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'Green' parking privileges anger UW-Fox Valley students

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Some students at UW-Fox Valley in Menasha are objecting to a new policy that gives preferential parking to those who drive fuel-efficient cars, arguing that it favors the wealthy.

"The real 'Big Stink' about these green spots is the perception that it rewards those who make enough money to be able to purchase vehicles that qualify to park there," student Steve Acheson wrote in an e-mail to the State Journal. "Because lets be honest, they're expensive!"

UW-Fox Valley Dean James Perry created the "green" stalls, reserved for people who drive low-emission or fuel-efficient vehicles, when the campus' new Communication Arts Center opened in September. The two-year campus is striving for a top environmental rating (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for the building, and the parking spots are part of that effort. There are roughly a dozen spots near the entrance to that building.

But when he took to his blog to discuss the move, some students responded angrily.

"So ... somebody's princess gets a new fuel-efficient car, and gets to park closer," an anonymous person wrote. "Meanwhile, I'm stuck in my ... truck in the back of the parking lot."

The concept of offering incentives so that people buy energy-efficient vehicles is not new -- hybrid buyers can get federal tax breaks. But it is new to the University of Wisconsin System, in which campus parking is often limited, and spaces close to buildings are coveted. Perry said he doesn't know of any other school in the UW System that offers green spots.

"It's something to encourage people to think about what car they'll buy before they buy it," said Perry, who drives a Toyota Prius.

Perry said there are around 500 vehicles that qualify as green, and not all of them are hybrids like the Prius. He posted the list on a board in the building's main hallway.

Acheson said he believes his car qualifies him to park in one of the green spots. But he's still gotten two tickets for parking there.

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