By Jessie Morgan
Messiah’s campus has seen several changes since Fall 2019. The construction of new Kim S. Phipps Welcome Center has brought about many changes on campus, from detours and walking limits to safety policies.
Worst of all, it seems that students are starting to see more of that all-too-familiar yellow slip of paper, covertly tucked under the windshields of their cars. And no matter how many times it has already happened, the sting of disappointment that comes with getting yet another parking ticket never goes away.
On the Messiah College Confessions page on Facebook, students were asked to comment how much they owed in parking tickets. Responses escalated into the hundreds of dollars. The question is, how can parking tickets be this outrageous of an expense for the average student, and how can we prevent these tickets from appearing again?
Cindy Burger, Director of Safety, explained how the parking situation at Messiah has changed dramatically this year, primarily due to the construction going on in and around campus.
“The welcome center has taken away parking spaces for employees, which in turn makes employees park where the visitors park,” Burger said. “This has caused problems for the large events that Messiah hosts and we have to come up with creative solutions on where to park those who visit our campus.”
Burger says that out of all reasons behind a parking citation, the number one type of citation on campus is a car that is not parked in its assigned lot. The amount of parking citations received for this reason varies all year long, depending greatly on the day of the week as well as the season. The daily weather is also a factor in how many cars get cited per day.
In the fall of 2019, Messiah implemented a new parking rule in which any car that receives more than five tickets will receive a “boot” on their vehicle. In order to remove the boot, the student must pay a fee of $75 to Falcon Exchange. According to Burger, 30 boots have been implemented on campus as of February, 2020.
Despite the apparent need for such a strict policy, students are beginning to express their frustrations over the Department of Safety’s lack of understanding towards students, especially commuters.
One commuter, senior Tricia Zechman, expressed her frustrations about the parking policy.
“I am already stressed and running around like a chicken with my head cut off and don’t need the added stress of getting stuck on campus when I need to be somewhere,”
Zechman said. “I felt that there has been little understanding by the Department of Safety, and there should be some leniency.”
The cost of a single parking ticket is $35, which students must pay to the Falcon Exchange as soon as possible upon receiving a ticket. In previous years, parking tickets could be forgiven through donating non-perishable food items through a program called “Fines Forgiven…Feed Families”. Through this program, up to $100 in tickets could be waived by donating a set amount of non-perishable items to the Dispatch office. However, there is no similar program in place this year.
Messiah has also seen a rise in the price of parking tickets this year. Previously only $15 per ticket, the price has more than doubled since 2015, standing at $35 per ticket now.
“The price of tickets has helped deter individuals from not following the parking rules on campus,” Burger said.
However, the price of a parking ticket in the borough of Mechanicsburg is only $10, more than three times less. Questions have been surfacing about the reasoning behind this price difference, as well as what is being funded with the money. In the end, a conflict arises between the Department of Safety and the Messiah student body.
“If we allowed everyone to drive and park wherever they wanted, students would be driving to class and parking in the lots outside of their classroom building, and faculty and staff would be pushed to park in the student lots up by the residential halls,” Burger said.
At the same time, the student body feels that the Department of Safety is increasingly disregarding their various appeals and refusing to grant any type of leniency, no matter the circumstance.
As a community, students, faculty and administration are expected to communicate with one another to resolve issues, promoting an atmosphere of understanding. Hopefully soon, the campus body and Department of Safety can come to a mutual understanding, but until then, parking tickets seem to be an ongoing issue here on campus.