It is no secret that Public Safety bothers me when it comes to their often inconsistent rules. In fact, I even wrote an entire opinion piece dedicated to this topic last year. And while I do respect its 24/7, literally non-stop protection of all three of our campuses, there are still problems Public Safety needs to work on.
But these problems go beyond just an annoyance with inconsistent regulations. The enforcement of parking rules in the past could have put myself and others in danger.
To explain this, here is a brief story:
I am a senior now, but during my sophomore year I lived right on Hill/Village circle in the Old Village living complex. One evening I was coming back from the grocery store so I parked in Hill/Village circle to unpack several bags of groceries. By the time I put everything away, it was late, around 9 p.m., and I had to bring my car all the way to the off-campus Westwoods lot. Even though Westwoods is only about two minutes away, it would have taken a long time to wait for a shuttle to get me.
I decided to leave my car in Hill/Village circle since so many other people constantly parked there, even through the night. I honestly thought it was OK to park there because I had seen cars there before. I even asked my friends and roommates and they all agreed that it would be fine.
And, since it was a Saturday night, I had plans to drink and go out with my friends. So I did.
Then between 2-3 a.m. I woke up to a phone call from Public Safety. I answered the phone and the man on the other line says, “Hi, is this Sara?” and when I answered yes he said, “Hi. You need to move your car.”
I explained to him that I had been asleep, but I was drinking all night and definitely not sober enough to drive. I also told him that my assigned parking lot is in Westwoods, which isn’t even on campus.
He asked me if any of my friends could drive my car and I told him they had all been drinking that night so I asked him if it was OK to move my car in the morning instead. He said, “Yeah, I guess that’s fine.”
I went back to bed and woke up at 9 a.m. to move my car only to find a parking ticket on it. I don’t remember specifically how many offenses I was charged with or exactly how much the fine was, but I’m 99 percent certain it was more than a $100 fine.
So basically the moral of the story is if Public Safety calls you at 3 a.m. on a Saturday asking you to move your car when you’re drunk, then you should totally do it because you don’t want to get fined.
I’m being completely facetious, of course. But seriously, this is pretty much the only message I got from Public Safety out of this entire debacle. This happened to me three years ago, yet I still can’t believe Public Safety reacted that way. Is moving my car at 3 a.m. really that important?
I would never drink and drive, but many students do. More than 3 million students between the ages of 18 and 24 drive under the influence of alcohol, according to a 2009 Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs report.
And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that many students would risk driving drunk to avoid a $100+ parking ticket. Public Safety should not remain ignorant to that fact.
The part that saddens me the most is this probably happens way more than people realize. There’s no way I’m the only one who had this happen to them. Just last year Public Safety called my roommate asking her to move her car at 2:30 a.m. Thankfully she was sober, but it was a Friday so the rest of us in the suite had been drinking.
Maybe in the future, Public Safety should ask students if they are OK to drive. And if the student says they aren’t sober, an officer should offer to drive the car for them. Or, if that’s a liability issue, then officers should excuse that student from moving their vehicle, maybe by giving them a special temporary sticker.
No matter what, there should be a protocol on how to deal with a parking problem when the student is unable to drive. Even though I had to pay all those fines, I still don’t regret my decision. It’s wasn’t worth risking my life.