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Business Officer Magazine

Permit? What’s That?

Some students need extra reminders about parking regulations.

By Margo Vanover Porter

Although some students refer to parking employees as "the ticket witches," citations account for only 14 percent of parking revenue at Clemson University, S.C., says Dan Hofmann, director, parking and transportation services. (Read also, "No Decal? No Problem" in the September 2016 issue of Business Officer magazine.)

"Citations are a byproduct of what we do," he says. "Enforcement is necessary to protect the rights of the permit holders. Without enforcement, it would be chaos."

Although he insists that the majority of students follow regulations, Hofmann and other parking professionals have heard their share of interesting stories through the years. Here's a sample:  

Read it and weep. "We get appeals from students who have purchased hourly bundles online and printed a receipt, which says in big block letters, 'This is not a permit,'" says Mike Blackwell, director of parking and transportation, Northern Virginia Community College.  "Some students who get a ticket respond, 'I have my permit on my dashboard.' We take picture of every citation, and the picture clearly shows the paper on the dashboard saying, 'This is not a permit.'"

Whose car is that? Blackwell recalls another appeal from a student who asked for leniency because he was down on his luck and wouldn't be able to buy food after paying the ticket. "I always review these thoroughly, including looking at the pictures," Blackwell says.  "This student drove a brand new Mercedes. His story didn't match his car."

Practicing to be an attorney. "We have a student who, after 53 citations and not buying a parking permit, continues to debate our parking regulations as if he is an attorney," Hofmann says. "He's appealing everything—and not winning. He just refuses to buy the parking permit."

So far, the student has used several lines unsuccessfully, such as "Since the car is registered to my mom and dad, how do you know it was me?" or "I don't need a permit. I'm a visitor." 

What he may not understand, Hofmann says, is that he's leaving an electronic trail. "We keep telling him, 'You can contest the rules and regulations, but once you know what they are, you have to abide by them.' It's an interesting scenario, and we're trying to be patient."

Wrong number. Francie Ray, parking supervisor, Murray State University, Ky., chuckles about the time the dispatch center forwarded a phone call to parking regarding the cancellation of a ticket. "When our parking staff member began speaking with the student regarding her ticket, it quickly became clear, that the student was not calling to cancel a parking ticket," she says. "The student wanted us to cancel her airline ticket from Nashville to Washington, D.C., with American Airlines." 

The parking staff member provided the student with the toll-free number to American Airlines.

Other duties as assigned. Parking supervisors occasionally have to fill in for employees during busy weekends, particularly those with multiple soccer games. Ron Fleming, director of transportation and distribution services, University of California, Irvine, remembers the time when an irate customer complained about the lack of close parking—and its cost—to one of the supervisors who was helping out by selling permits. Dissatisfied with the supervisor's lengthy reply, the customer demanded to speak to a manager.

After thinking about the situation for a moment, the supervisor walked to his car, took off his parking vest, and returned to the customer, saying, "I'm the manager of the day." When several people around started laughing, the situation deescalated.

MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Va., covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.

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