Greater City Providence

ProJo: URI rescinds parking fee after graduate assistants launch protest


Photo from Graduate Assistants United Facebook Page.

About 25 graduate assistants at the University of Rhode Island rallied Tuesday afternoon to protest what their union leader says have been repeated attempts charge them for parking.

The students — some carrying a banner that read “Big Thinkers Deserve More” — stood outside a third-floor hallway in Roosevelt Hall where negotiators for the college and the union were scheduled to meet.

The protest followed a recent posting on URI’s website stating that graduate assistants who commuted to campus and were previously allowed to park for free would be charged $100 for a permit, said Danielle Dirocco, executive director of Graduate Assistants United, which represents over 500 of unionized teaching, research and departmental assistants. The union filed a grievance stating the fee violated their contract.

I’ve seen this news hailed by some as a great progressive victory over the man on social media. My view? Big thinkers don’t pave farm land for free parking.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • The best way to make this a win-win would be for the university to charge full price for parking but put the charge into people’s salaries as extra pay. People will still be incentivized not to park, but it’ll resolve the equity issue (grad students do tend to get paid shit).

    I hate free parking, but I love labor organizing. :-/ 🙂

  • Jef, James, you made good points, thanks.
    URI-Providence is even worse. A recent report in ecori noted they spend almost $1 million/year to provide “free” parking + shuttle service to the garage for the grad students as well as all undergrads students, faculty and staff, and no transit (or bike, carpool..) incentive just where there is the most congestion and good transit access from every direction includng commuter rail. Perhaps they are trying for some kind of prize for the most regressive anti-environment public university transport policy?
    The question is, can anything be done to change this?

  • URI could either get rid of all their parking lots and build a parking garage and charge for parking, or,promote alternative forms of transportation, reduce the amount of parking spots/lots and possibly create a vanpooling service. Seattle Children’s Hospital did a good job cutting their own parking and I don’t see why URI or even the hospitals in Providence (may as well bring that up too) can’t.

  • Oh I forgot to mention one other solution, Kingston/South Kingstown could implement a parking tax, but I kind of doubt that would happen since Providence doesn’t even have a parking tax yet.

  • One solution is housing.

    I just looked it over on Google Maps. It’s not exact, but just eyeing things, but I think URI is about 1/2 the size of Central Falls. It’s an absolutely huge campus. Things may have changed a bit, but a few years ago I talked to a vice president at the university about my concerns about parking, and he cited 10% of students living on campus. That could grow a lot (on the other hand, it was a much larger number of students that lived “somewhere in South County” and only 10% that lived outside of South County).

    What I found as a resident there the summer I lived and worked on the ferry was that housing was extremely volatile, because of the boom-bust of vacationers’ rents. Some upzoning in key places could save the farmland, replace some of the awful parking, and make housing more affordable for students and “regular” residents alike.

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