt statement is echoed in research done on how online courses affect student learning with a study by Eric P. Bettinger, Lindsay Fox, Susanna Loeb and Eric S. Taylor for Harvard University. The study found that “taking a course online, instead of in-person, reduces student success and progress in college. Grades are lower both for the course taken online and in future courses. Students are less likely to remain enrolled at the university.” 

Having a compressed semester comes with both advantages and disadvantages; however, with the lack of an online option for students to work through the stress of a faster-paced term in the comfort of their own homes it may not be particularly desirable for most. There is always the option in the future of starting the fall semester slightly earlier and still ending before Thanksgiving break, reducing the possibility of people bringing COVID-19 back to campus and allowing for a longer winter break. 

Increased Catcalling on Campus Needs Addressing

Lily Riesett

While SMCM students have only been on campus during the fall 2021 semester for a few weeks, students, especially female students, have started to see an increase in catcalling. This has become a hindrance for many female students, causing them to feel uncomfortable when walking around campus near Route 5. This behavior is coming from men who do not seem to be students of the school, but are rather community members on their daily commute. Though Route 5 is not under the school’s jurisdiction and the school cannot control the actions of these outside community members, it is becoming such a scary place for women to be and the school needs to act. 

Students at SMCM have experienced similar situations when it comes to being verbally harassed on Route 5. One female student says that “Typically, someone will drive up from behind me and stick their head out of their window and then whistle, shout, or say a ‘compliment’ in their eyes.” Another relays her most alarming situation, where “a vehicle pulled over in front of me, blocked my path, and shouted loudly from his window.” Both students have been forced to avoid Route 5 altogether when it is dark out or when they are alone. One even stopped running outside out of fear of being harassed. 

Though this is an issue the school has little control over, there are steps that could be taken to easily protect the safety of female presenting students. One female student says “I would feel much safer if there was a separate semi-hidden path along Route 5. For example, a paved sidewalk with bushes or trees as a barrier between the path and Route 5. With a path like that, students could walk freely without having to search for a buddy to come with, or feeling as if they need to look over their shoulder the whole time.” Other students just want it to be acknowledged by the school that it is a problem. Even if SMCM cannot do anything, knowing the administration is on the side of verbal assault victims is a step in the right direction.

Catcalling on campus caught the attention of the Title IX team following the 2021 Campus Climate Survey that was conducted last semester. There was a 30% response rate to the survey which, while less than half of the student body, was a 27% increase from the 2020 survey. This survey highlighted Route 5 as a place where students feel uncomfortable on campus. When asked why they feel uncomfortable, “Catcalling” was a frequently given answer.

The Title IX office has made steps so this issue is addressed properly on campus. When asked, Michael Dunn and Helen Anne Lawless said they have begun working on multiple initiatives to combat street harassment. One thing they will be doing is hosting focus groups with members of the campus community to gauge what the problem is like from a student’s perspective. They also want to use these meetings to hear any solutions students have thought of and foster a community of support for harassed students. Information for these focus groups will be released soon. The Title IX office has also explored the idea of getting signage to try and stop harassment. Lawless said that states who have implemented signage for anti-littering have seen a decrease in littering, so this method could result in some decline in street harassment on campus. Most importantly, the Title IX office wants students to know they are there to listen to any concerns students have while everyone tries to navigate this form of harassment.

Back to Normal? Campus Opinions on In-Person Learning

The last 18 months have been extremely strange and stressful. Online learning and social distancing rules took its toll on colleges across the world. St. Mary’s students, faculty and staff were no exception to this. This is why coming back in person has our campus cautiously excited for the future. 

Junior Julia Fitzpatrick transferred last fall and has not had anything close to a normal semester at St. Mary’s until now. So far, she is loving her professors and has enjoyed seeing everyone on campus for the first time. Due to less social distancing measures, she can now hang out with more of her friends and is even looking forward to joining new clubs she did not get the chance to try last year. 

Online classes were difficult for her due to her learning best when she can interact with her professors and classmates in person. While she is excited to be back, she did note that she was “a little nervous if people decide to party, but since everyone is basically vaccinated I’m more comfortable.” 

Indeed, as of Sept. 15, the vaccination rate on campus stands at 94%, which has eased a lot of fears on campus. For instance, Joanne Goldwater, the Associate Dean for Retention and Student Success, felt much better about returning to campus with the vaccine and mask mandates in place. While there is still some worry for vulnerable populations on campus, she expressed that she trusts St. Mary’s students and believes that they “…have the capacity and capability to stay safe.” 

Goldwater did not enjoy teaching her sign-language classes on Zoom as they exhausted and frustrated her. If the college had continued a completely hybrid model, she was not sure if she would have continued teaching at all, so she is very excited and relieved classes are in person now. From a business perspective, Goldwater also noted that for a small college like St. Mary’s, it was simply not sustainable to continue doing everything online, even if she herself did enjoy how distraction-free her home office was. 

Professor Charles Musgrove of the history department expressed similar sentiments when asked about whether the college would ever consider returning to a hybrid model. While it is always going to be a remote possibility, he does not believe it is going to happen given the current political climate surrounding going back online. 

Like many, Musgrove is concerned about more vulnerable populations on campus because St. Mary’s does not have a 100% vaccination rate yet, but trusts that masking and mandated vaccinations will keep the community safe. He would have applied to teach via Zoom if he had any doubts about this semester. Although there is still some worry and uncertainties, Musgrove expressed, “I’m a lot less pessimistic about this semester than I was last semester,” which seems to be a very similar sentiment to many this fall. 

It seems the majority of people are glad to be back on campus. Seeing the campus transformed from a ghost town of last year to the bustling college it is now has been a welcome change for students, faculty, and staff. There is a hesitant hope in the air that maybe the college could be going back to some kind of normal, but we will have to just wait and see.