Give me a sign! On the promulgation of parking law on campus

by Jacob Schmidt

Set aside race, gender, economic inequality, and even biblical hermeneutics for a second; we need to have a courageous conversation about parking. Even a cursory survey of student opinions should make it clear that something must change with regard to parking enforcement. I believe much of the outcry surrounding injustices in campus parking can be resolved by the clarification of signage, while another portion of the debate will only be resolved with a shift in the habits and mindset of Whitworth students as a whole.

Few topics have the power to elicit the sort of impassioned declarations from students of all stripes as does campus parking. Even those who do not own cars have heard enough of their friends’ complaints to carry on a debate over how best to store our vehicles on campus. Complaints about parking fall into two basic categories explained by two anonymous responses to our student survey: 1-“there isn’t enough parking” and 2-“getting a ticket should not be how we know [where] not to park.” I will be dealing primarily with the second of these concerns.

A recent poll of Whitworth students showed that 92 of 254 respondents had received a parking ticket on campus. That’s 36 percent of those participating in the survey. An even greater number (68 percent) expressed that Whitworth’s parking signage needs to be clarified in some way. While many other students and those in the security office have been quick to point out parking maps exist online and that the rules are detailed in the student handbook, the number of parking violations demonstrates the existing system could benefit from some clarity and visual reinforcement. In defense of this, I turn to a Thomistic account of parking justice.

St. Thomas Aquinas listed criteria for a just law, among which is the mandate of promulgation. Promulgation is a fancy word for informing people. In order for a law to be just, the people upon whom the law is enforced must be informed of the law. This does not mean simply that laws be written down somewhere, but that they must be accessible. Take the example of seat belt laws; while the legislation requiring seat belts in cars is in law books at the library, the government still finds it necessary to place signs on highways reading “click-it or ticket.”  Which parking lots are available to which vehicles can be read in the student handbook or online. Is this just promulgation? I argue that it is not.  There are numerous visitors to campus who cannot be expected to research parking prior to their arrival. In addition, I assume the 92 ticketed students mentioned above are not stupid, so something is not being made clear.

I propose new signs be placed in parking lots which indicate what permits are required and how long one can park there. As it stands several lots display only the lot number, and nothing else. This could be improved by a simple system each row with the colors red, green and yellow to indicate overnight permit, day permit and visitor spaces. I am aware that signage is expensive, however this only makes it more important that the process is done justly so that additional clarifying signs will not be called for in the near future. In the meantime, while this system is being implemented, I propose students receiving tickets be allowed to put a portion of their fine toward the purchase of a parking pass, such that paying a $60 ticket grants a student a coupon for a $30 parking permit.

To the objection that there simply is not enough parking on campus, I would remind students that having a car as an on-campus student is a privilege that not all colleges afford their students. As someone who survived seven semesters without a car and still managed to get out into the city and the surrounding wilderness, I think we can drive less.

My answers on each of the two points are summed up well by two respondents: “Make love, not tickets.” And “more people [ought] to bike/walk to campus.” The first of these can be done through the just installment of new signage and my fines-to-permit program. The second can only be accomplished by a revolution in consciousness, and warmer weather. At least one of those is starting to arrive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *