Faculty parking is open to pregnant students starting fall 2019 to help limit the commute across campus.
Expecting students will have to buy a student parking pass and register with Fresno State’s Services for Students with Disabilities Department (SSD). The SSD will then determine how long the student will get to use faculty parking based on how far along she is in her pregnancy and her due date. The SSD will pass along this information to the Parking and Transportation Department, so it can clear the student’s license plate in its system.
Bernadette Tasy, former president of Students for Life at Fresno State and the main advocate for this new campus policy, said, “I think it’s important that we do different things to support our pregnant student community. I think they’re often a forgotten population.”
Tasy, now a Fresno State graduate and president for Fresno Pro-Life Future, became aware of this issue after speaking with current co-vice president of Students for Life at Fresno State and speech pathology major Jessica Riojas.
Riojas, a pregnant student in 2017, said the commute from the student parking lots to campus was difficult and long, often leaving her stressed, late for class and exhausted.
“My speech pathology classes were really far from the parking lot, and it was in the day. So my classes were at 11:30 a.m., the prime time for parking on campus,” Riojas said. “I was seven, eight and nine months pregnant and having to do that huge walk to campus. I remember that being one of the most dreadful times I’ve had at college.”
Tasy, on behalf of Students for Life at Fresno State, began advocating for designated pregnant student parking in October 2018. After taking the issue to the Parking and Transportation Department, then to SSD and finally directly to President Dr. Joseph I. Castro, Tasy at first was able to get approval to create two parking stalls located near the Henry Madden Library and the Thomas Building.
Recognizing that two parking stalls could not cater to the entire pregnant student population at Fresno State, the university opted to open up faculty parking to qualifying pregnant students.
Though the two stalls originally requested by Students for Life at Fresno State have still been created with a two-hour parking limit. They are meant to cater to pregnant campus guests rather than students.
“We aren’t going to have a problem with needing more spaces. Usually, when you create things like this, it creates a higher demand for that thing, but this method gets out in front of that a little bit,” said Derek Brantley, interim Parking and Transportation manager. “It opens up those two spaces and provides more opportunities for more parking for those who need it.”
Tasy, Riojas and current co-president of Students for Life at Fresno State, Ryan Yang, were surprised to learn that not only had they secured two designated parking spaces for pregnant guests, but that Fresno State opened up faculty parking as well.
Yang said, “On part of our members as a whole, we worked really hard to get this into fruition. It was surprising to get this through. We’re really proud.”
Overall, Fresno State and Students for Life at Fresno State have received positive feedback over the pregnant parking stalls according to Brantley, but there are some critics who say that the parking advancements made in relation to pregnant students doesn’t go far enough.
Dr. Larissa Mercado-Lopez from the women’s studies department and campus advocate for pregnant and parenting students, is one of the people who has raised concerns.
“What I like about the stalls is that they do provide a visible show of support for pregnant students, staff and faculty. This is absolutely important for fostering inclusion and combating stigma at Fresno State,” Mercado-Lopez said. “However, I do have questions about why they were created. If it was to accommodate the physical challenge of pregnancy, I would say that the premise of that notion is ableist and perpetuates the idea that pregnancy is a disability.”
Mercado-Lopez has been working to collect data on student parents to better understand their needs and required resources. In one of the surveys she conducted, her results indicated that most student parents are concerned about financial resources, time management, childcare services and access to basic needs. No one made mention of parking.
“Supporting pregnant students is wonderful. But according to my students, pregnancy is usually the easiest part of their experience, particularly if they don’t have children already,” Mercado-Lopez said. “It’s important to recognize parenting in its many forms and involve a diversity of voices and experiences into the conversation.”
Though she recognizes the visibility designated pregnant parking gives to pregnant and parenting students on campus, Mercado-Lopez suggested the creation of centralized space for student parents to receive resources and guidance from a designated staff person working on student-parent efforts in addition to parking.
Riojas also pointed out continued advancements that she wants to see Fresno State make concerning parenting students on campus.
“I took my daughter to Dog Days, and we went to lunch at Bulldog Grill,” Riojas said. “But there aren’t any high chairs, so I want to see what Students for Life can do about that.”