WACO, TX – You are a student and have a 5:00 p.m. student organization meeting on campus. It’s 4:50 p.m. and you are in a hurry not to be late. You park your car in the parking lot closest to your meeting and walk briskly inside, making it just in time. Later, during the meeting, your phone buzzes and you open it to find a message: “Citation Alert — your vehicle has been issued a parking citation. Please check your Baylor email for details.”
Many students across campus have received this same message before, some for the very same reason: they parked in a lot on campus just before parking regulations are lifted and are subsequently issued a citation on the basis of technicality. Requiring a permit to park on campus until 5 p.m. sharp on weekdays may make sense on paper, but in reality, it only hurts students.
It is time for Baylor University to offer some grace to its students when it comes to parking.
Normally, I would be writing about how flawed our parking culture in the United States truly is and the need for sustainable, affordable and reliable methods of transportation. But the reality is that many students attending Baylor use cars regularly and would be at a disadvantage if they did not possess one. Parking has always been a major topic of discussion at our university, but many students have largely grown accustomed to the daily parking-related gripes they have.
Charging college students $35 for being a little bit early is not only excessive, but it is also regressive in nature. It hurts students with lower financial backgrounds disproportionately — especially those already dealing with food insecurity and the exorbitant cost of attending college in the United States. And even though students have the right to appeal through Parking Services itself and the Baylor Student Court, the former is the very department issuing citations and the latter is bound to the will of the university and letter of the law.
Unfortunately, there may not be a silver bullet solution to this issue. However, one proposal the university should pursue is offering a grace period to the restricted weekday times of 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If not shortening these times slightly, simply dismissing tickets within a half-hour period, for example, would go a long way for students.
I realize that this would technically lose the university money from the profits they make off of parking citations issued within this range. Nonetheless, these citations are issued on weak grounds. It is time for the university to provide leniency to its students, especially during these difficult and challenging times.