Ryan Baicher always parked in the same spot on campus. He would even brag to his friends about how he parked in this spot, – which is not technically a designated parking space, only an empty space between rows of the Student Union Building parking lot – and had not received a ticket all year.
But one day while the senior business major was showing off, he entered the parking lot to find his car on a tow truck.
“I freaked out,” Baicher said. “At first I tried begging the guy to take it off the lift. Then I offered him 20 bucks. When that don’t work I just started cursing at him.”
Baicher got a taste of the parking policy on-campus, which is enforced by Public Safety. The policy supplements the permit selection process conducted by Residence Life, and involves warning and eventual towing for campus parking violations. This method of punishment is a way to enforce parking rules and distribution on campus.
According to Jerry Rebo, manager of Public Safety, Baicher is not the only student who parks in undesignated locations.
“You name it, they park there,” Rebo said.
Rebo said parking violations range from parking on grass and sidewalks, parking without permits and parking in the wrong lot, up to the more serious violations of parking in fire lanes or handicapped spots without a permit.
Campus parking permits are allotted by Residence Life through an application process. Residence Life Director Elizabeth Swantek identified four main priorities to granting parking permits: students who are student-teaching, have an internship, attend nursing clinical or have pharmacy rotations.
“Wilkes University only gives out about 300 passes each semester,” Swantek said.
Permit applications are sorted by credits, GPA and whether medical need is a factor.
“There are also students who have medical needs that we have an exception for, for example if they need to get to doctors’ appointments back home and have no other way,” Swantek said.
Then, there is the distinction of academic need to a certain parking location, or mere want.
Rebo said there’s not an issue of students not getting spots, it’s just an issue of students not getting spots they want. He said many students try to avoid being placed at the Ralston Field parking lot, but that is unavoidable.
“Almost everyone can get parking if they ask for it, but it’s not all on this side of the river, and that’s what the students sometimes don’t understand. We can’t give 100 percent on this side of the river, we just don’t have enough spots,” Rebo said.
Rebo said 80 spots were granted to the Ralston field lot last semester, compared to about 20 applicants that actually preferred that lot.
“That’s a very small percentage that want it, but that’s just the nature of parking. You only have so many parking spaces.”
Ralston permit holders have a financial advantage, as their permits cost $40 a semester compared to $120 for other campus lots. The clear disadvantage is the location, but Rebo said the shuttle services the lot from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. He also added that Public Safety is able to transport students after hours.
“If they call 2 o’clock in the morning and they park over there, we’ll go over there and pick them up,” Rebo said.
Despite these options, Ralston lot permit holders have declined.
“Ralston permits holders have dropped over the years, and we still have a lot of parking over there left,” Rebo said. “That’s why I can’t understand people that are getting tickets say they can’t get any parking – it’s not true. There’s plenty of parking over there.”
Because many of Ralston’s 325 spots remain open, Rebo said he doesn’t understand why people still park where they’re not supposed to or when they don’t have a permit. He said it’s important for students to follow the policy because they’re taking spots that other students paid for.
“It’s not fair to people who pay,” Rebo said.
One issue that comes up is the conflict of campus events and parking availability. Rebo said students might be inconvenienced when looking for spots during events.
“They’re going to have to search, but some students want to park next to their class, and they don’t want to walk a block or two,” Rebo said.
But Rebo said he receives very little complaints about parking during events. He said if students are really having trouble finding a spot, they can notify Public Safety and usually get approval to park elsewhere.
“As long as you tell us where you’re going to park, we usually say go ahead and park there for the day.”
Without approval, Rebo said students are subject to punishment. He said three to five tickets are given as warning before Public Safety gets towed.
“We try to be helpful and we try to be lenient,” Rebo said.
Though Baicher said he doesn’t recall getting any warnings before his car was towed.
“Well I talked to the school and they said they had given me warnings but I don’t ever remember getting them,” Baicher said.
Instead of paying a $25 parking fee, he paid between $150 and $200 to get his car back.
“Don’t park just anywhere around here,” Baicher said. “You might think you’re safe but when you least expect it they will get you. Then you’re 200 bucks broker.”
To add salt to his wounds, Baicher said fellow students at the Wilkes SUB front desk was not very friendly when he tried to find out where his car was taken.
“I went to the help desk to try and get information on where to go and they had no information for me and were not very nice,” Baicher said. “My dad had to call a couple places before he could find my car.”
Despite the inconvenience, Baicher said he understands the need for parking enforcement.
“My first reaction is to say that, yeah, it is really unfair that they get cars towed because we’re college students we don’t have the money to pay for it,” Baicher said. “But I guess if someone is constantly parking illegally then yeah they deserve to get towed.”