It’s the windshield accessory most people try to avoid: a parking ticket. Though the definitive way of avoiding one at Westminster College is through purchasing a parking pass, many students find other creative ways to avoid a parking ticket or two.
According to the college’s profile on U.S. News, 38 percent of students on campus have access to a car. However, only a fraction of these students invest in a parking pass, according to Westminster’s campus patrol team.
Wayne Riedthaler has worked as Westminster’s assistant director of parking for the last two years and said he is usually responsible for issuing parking tickets.
“When I first started, everyone received a free permit,” Riedthaler said. “However, parking has become a bigger issue as the college has grown. We had to find some way to reduce the demand of parking spaces, and if you increase your parking fee you reduce the demand.”
Tasia Benzmiller, a junior sociology major, is also a member of the campus patrol team and said she sees her classmates try anything to avoid tickets from moving their cars in the middle of the day to parking near a wall to keep the rear-view mirror where a parking pass would normally hang out of sight.
Aleisha Ruiz, a senior communication major, recently conducted a survey about the college’s parking policy for a class assignment. She said she and her group chose to examine issues with the college’s parking policy for their project to help create a more effective policy.
The survey asked students if they had ever purchased a Westminster parking pass, if they had ever received a parking ticket, how many parking tickets they had received, how much the ticket cost and what parking structure they usually park in.
The survey was distributed to the student body via email, and 532 students elected to respond to the survey. Their responses suggest that some Westminster students prefer playing the risky game of avoiding tickets rather than buying a parking pass.
The survey results also show that enforcement of Westminster’s parking policy has some inconsistencies. Almost 70 percent of students without a parking pass said they had never received a ticket, according to the survey results.
However, some students who don’t want to purchase a pass would rather not risk a ticket. Nikolas Huhnke, a junior double majoring in justice studies and economics, said he hasn’t purchased a parking pass since he lived on campus his first year of college. Instead, Huhnke said he parks on a neighborhood street nearby and walks to campus to avoid tickets.
Though some students choose not to purchase a parking pass, many do and have purchased one every year they’ve been on campus.
Sky Galley, a senior marketing major, has commuted to and from Westminster since her first year of college.
“I’ve purchased a parking pass for the past three years,” Galley said. “I usually have all of my classes during the day, and I know they frequently check for passes, which is why I would rather get one than get a ticket. But I do wish they would lower the cost.”
Benzmiller said that although she works for campus patrol, she is also a student and understands students’ concerns about the expense of a parking passes.
“Being a student myself, I sympathize with the college student budget,” Benzmiller said. “In my opinion, I wish students wouldn't even need a parking pass because they can be pretty expensive. It would be great if we could just include the price in tuition.”
Students who have paid for parking—an average fee of $150 for a daytime pass—said they worry the policy is inconsistent, which discourages students from buying a parking pass.
“I buy a pass because I feel like that is the right thing to do, but it seems like a lot of students get by without ever spending the money,” Ruiz said.
Some students said the inconsistencies of the parking policy work to their advantage and chose not to speak to The Forum about their unpaid tickets because they didn’t want to pay their fines.
Students like Ruiz and Galley, who have spent the money on a pass, said they want to see more enforcement overall, but Riedthaler said he has a system for catching students who are parking on campus frequently without a pass.
“It usually takes about a month or so, but I create a sheet that includes anyone that has three or more unpaid tickets, and I will boot them,” Riedthaler said. “They then have the option of paying the outstanding fines or purchasing a parking pass.”
However, Riedthaler said Westminster only has official access to vehicles that have been registered in the college’s system after an individual buys a parking pass. This makes it difficult for parking directors to keep track of repeat offenders and enforce payment of their tickets.
Some students who responded anonymously to Ruiz’s survey said they have always been able to get their tickets waived or were initially issued a warning rather than an actual ticket. Riedthaler said there is no such thing as a warning but said the college does dismiss a lot of the tickets it gives out.
“We dismiss a lot of parking tickets around here,” Riedthaler said. “We are all human and everyone forgets their pass every once in awhile.”
Benzmiller said the campus patrol staff is understanding and tries to repeal tickets whenever possible. And though some students and faculty appreciate that those who enforce parking are understanding, those who pay for passes said they want to feel like their money is being put to good use.
“It doesn’t sit well with me that I have paid $150 each year to park legally on campus and some people in the survey said they had only paid for two tickets in their four years of parking here,” Ruiz said.