By Rob Bradfield
Let me start out by saying that I am a rampant parking violator.
Seriously, I have paid Baylor nearly $500 in fees over the past four years. I get them because I knowingly park illegally. I openly acknowledge my parking infractions and used to accept them as just part of the Baylor experience, but one recent event has pushed me over the edge.
Early last semester I received a $40 ticket for parking for 20 minutes in 45-minute Starbucks parking. I walked out to my car after sitting in Starbucks enjoying a cup of coffee to find one of the parking attendants writing me a ticket. When I explained to him that I was in Starbucks, he demanded to see my receipt. I didn’t have one because it never occurred to me that I would have to prove at some point that I was drinking coffee, so he issued me a ticket.
At this point I might have lost my temper. It seemed that the attendant was finding some perverse pleasure in watching me rave. He almost appeared to enjoy the small amount of power he had over my parking record.
I hope my experience is not typical, but a person would be hard pressed to find a routine commuter that hasn’t had some sort of run-in with Parking Services.
It’s not that we enjoy getting ticketed, sometimes in excess of the $40 that I paid, but it’s often unavoidable. Many professors have absence or tardiness policies that require students to get to class quickly, which can be hard when the closest parking is a 10-minute walk.
Baylor, intentionally or unintentionally, has forced students to choose between making it to class or violating its asinine parking policy – a situation worthy of a Joseph Heller novel.
It’s no secret that Baylor wants more students on campus. The second goal of Baylor 2012 explicitly states that Baylor wants to create a “truly residential campus.” To that end, Baylor has built pseudo-apartments like The Arbors for upperclassmen, created LLCs that require students to live on campus for two years, recently bought one of the largest off-campus apartment complexes and are planning large-scale renovations of the “Big 5” dorms.
The reason for this is fairly transparent – Baylor wants to exert more control over what students spend their time doing. Students that spend all their time on campus are much less likely to get involved in things that Southern Baptists don’t approve of – like drinking, premarital sex and Methodism. This interest in student behavior wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t create hardships for the rest of us.
The last time Baylor got rid of parking it was because they want to create a “more pedestrian campus.” And they have for the most part; I think the amount of student/vehicle interaction has significantly decreased. What’s odd about this is that they haven’t done anything further to encourage students off campus to walk or ride a bike to class. Baylor exercises a large amount of influence over the neighborhoods around Baylor and could easily construct more bike lanes, improve sidewalks or encourage apartment complexes to install better bike racks.
As it stands most cyclists have to ride in the street, and many areas around Baylor don’t have adequate sidewalks for dedicated pedestrians.
Baylor’s bus line also falls short of the mark. Sophomore year I made an earnest attempt to use the bus line in order to avoid the parking situation. The buses ran at odd intervals, and if they were even a little bit early it was easy to miss.
Unfortunately, most of the time the buses were late. My stop was the farthest away on the longest route, so the average ride was generally 20 minutes or more, which was incredibly unhelpful since my destination was on the other side of campus. For students that live away from the bus routes or have classes later than 5:30 p.m. taking the bus can be impractical, so naturally they are forced to drive and face the parking system.
Students that feel that they have been ticketed wrongly have 14 days to file an appeal, and after filing an appeal, they have to show up to a Student Court meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Mondays. The appeals are addressed on a first-come, first-served basis, so there’s no guarantee that the court will ever even hear your case.
The fact that the courtroom is tucked away in an obscure part of the Bill Daniel Student Center means that first time plaintiffs can have trouble finding it and end up with a place at the bottom of the list.
Unlike criminal courts in Texas, the judges that sit on the Student Court are all appointed. Baylor also differs in that plaintiffs are presumed guilty and must prove their innocence. This means that students wrongly ticketed have virtually no chance of winning a case, and there’s no real way to change the system. The student government has only as much power as the university allows, our judiciary is a kangaroo court and students are left with no real way to address grievances.
I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but when you look at it all at once, it seems like Baylor is actively making it difficult for students who commute to campus. I can’t say and won’t make any speculation as to whether the reasoning is financial or to encourage students to live more fully inside the Baylor Bubble.
I will say that a better solution for our parking woes would be to invest in reliable public transportation that also includes the Waco community, creating a safer way for students to bike and walk to class, and restricting the number of parking tags given to students that already live on campus.
But since I’m not a regent or an administrator or a student politician, I have really only one place to take my concerns.
So, Judge Starr, I know that you’re tired from kicking Aggie butt and holding the Big 12 together with sheer strength of will, but if you get the chance, could you maybe step in and sort out this parking thing for us? The other students and I would really appreciate it.
Rob Bradfield is a senior journalism news-editorial major from Waco and is a staff writer for the Lariat.