By Jay Roberson
Rider aimed to host a cheerful second-to-last open house of the fall semester on Nov. 10 to show prospective students the campus; however, student-protesters had a different way of welcoming future Broncs.
Students marched to the Bart Luedeke Center around 12 p.m. on Friday holding hand-drawn signs with sayings including, “Education not exploitation, stop this parking fee inflation” and “Parking lots we won’t ignore, safety first we’re asking for,” as families and tour guides walked by with turned heads.
Issues not being addressed
The cold wind and rain didn’t stop protestors from spreading the word on parking lot safety with plastic wrapped signs as onlookers couldn’t help but stare.
Sophomore behavioral neuroscience major Sophia Fleischer acted as the media handler for the protest and spoke with The Rider News on what the group was looking to achieve.
Fleisher said, “Many students have pleaded for help and cried about how unsafe they feel. With the money that we’re paying just to park there alone, I don’t think it’s fair that we should be seeking out safety for ourselves.”
Protesters reiterated their request for safety by chanting, “Student parking is our right, well-lit lots we need the light,” along with other messages.
Sociology professor Richard Zdan guided students through the process of planning a protest in his Social Movements class.
Zdan said, “This assignment is their midterm, they were told to identify some sort of cause that matters to you. Could be on the Rider University campus, it could be in the greater Lawrenceville area, could be whatever it is, and put together some sort of direct action project.”
Though they could go about social change in any method, students collectively chose to organize a protest raising awareness for parking lot safety at Rider because it was something that affects most of the student body.
Putting the pressure on
Fleischer said, “We’ve seen in the past that any type of protest within Rider alone, the university has turned their heads away from us and away from the concerns of students. We felt that if we were to, for lack of a better term, threaten their admission rates, then they would finally listen to our concerns.”
As families and students walked by, only a handful of people engaged with protesters or took their QR code handout leading to a website titled “No parking, no safety.”
This website informed viewers on what improvements they were looking for, safety concerns, solutions and who to contact in order to make change.
Carly Walton, a senior musical theater major, joined the protesters because she related to concerns the group was attempting to address.
“There’s been numerous times I walk by myself in the dark to my car, and I have to call my mom… The woman is across the country,” said Walton.
“There’s parents across the country who are footing the $250 bill who have to worry about their kids getting to their car safely because we’re not getting improvements.”
Protesters were informed that tour guides received directions from their supervisors to not interact with the group.
Senior psychology major Anthea Thompson, a commuter who shared similar concerns, helped organize the protest with her class. “The lighting in the parking lots makes it feel really unsafe. The one blue light they did have they took out to try and make more spaces for new parking spots,” said Thompson. “Now there’s no way to try and get help if you’re in a parking lot besides running to the nearest building which can be 50 feet away.”
At 1:30 p.m., hundreds of people walked past the protest, avoiding eye contact while student-protesters attempted to inform them on the safety they were fighting for.
Vice President of University Operations Mike Reca and Director of Public Safety James Waldon arrived at the protest to speak with the group shortly after.
Fleischer spoke with Reca and Waldon and reinstated the group’s main cause for concern.
“It’s very dimly lit at night and there’s no security cameras. There’s no emergency blue light, where is all that?,” said Fleischer while describing the conversation. “This seems very important, necessary, especially with all of the break-ins happening on campus just as recent as Sept. 15.”
Student-protesters are scheduled to meet with Reca and Waldon on Wednesday afternoon to discuss initiatives for change in Rider’s parking.