This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.
One Thursday, I walked back to my car after working on this article in Z Beans and saw a yellow slip of paper tucked under my windshield wiper. A parking ticket. This is a common occurrence for many students, and it is a problem that Mercer desperately needs to address.
Parking at Mercer is not easy, and many students believe that it could use improvement. The lack of necessary parking lots to accommodate students, ticketing on assumption and the distance of lots from classes accumulate to produce an undesirable on-campus parking experience that makes it difficult to attend class.
As someone who just got a car this year, I thought my 30-minute walks across campus were over. I soon realized that it didn't matter that I had a car if I had nowhere to park it. I would have to walk to my classes regardless.
This made getting to class on time a challenge, since I, at first, would park in the Mercer Police (MerPo) lot and walk to Mercer Village or the historic quad. However, some days the lot was full and I had nowhere else to turn. I spent 15 minutes driving around to find somewhere to park my car for class.
Because I live in the Lofts, I was issued a blue sticker, which means that I can park in one of three places on campus: the MerPo lot, the engineering lot or the baseball lot.
Many students have similar circumstances, and for those who have classes near Mercer Village or the historic quad, not many parking options exist if you don't have a yellow or purple sticker. All of the lots available to all stickers are located on the outskirts of campus near the Lofts or University Center. This makes getting to class a struggle that students should not have to face among the everyday stressors of college life.
“The parking situation is egregious,” Cameron Wade, a senior student at Mercer, said. “It doesn't make any sense how there is literally never any parking whether it's for residents or commuters.”
To add to the problem, MerPo seems to hand out tickets far more easily than students can find parking. Sometimes a student has no choice but to park in a lot for class, and they end up getting ticketed for prioritizing their education instead of taking extra time to find available parking which may be extremely far from their destination.
According to some students who live in the Mercer Village Lofts, their lot — the yellow decal lot — has been full many evenings, meaning the residents of these buildings have two options: either they can park in two-hour retail parking and risk a ticket or park in available spots near the MerPo office and walk back to their building.
The parking lot in Mercer Village faces another point of contention with students because many have been ticketed for simply using retail spots for their intended purpose: shopping, retail or eating lunch. There is a two-hour limit on this retail parking, but many students have returned from their coffee or lunch break within the time frame to find a ticket on their car.
The reason for the ticket? The yellow slip reads: “Going to class.”
MerPo hands out tickets under the assumption that students are going to class, and some students have even had the MerPo ticketing officer follow them into the establishment they enter. After seeing they aren't in class, the officer will then go remove the ticket from their car.
This method of ticketing is unfair to students, and operates under the presumption of guilt, presenting violations to students when they have done nothing wrong. Many tickets given out under these criteria have faced appeal, but some were denied any form of cancellation or dismissal.
This disregard of restorative justice means that MerPo can hand out tickets for simply assuming you are in class, and students may face the consequences for simply using the spaces available to them which are limited to begin with.
“MerPo writing tickets is the biggest waste of resources and time, especially when there are far more important things they should be handling than whether someone parked in a retail space or not,” Wade said.
It is clear that the university needs to use its resources and time to remedy the root of the issue instead of handing out tickets. The amount of students that attend Mercer with a car vastly outnumbers the number of parking spaces on campus, and without more lots built, the problem will only keep being displaced.
Because there aren't enough parking spaces on campus, students are forced to park in lots for other stickers in order to secure their cars. The students who are supposed to park in those lots are then forced to park in Mercer Village, other lots that do not match their decal or commuter lots because all of the lots for them are full. Then, commuter students have trouble finding parking and must park wherever they can find an open spot. Often they get ticketed, which is not effective and does little to address the core problem.
Mercer needs to update their campus to reflect the student body who attends and provide parking accommodations for students to make it easy for them to get to and from their classes. Students should not have to worry daily about finding parking, being late to class or getting a ticket while eating lunch or studying in Mercer Village.