Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
The first thing I think of when it begins to rain on campus is if I checked the weather app in the morning. Nine times out of 10, I indeed have, but it’s really not that uncommon for the weather forecast to leave me with no warnings as to what’s to come.
That’s just the unpredictability of Maryland weather, I guess.
I’m sure most students at the University of Maryland have pretty similar anecdotes.
In College Park, it rains an average of 119 days annually — almost a third of the year. Regardless of how prepared we can try to be for unpredictable weather, there are always those days when your umbrella breaks, you forgot your raincoat or your weather app fails you.
This university can alleviate the stress inclement weather places on students through an umbrella rental system across the campus. Considering how large of a campus this university has, many students are walking extensively daily. I know I average several miles of walking a day, and just thinking about having to do that much walking in the rain without an umbrella on hand sounds like a reason to start living in the basement of the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center.
This umbrella rental system should be a legislative initiative implemented through the university’s Student Government Association, which represents students on this campus. However it should be funded and supported by this university’s administration.
Indeed, an umbrella rental system would actually help encourage students to avoid skipping classes or events just because of inclement weather. It would additionally provide support to commuter students who don’t have places on the campus to retreat to on a rainy day.
This program would require umbrellas to be available in multiple buildings on the campus, so students can access them regardless of their location. To prevent theft, perhaps these umbrellas can be positioned in locked compartments, accessible through a swipe of our student ID cards. This would help the SGA keep track of the umbrellas — giving it not only an idea of the success of the program, but also allowing it to determine the quantity that needs to be provided.
Students could rent umbrellas for a certain amount of time and be expected to return them at any rental location — similar to how the scooter rentals work. A 24-hour rental could be a reasonable period of time, giving students the ability to use the umbrellas for the day and return them by the time the weather hopefully clears up.
To ensure the umbrellas are returned, students could be held accountable through late penalty fees for each day overdue.
Ideally, the umbrellas should be free of cost within the rental period, but if necessary to cover the costs of the program, the university could charge a small amount.
Before deciding to implement a price on the rentals, it’s important for the SGA and the administration to remember these costs should stay low enough to be affordable and accessible to all students. Charging high rental costs will make these umbrellas less accessible for low-income students and discourage them from utilizing this resource as needed. The ability not to feel like an undignified, wet mop should be available to everyone.
This university shouldn’t use this program as a significant profit-making opportunity. Its goal should solely be to facilitate students’ experiences. A program such as this would require little to no additional staffing, and would be a relatively low-cost initiative, so there really should be no need to charge high costs.
A few universities have already implemented similar programs funded through their SGAs. It’s evident this is an experience students find incredibly irritating, and universities implementing umbrella rental programs can be a practical solution.
Having access to umbrellas when we inevitably forget to bring one on a rainy day would be a tangible way to relieve the tiniest, most unnecessary anxiety from our daily lives. As college students, with our endless assignments, sleepless nights and high stress levels — getting soaked on our way to class should be the last thing we stress about.
An umbrella rental system is a simple, yet effective approach to improving the experience of this university’s students. Providing access to umbrellas will give us one less thing to worry about. With the gloom that comes with rain, students will feel a tiny bit of sunshine knowing their university stands above them, keeping them dry.
Imaan Shikoh is a sophomore public policy major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.