Football, Sex, and Parking

An old adage is that a university is a happy place if the administration provides football for the alumni, parking for the faculty, and sex for the students.

I assume that the free market is working well at my university for the students; and the university administration always works hard on football for the alumni: we’re now building a 15,000 seat addition to the already 80,000-seat football stadium.

Being a faculty member, I worry about faculty parking.

Many of my colleagues have had parking spots next to our building, but most of that parking lot is being replaced by a new building — so they’ve been exiled to a garage four long blocks away. This annoys me, but using the lot for a building makes sense; the opportunity cost of the land is far too high to waste on parking. I just hope the building has a lot of square footage so that this valuable land is used intensively.

I wonder, though, whether the people who administer this university thought their choices through. The extra 20 minutes (the walks to/from the garage) are a fixed cost of people’s daily commutes. This additional fixed cost gives them a disincentive to come into the office each day, and an incentive to try bunching their appointments, teaching, and office hours on fewer days to spread the fixed costs.

Since they have some freedom over their schedules, henceforth some of them may be working entirely at home more often. They will become a partial tele-commuter thanks to these changed incentives.

The cohesiveness of the university community might be reduced.


As an alumni of said university, I can attest to the disregard the administration has for (free) parking on campus. They really are pushing people to the garages on the fringe of campus by building on or zoning off every spot they can.


Can't you work sex with students in as an incentive?


A compromise might be making the walk from parking to class more pleasant somehow. So that it is a desired part of the day.


Steve, I'm getting wildly off-topic here, but "co-ed" is such a ridiculous term in the 21st century that I can't imagine why it's still used. I mean, we don't call African American students "integrates" do we?

It's demeaning and absurd.

Back on point, I think duff and phelps (#2) nailed it, except to say that the post is about "happiness" and the cultivation of it. Not fairness or entitlement.


The basic premise is that happiness for the faculty members is based solely on parking. Ceteris paribus, guys! Tsk tsk, first thing in Principles class and you've all forgotten?!?!


Where do students park? Some distance away, I bet.

Perhaps the faculty and administration are providing a disincentive for off-campus students to come to the University each day. Fewer students = more time for research?


Posted by L: "How is the sex? Are the students getting enough to make them happy? You didn't address that point."

I will. With colleges rapidly getting to the point of having 2 female co-eds for every male, it must be a very competitive environment. Probably a lot happier than in previous decades as long as the women are content sharing.


Prof. Hamermesh seems to assuming that cohesiveness is inversely related to distance from a parked car. So that maximum university cohesiveness is only possible if everyone has a parking spot immediately adjacent to his cubicle.

I don't think a drive-in movie theater would be all that great a learning environment, but how can I argue with a titan of economics?


Now the reduced pollution from the telecommuting faculty will be a positive unintended consequence of the university's decision :)


This is an excellent time to change your thinking about that extra walk. I wear a pedometer pretty much everywhere, and I have a goal of walking 11,000 total steps in a day (about 5 miles for me). As soon as I started this routine, I looked for excuses to park further away from my destination and to find other walking opportunities during the day. I'd love to have that extra stroll to get ready to face my day or to decompress as I left work.


How is the sex? Are the students getting enough to make them happy? You didn't address that point.


Somebody should suggest that an underground parking structure be integrated into the basement of the new building -- ideally, large enough to support both the [faculty] occupants of the new building, as well as those displaced from the previous lot.

This strategy seems to be the norm for the new buildings going up on my campus (Georgia Tech) and goes a long way to keeping everyone happy. Who wouldn't want covered parking that's just a short elevator ride from the office?


Football comes between husbands and wives, why shouldn't it come between faculty and their cars?

On the other hand, there's a more troubling economic issue at stake here. Consider the magnitude of the frivolous energy usage your expanded stadium represents. Not counting externalities, just the heat of 95,000 human bodies under the floodlights during a game is energy that would otherwise have warmed homes (where the bodies live).

And since home temperatures are thermostatically controlled (and therefore don't dip when the number of human bodies decreases due to football game attendance), all those BTUs are a pure addition to global warming.

They should be taxed, per Mr. Levitt. :^)~


Well, no one said that administrators had to actually make intelligent decisions. I can't begin to count the number of ways in my experiences that administrators have chosen the less than intelligent option.

duff and phelps

You conceivably could have bargained for a guaranteed spot when you accepted the appointment--especially if faculty are as universally concerned with parking as you say--but instead decided to accept a higher salary. Now you'd like the benefits of something you could have bargained for but did not, and are using students as leverage in order to get a windfall.

I don't see why this is an administration issue.

Kevin H

@ L, he did "I assume that the free market is working well at my university for the students" read between the lines. Optimization of production efficiency and all those glories of the free market!

Frank Schmitt

Am I to assume that the public transportation in the area is no good?


Re: #19

In fact, cohesiveness could be directly related to distance walked, in that professors are more likely to run into each other and their students. More broadly, I realize this is just a blog post, but it's an example of an incomplete analysis of a complex issue. There are probably dozens of minor costs and benefits to this change (CO2 emissions, exercise levels, traffic congestion, faculty productivity, quality of facilities, etc.) which aren't mentioned. Who's to say what the real impact is? While I'd prefer a more thorough piece, perhaps the bigger issue is that even something as basic as a new building is an irreducible puzzle unless you assume away most of the effects.


Cry me a river. An extra 20 min to and from work!!! Never!!!

No wonder more and more Americans are overweight...


"I can't imagine why it's still used."

It is easier to type than "female students" and while it is somewhat antiquated, there exist no American academics who do not know that "co-ed" means "female college student." I can type 5 letters (or even 4 if I omit the hyphen) and convey the exact same meaning as 22, including spaces. It isn't offensive, beyond being old-fashioned, and is a most economic use of one's time.