The Chair-Elect of the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill says he understands the concerns of nighttime employees at UNC who will be required to pay for parking in campus lots, starting in mid-August.

Dr. Bruce Cairns, who takes over for current Chair Jan Boxill on July 1st , told WCHL that he plans to work with the UNC Department of Public Safety and other stakeholders to try to find a fair way to pay for parking at the university, as demand grows.

“I think we’re still in the informational phase, so that everybody can understand what this policy means and what the consequences will be for those who are affected,” he says.

Cairns was recently quoted in a Daily Tar Heel story about the new parking policy for UNC lots.

At a recent meeting of the FEC, Cairns said: “We had to be fair. This was the fairest policy to distribute the parking costs.”

But some people say they don’t think the new policy is fair. A student interviewed for the Daily Tar Heel story complained about the $10.40 parking charge that will added to student fees.

And there’s outcry about requiring nighttime employees of the university – who used to park in UNC lots for free – to buy an annual parking pass for between $227 and $390, based on the rate of pay.

Critics say that the relative lack of nighttime and weekend public transportation in Chapel Hill makes it hard for the lowest-paid UNC employees to find an alternative, short of parking on residential streets.

That, wrote one OrangePolitics blogger, would make them a target for crime, and would likely anger homeowners on those streets.

Cairns says his remarks in the Daily Tar Heel, taken from a meeting between the Faculty Executive Committee and the Department of Public Safety, were not meant to be construed as his opinion.

He says he was just trying to summarize UNC’s five-year strategic plan for parking. He added that his words represented more a starting point for discussions.

“We now know the people who would be directly affected, in terms of the employees,” says Cairns, “and, then, of course, the consequence for the community at large. At least, we have a pretty good idea. And I know that those dialogues are continuing with the folks in the Employee Forum.”

The Employee Forum at UNC holds monthly meetings for those employed at UNC to speak their minds about campus issues. Cairns told WCHL that there have been “substantial discussions” about the nighttime parking policy with the Employee Forum.

He says he’ll be working on the issue over the summer, because that’s all the time available if tweaks are to be made to the new parking policy any time soon.

“I’m very interested, in my role, and I know Jan Boxill – who’s actually still the faculty chair until July 1st – we are keenly interested in this issue, and continuing the dialogue.”

Cairns also did not rule out lowering the cost of a parking permit for employees making as low as $25,000 per year, and raising the cost of a parking permit for those above the $100,000 range who could better afford it.

“The key would be to make sure that that is equitable, and I think all of us are interested in creating an equitable environment,” says Cairns. “These are our co-workers and our colleagues, and so we would be open to that discussion, and we really want to come up with the plan that is the most fair for everyone.”