A picture snapped in a parking lot at Webster University is quickly making the rounds on the Internet. As of this writing the photo -- depicting a reserved parking sign for communications professor Gary Gottlieb and a homemade rebuttal from a student -- has garnered more than 1,200 comments on reddit.com.
As the university's newspaper recently reported, parking is one of the biggest frustrations among students at the suburban St. Louis campus. Last year 75 percent of the school's 2,900 undergraduates commuted by car to class. This year, the university increased parking fines for the first time in a decade in response to many students not paying their parking citations.
In his online bio, Gottlieb writes that his teaching philosophy is "all about the students." Presumably those convictions extend into the parking lot.
Last night Gottlieb wrote to Daily RFT telling us that friends of his living as far away as Vermont and California have seen the photo online and contacted him. Here's his side of the story:
Webster gives two reserved parking spots per year through a random drawing to a staff or faculty member who donated to the United Way Campaign. I was lucky enough to be one of the winners this year.P.S. Gottlieb says he has no hard feelings for the person who left the rebuttal and invites him or her to come talk to him.
Let me be clear about this, I have had the same difficulties parking over the last eight years as everyone else here, students, staff and faculty, and I will once again next year. There are only about ten reserved parking spots, and those are for our top administrators. There is no faculty-only or staff-only lot at Webster. And I am sorry to everyone who has had difficulties parking. It is a serious problem on many campuses. Fortunately there are almost always spots in the parking garage at Webster, about a five minute walk to any building on campus.
Some people in our community feel that paying $20,000 per year entitles them to park directly behind their class building. I respectfully disagree, and I feel that they could walk the five minutes (as I did for eight years before I won this spot). My wife is on staff here at Webster, and the first thing I did when I won the spot was give it to her. Since she has regular hours and I have sporadic hours, she could make better use of it. So she usually uses it, and I park there occasionally when she's off campus. The rest of the time I cruise around for a few minutes in the good lots, then head to the garage like everyone else.
I teach at night sometimes, and when I arrived at or after 5:30 I often found a student parked in the spot with a ticket on their car. While it is frustrating to me to have the spot occupied I also feel sorry for a student who receives a $50 ticket. I put up a note to warn them.
Some people seem to think the note is snarky. Those people don't know me. I don't do the passive-aggressive thing. I am direct and outspoken. So I made sure anyone who parked there knew they would get a ticket. That was only fair. And the way most of my students struggle financially I can't imagine it would be worth it to them to pay $50 for parking there for the evening.
As far as the student who asked it it is worth $20,000 per year to attend a school that cannot provide him parking close to his classes, I think that is his choice, not mine. I can't help but feel that someone who chooses a college based on their ability to park close to class may be missing the point of higher ed, nonetheless if this is a snark war, yes indeed, he won.