Parking Regulations Should Be Rational
Last Tuesday night, I left Collis and walked to my car, which I had parked in the driveway between Collis and Thayer. I had left the car there at approximately 6:45pm, and had returned to it at about 8:15 only to find an ominous little green envelope held in place by the windshield wiper. The Dartmouth College Parking Citation informed me that I was in violation of the Dartmouth Parking and Traffic Regulations as I had parked in a no parking zone. Rewind to the preceding Friday.
On Friday morning, I hiked down to A-Lot to get my car in order to leave campus for a weekend at home. What should my eyes behold when I finally reach my car but, you guessed it, one of my favorite little green envelopes. This one informed me that I had no valid parking permit, even though my two little green stickers which say Dartmouth Parking Permit, A-Lot, Fall 97 were right inside my windshield and rear window, just where the directions from Parking Operations had made me put them.
I am not trying to engender sympathy from the student body for my supposed persecution by Parking Operations, I am merely using these two recent events as examples of an illogical, irrational, arbitrary parking enforcement system here at Dartmouth. First, let us address a likely base cause of this systemic problem.
Dartmouth College, in its infinite wisdom, has determined that any fines levied and collected by a given department (be it Safety and Security, Physical Education, or any other) should go directly into that department's budget as extra revenue. Quite a nice incentive to levy as many fines as humanly possible, isn't it? Thus, it is in the best interests of Parking Operations to ticket every car in A-Lot for some reason or another with the assumption that students busy with midterms are not going to have time to fight tickets. Another convenient aspect for Parking Operations is that the office itself rules on appeals of parking citations. I guess that the fact that they decide whether or not hundreds of dollars of extra revenue comes into their budget makes them unbiased judges...
Now that we have some idea of why parking citations are handed out like propaganda here, let us look at some of the many improprieties of the system itself.
The theories of common law to which America subscribes are based on the concept of precedent: that is, the idea that one can look to consequences imposed or not imposed on past actions to determine whether consequences will be imposed on the same action done in the future. This is why arbitrariness must be absent from fair systems of law and regulation. One must be able to accurately determine what one is allowed to do based upon results of past actions taken. Therefore, the fact that my car was ticketed last Tuesday while parked between Collis and Thayer after 5pm was improper and arbitrary due to the fact that my car had not been ticketed the fifty or more times before last Tuesday when I had parked in the same place after 5pm or on weekends.
In a memo to the student body at the beginning of the term, Parking Operations told us that the purpose of issuing parking citations is to "correct improper parking practices". That's fine and dandy, but can someone please explain to me how my parking in the driveway between Collis and Thayer after 5pm when no deliveries had to be made and in such a manner as to allow the free flow of traffic down the driveway was improper? Can someone from Parking Operations please explain how the office was correcting improper parking practices when it ticketed UGAs who were parked at the Safety Complex on Rope Ferry Road for last year's pre-Fall Term ORL training?
The fact of the matter is that citing students for parking along the driveway between Collis and Thayer serves no higher philosophical ("correcting impropriety") purpose than fund-raising for the Office of Parking Operations. If the College wants students to follow a set of parking guidelines, it must make sure that they serve rational, logical purposes and are consistently and fairly enforced. Ticketing cars which are causing no obstruction to traffic or anything else does not meet these guidelines, especially not when done on only one night in three terms. The same goes for citing parking permits which are not stuck to the inside of a car window but rather sitting inside it. Issuing citations for the sake of issuing citations aggravates an environment already unfriendly to student-parkers. Unfortunately, the College continues to provide the incentive to fine students and, thus, arbitrary citations are not likely to cease in the near future.