Letter to the Editor: Commuter Services Lacks Empathy

I recently had to deal with the University Commuter Services on an issue involving a $20 parking ticket. After going through the complete appeals process and discussing my experience with fellow U graduate students and full-time University IT Professional colleagues, I have come away not only bitter and frustrated, but also extremely disappointed with the way in which commuter services handled my case.

I work in Komas Building 585 at Research Park. A year or so ago, our building management requested the help of Commuter Services to police our parking lot. This was needed because authorized employees were consistently unable to find parking spots in the morning. To alleviate the parking availability concern, one parking permit was issued for each employee. Those with two cars, if justified, were provided an additional guest pass with an expiration date.

The day I received a ticket in our parking lot, I had a valid temporary pass in my vehicle. However, it had somehow fallen, exposing an expired pass.

In my initial appeal, I had included an image of the valid pass hoping that Commuter Services would simply confirm the issue date of the valid pass and grant my appeal. Not only was my appeal denied, but I was confounded by how uncooperative the employees were throughout the entire process. After sending multiple emails asking for an explanation, I was simply told, “It is your duty to make sure that a valid pass is displayed before walking from the vehicle.” I was also told to contact Jonathan Wasden and my Komas building manager for any further inquiries.

I then contacted my building manager, who not only understood my situation, but also seemed to care. I suspect that my building manager wasn’t able to contact Jonathan easily, but when he did, his request was also denied. His response via email was, “I spoke to the Commuter Services and the parking violation stands as is. They said, ‘Feel free to escalate it to their director if that’s what you want to do.’”

It became clear to me that Commuter Services’ director, Alma Allred, is a hands-off type of person and doesn’t want to get involved in what may appear to be a “trivial matter.” I sent a few emails to Alma but she was unwilling to engage in a conversation about my predicament.

It wasn’t so much that I was expecting a resolution from her, but I was hoping to gain some understanding and get a better explanation of the rules as they apply to my particular situation.

When my first appeal was denied, I was given a grace period to pay the fine. This fine had to be paid before I could file an appeal with the appeals committee. When I tried to pay the fine within the allocated time, it had been prematurely increased. Upon my insistence for days, this error was finally fixed giving me a very short time to pay the initial cost of the fine.

I realize that, in many ways, Commuter Services provides a thankless service here on campus. I’m sure that many positive aspects of their daily services go unnoticed, and unappreciated. Yet, having spoken with many other students and peers, there is no doubt in my mind that there is a serious need for improving the lines of communication between Commuter Services and the campus community.

According to our building manager, due to technical reasons and Commuter Services’ limitations, employees in 585 Komas are unable to switch to virtual permits like the rest of campus. Until that happens, unfortunately, all the employees in the building will have to continue dealing with Commuter Services’ ruthless imposition.

Based on my own experience, and the experiences of my colleagues, the Commuter Services department is inconsistent, biased and seems to lack a culture of empathy that is vital to any regulatory entity. If this department is to regain my respect, and retain the respect of the rest of the campus body, it must become more flexible, compassionate, and communicative.

Amir Masood, Systems Administration, UIT

[email protected]