Let sick students through the gate!
Letter to the Editor
Going to the Health Center for medical treatment is apparently no easy task. For those who do not already know, off-campus students must walk half a mile from the parking lots or wait at the call box for security to provide a ride (assuming one is too ill to walk). In no case is a student allowed to drive to the building — this requires permitting the student with the privilege of driving a vehicle on campus.
The woman at the gate mumbled to me the options available, lowered the bar before me (a deterrent I suppose), closed her window and ignored me until I left. I had no intention of waiting in the cold and snow for a security officer, so it was either the visitor's lot by the library or the lots by the JACC.
Influenced by the impetus for my journey to the Health Center, I spontaneously called campus security to discuss the matter. Well, I am sure you can imagine how uninterested, uninformative and insulting the conversation went for me. I do not want sympathy for my little walk, only improvement on a system that actually disservices those for which it supposedly exists. Of course, I heard how busy the gates are and the number of students who will say anything to get on campus (before noon on a Monday, what a security risk!). There is also the legitimate concern over parking space.
I suggested some form of control given the effective means of confirming a visit to the Health Center; students all register at the front desk before receiving any medical attention. The security official literally chuckled at me for being foolish enough to believe that there is a way to check on whether or not a student attends the Health Center after gaining access to campus. The detached voice went on to "inform" me that the truly sick thank the gate worker and freely accept the long walk while the truly healthy get infuriated at security. By this time, I gave up on the conversation. The official was neither surprised nor concerned when I informed her that I was calling from the Health Center and extremely dissatisfied. This deviation from the "norm" fell on deaf ears.
My question is, why is this such a strained relationship? It seems security could care less about the students: the less, the better. They witness emotion in a driver and perceive it as an indication of a lie to get on to the campus? Surely the investigative capabilities of these individuals are obviously unimpressive to us all.
Maybe you too know of a RA who sneaks anything desired onto campus or the infamous "someone who knows someone." Many others manipulate the system by using the right to drive a female student back to her dorm. Limited parking and alcohol are apparently the problems. The current solution is to deny anyone unlucky enough to not be able to pull strings access to the place we pay to attend.
Conversation with a nurse at the Health Center informed me that she too walked from the library. My status as a student compels me to place our rights first, but it is unwise to ignore the rights of the workers on campus. Politics aside the issue is troublesome. Campus size is not increasing, but the number of buildings and the number of students (as well as workers to fill those buildings) are on the rise.
Parking lots, however functional, do not add value to a visit to Notre Dame. Aside from asking the ultimate question of for whom does this not-for-profit organization cater its offerings, the issue of access to campus remains. How many students and parents knew this before enrollment? One might cast aside all hope, except that complacency is not a trait a university of this level should endorse.
In the example of the Health Center, it seems students could call ahead to get an appointment and the Health Center could call the appropriate gate with a name and time for access. A simple one strike, you're out rule would eliminate the potential for frequent abuse of such a system by the compulsory liars security sees in us all. Yes, the gates are busy. Maybe the answer is quicker service and more flexibility. After all, students already attempt to get on campus quite often. If it is "no" to most students and "no" to most workers, then why allow the charade to continue with those volatile conversations? Letting more people in quicker would shorten that line of cars significantly. Security knows our address and car registration. Together with an ID, this confirms one's legitimate status. For destinations that record one's presence — like the Health Center — security can monitor the truth in the proclaimed destination.
Failure to adhere? More fines would suffice. Hey, at least this gives incentive to tell the truth (present conditions provide incentives to lie to security until they lift that orange bar). The timing of access passes and parking lot surveys are important considerations. However, if security has enough time to pick me up and drive me to a building, then they have enough time to undertake these tasks (ever wonder what security does all day?).
There are ways to assure that those who tell the truth are driving to where they say. Security told me of no plans of anything like this and proclaimed zero tolerance was the best policy.
Given this unwillingness to change, given students' tendencies to lie, given the safety enjoyed by all on campus, I feel that some cases (not necessarily all) warrant allowing students the right to drive a vehicle on the campus paid for in part by our tuitions. On my biased list, medical attention deserves much more leniency. If at noon on a Monday one cannot drive to the Health Center, when and where are the appropriate time and destinations? Next time I will use those.
February 9, 2000
All Viewpoint Stories for Thursday, February 10, 2000