Editorial: Parking Operations needs major ‘repairs’

Editorial from The Journal's Editorial Board

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One of the first areas someone from inside and outside the UIS community sees when entering UIS are the parking lots. This is reason enough for the university to make some changes, gather some funds, and work to improve the areas where individuals park at UIS.

However, the improvement of parking lots across our campus should not come at the expense of the students, staff, and faculty members in the form of continued increased parking rates.

Sixty dollars two years ago for students, $80 currently, and $88 next fall, the price to park at UIS continues to increase with regularity. The price to park for faculty and staff members has similarly increased from $72 two years ago to $96 this year, and will climb to $105 next fall.

The increase in parking rates occurs as UIS Parking Operations has experienced over $110,000 in deficit during the two previous fiscal years combined. Despite the severity in the fiscal situation for Parking Operations, the UIS community does not deserve to foot the bill for their financial shortcomings.

For many people, parking at UIS is not a choice but a necessity, due to the geographical separation from the city of Springfield. Yes, individuals could use the Springfield Mass Transit Division’s bus service, but with costs, limited pick-up locations, and an overall lack of convenience, this is not an ideal choice for many people with vehicles.

Unlike many universities, UIS has ample room for students and employees to park, thanks to the non-urban environment and the overall size of the institution. As a result, supply and demand should rightfully keep the price to park at UIS low, since the amount of parking spots far exceeds the demand from the UIS community.

But with high amounts of money allocated to salary ($166,520.39 in the 2015 Fiscal Year) and no help from the University of Illinois system, Parking Operations feels an obligation to raise prices in order to avoid complete financial insolvency.

In order to avoid continued parking price hikes and have the ability to fix the dilapidated parking lots, the UIS administration should rearrange salary obligations so that the $166,520.39 figure is significantly lowered.

A great opportunity to lower salary obligations would be to transfer the $70,000 salary of a UIS police officer from the payroll of Parking Operations to that of the UIS Police Department.

While such a change would require the allocation of additional funds to the UIS Police Department, it should be something well within the university’s means, as the overall safety of our campus should be a high priority.

While change is needed, not every proposed change for Parking Operations is a wise one. For instance, in the non-binding Student Government Association (SGA) resolution FA15-013, a recommendation was put forth to use student workers instead of police officers when issuing parking tickets.

Beyond the prospected savings, SGA sees a conflict of interest with a UIS Police Department officer issuing tickets, since the ticket-issuing officer receives his or her salary from Parking Operations.

However, if this is a conflict of interest, then any Springfield Police Officer issuing a speeding ticket is doing so with a similar conflict of interest, as the city of Springfield is receiving funds from the ticket infraction and is also paying the officer’s salary. The same scenario applies to hundreds of thousands of police officers all across the United States.

Additionally, a conflict of interest is clearly not present, as the amount of tickets issued has no effect on the salary of the officer. The officer could issue one ticket or 1,000 with no change to his or her salary.

Furthermore, unfair situations of bias would surely arise if students were tasked with the enforcement of parking violations across our campus. Students could just as easily issue a ticket out of spite as they could also avoid issuing a ticket due to the presence of a personal relationship with the individual involved.

Therefore, in order to avoid inequitable situations, the issuing of parking tickets should still lie within the duties of the UIS Police Department, with the payment of parking tickets still being made to the financially struggling Parking Operations.

If UIS aspires to be a world-class educational institution, the least the university could do is provide structurally sound places to park. However, such a change will not occur by repeated increases in parking prices.

After all, Albert Einstein is commonly attributed for defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.