University Faculty and Students are Feeling De’fleeted’ over Obstruction of Campus Sidewalks

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Published February 5, 2020
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The Montclarion
Montclair State University vehicle 62 drives past the Student Center on to the quad sidewalk. Z.W. Gleason | The Montclarion

“The Fleet” is the official title of the 280 vehicles owned and maintained by Montclair State University. The majority of these vehicles belong to facilities departments like maintenance, housekeeping, grounds, landscaping and postal services. The Fleet also encompasses the Montclair State ambulances, police cars, golf carts and Kubota utility vehicles.

The Fleet isn’t the only set of vehicles to worry about, since students use University Promenade as a pickup and drop-off location. Montclair State affiliated vendors often drive on to campus and park in front of academic buildings.

The drop-off point on College Avenue is congested with shuttles, buses and commuter cars moving in and out of the Red Hawk parking deck. Pedestrians headed for Panzer Athletic Center or Red Hawk Central must traverse College Avenue, thus adding to the traffic.

In the past, people have recommended that golf carts and Kubota utility vehicles be used in lieu of vans and trucks. Unfortunately, due to a change in state policy, Montclair State can no longer have golf carts and Kubota’s registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. This means they are not street legal and cannot be driven on Clove Road.

Montclair State students are typically unaware of the diverse responsibilities included in operating an institution of 30,000 students, staff and faculty. The perpetual construction often overshadows the more routine tasks involved in keeping the campus running. Over the last decade and a half, Montclair State has expanded rapidly, adding new dorm halls, parking garages and academic buildings.

“The age of the buildings can be anywhere from brand new, which is considered under five years old, up to one hundred years old,” William Fitzpatrick, the Assistant Vice President of Facilities Logistics and Support Services, said. “That infrastructure takes a lot of care, that’s why we have so many different shops and areas of support.”

Fitzpatrick explained why having Montclair State vehicles is important for the people working on campus.

“All the vehicles are here to support the mission of the university,” Fitzpatrick said. “For a carpenter to get from their shop [in Lot 60] to the main campus, they need to be in a street-legal vehicle to drive on Clove Road. They need [vehicles] to transport the tools and parts to get the job done. One things that’s interesting about all college campuses is the buildings that are a part of a campus are very diverse, just like the Fleet.”

In July 2018, Fitzpatrick and his team moved to the current University Facilities space at 147 Clove Rd. The new setting is better suited for accommodating the ever expanding facilities teams, but the extra distance between the main campus and those that work to maintain it proves to be a downside.

The Shop.png

Montclair State University Police Department vehicle 28 being repaired in the Fleet Services Auto Shop.
Z.W. Gleason | The Montclarion

“Part of our challenge is having the core campus pedestrian only — there are days when we have over one hundred contractors on campus. Those contractors are under the University Police Department’s jurisdiction,” Fitzpatrick said.

Unfortunately, the Fleet in conjunction with Montclair State affiliated private contractors can make navigating campus unnerving. Pedestrians report feeling uncomfortable on campus while walking due to the high number of vehicles driving on what are supposedly pedestrian only walkways.

Payson Oelkers, a computer science major in his junior year, notes that a large portion of Montclair State’s campus is covered in sidewalks.

“I like to wear headphones and listen to music when I walk to class, but sometimes I’ll turn around and there’s a car behind me. It’s startling because I expect people, not cars,” Oelkers said. “The sidewalks near Richardson and the Student Center don’t look like somewhere a car belongs. Whenever I’m in that situation I always feel bad, like I’m in the driver’s way.”

Dr. Vanessa Greenwood is a professor of communication and media studies and has been working at Montclair State since 2002. Greenwood took to Twitter one day to unleash her frustrations.

https://twitter.com/VanessaEGreenwd/status/1173939970324803584

“I am so damn tired of this campus construction and the obstacle course to get to my office every day,” Greenwood said.

When asked about the tweet Greenwood told The Montclarion her experience was a “chronic issue.”

“There shouldn’t be this level of impediment to get to work and class,” Greenwood said. “Often I have to walk through flower beds to get around vehicles.”

Greenwood has witnessed the increase of vehicles on campus over time, but surmises only small tweaks need to be made to the current system for it to function more effectively.

“I think small adjustments need to be made in the attitudes of those driving the vehicles and then reinforcements be made by their administrators,” Greenwood said. “I don’t think the drivers understand that they’re in a position of power. You’re operating a giant hunk of steel and driving at three miles per hour behind people, no honk, no indication that you’re there. I don’t know if they realize they’re unnerving our students, faculty and staff.”

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