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Parking tickets surprise students

Becky Hogan | Monday, February 20, 2006

Students who drive on campus and find themselves tempted by the convenience of parking illegally during quick trips to Rolfs or the Bookstore are being slapped with parking fines steeper than they imagined.

Senior Anna O’Connor said she received her first warning for parking near the LaFortune Student Center without a parking pass and consequently was not required to pay the $15 fine.

But when she received her second violation for the use of an unauthorized parking pass, she was fined $100 from the Office of Residence Life and Housing and placed on parking probation, which prohibits her from parking on campus until she graduates.

Limited campus parking means many students inevitably rack up parking tickets and violations, and Notre Dame Security/Police (NDSP) Associate Director Phil Johnson said NDSP works to enforce fair parking policies.

Parking violations accounted for 12.2 percent of disciplinary incidents handled by the Office of Residence Life and Housing during the 2004-05 academic year – second only to intoxication in the overall number of reported disciplinary incidents, according to a Nov. 17, 2005 Observer article.

To introduce students to the University’s parking policies, first-time violators receive a warning intended to inform them of campus rules to avoid future illegal parking maneuvers, Johnson said. Students who receive a warning are not fined.

“We understand the complexity of campus parking regulations,” he said. “As a result, NDSP offers the warning ticket in an effort to get people to comply with the rules.”

The complexity of these rules is a source of frustration for many students like senior Anthony Pesce, who received a ticket for parking illegally near the Joyce Center without a decal.

“How [does NDSP] know you are in the wrong lot if you don’t have a decal?” he said.

O’Connor said she understood the reasoning behind the rules but not necessarily the enforcement.

“I think [the rules] are fair [considering] it is a pedestrian campus, but I think the parking guard can be a little psychotic when enforcing the rules,” she said.

In most cases, the Office of Residence Life and Housing becomes involved in parking issues after a student has habitually violated parking rules.

NDSP parking fines vary from five dollars to $50 depending on the violation, but ResLife fines may exceed NDSP’s $50 maximum.

The most common parking violations include parking in reserved spaces, parking in non-designated spaces and parking on campus without a decal, Johnson said.

If students pay a parking ticket within 10 days, they receive a 20 percent discount on the fine. In the event a student neglects to pay his or her ticket, the fines are transferred to his or her student account.

Johnson said despite limited resources, NDSP attempts to monitor all parking zones, paying particular attention to handicapped parking, reserved parking and fire lanes.

“We tow cars after the fourth violation,” Johnson said.

The towing is meant to deter students from continuously paying fines and to open up parking spaces for authorized vehicles, Johnson said. Students who have cars registered with the parking office receive a letter after their fourth violation to inform them their car will be towed on the next offense.

Johnson said cars are towed immediately when parked in fire lanes or blocking traffic.

“For some, having to pay a parking fine if cited for parking in the wrong place isn’t enough incentive to make good parking decisions,” he said.

In the event a student feels he or she does not deserve a parking fine, the student can appeal the ticket twice. All appeals and fines for parking citations are addressed at the parking office in Hammes Mowbray Hall by the parking appeals committee, which consists of students, faculty and staff.

NDSP is not involved in the appeals process, but does communicate the decision of the committee back to the student.

NDSP also receives feedback from the ad hoc parking committee, made up of graduate and undergraduate students, to determine if any potential rule changes should take place regarding campus-parking regulations.

“Parking rules and fines are established to maintain order and safety on campus,” Johnson said. “We hope that people will make good decisions when parking and driving.”