Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
Ohio State has sent out an official request for proposals (RFP) to private companies interested in managing campus parking operations, hoping for a bid of at least $375 million.
President E. Gordon Gee sent an email to faculty, staff and students Monday evening informing the community about the impact that privatizing parking can have on campus.
Gee told The Lantern editorial board in a meeting Monday evening that the university would need at least $375 million to make parking privatization possible, but hopes for a higher bid of about $400 million.
“I think we put together a strong case and a strong proposal, and I think there is a great deal of interest in this,” Gee told The Lantern. “I hope we get more than $500 million.”
Gee explained in the university-wide email that the bid amount will decide how the money will be allocated. The amount received would be divided and budgeted toward student financial aid and scholarship, faculty recruitment, campus transportation systems, constructing a more pedestrian-friendly campus and toward “critical areas … where external funding is limited,” according to the email.
“The central question is this: How do we, as a world-class university, finance our visionary aspirations and continue to flourish in an era of limited funding?” Gee said in the email. “The answer is that in order for this university to thrive, we must examine everything we do, think hard about how we operate and find new ways to financially sustain and grow our excellence in teaching, research, and service.”
Companies interested in bidding must include a bid amount, a 50-year commitment and a cap in the annual parking rate increase that is consistent to historical increase. Gee also said in the email that no current Transportation and Parking employee would lose his or her job from a new contract.
The email stated that bids are due back at the end of May, and a decision will be made before the end of the academic quarter. Gee’s plan is to have a final confirmation at the Board of Trustees meeting in June and make the switch next year.
“I didn’t want to have the process go on in the middle of the summer because no one is here and people can accuse you of ‘under the cloak of night.’ I don’t want to do that,” Gee told The Lantern. “I think we’ve tried to be very open about this. And there’s enough controversy about it so we have to be as transparent as we possibly can.”
In a survey sent out to faculty, 92.4 percent of participants said they do not support the university’s consideration to privatize parking, according to an April 10 Lantern article. Gee, however, said the survey was flawed and the accuracy of it should be questioned.
Gee said if the bid is less than expected, or if the switch does not benefit the university, then the deal will not happen.
“The issue is I don’t know what we’ll have. We have set a floor,” Gee told The Lantern. “If we don’t get at least $375 million and then all the other bells and whistles to protect ourselves – the university, the students and the faculty – then we’re just not going to do it.”
The RFP is a third step in a five-step process toward parking privatization. After the RFP, the university must choose a company and make the switch to finalize the process.
Several cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis have moved toward parking privatization, but no public universities have made the switch.
“Universities are places of ideas. We think about discovering the cure for cancer, we think about the next great American novel, we think about teaching and writing and a variety of other things. We have little curiosity about how we change what we do. And we need to be a very urgent institution and a very curious institution,” Gee said. “We are a place that facts and ideas should drive us, and not agendas.”