Food for fines: pay off parking tickets

At the Student Government Association retreat last fall, several senators discussed the possibility of UCAPD allowing students to pay their parking tickets by donating canned foods to charity.

When I first heard this idea, I immediately thought it should be implemented. The food students bring to the police department could be given to UCA’s on campus food pantry — Bear Essentials Food Pantry.

According to the Policy Solutions that work for Low-Income People website, “an estimated 20 to 33 percent of students at four-year colleges experience food insecurity.”

As previously reported in The Echo, “An average of 172 students benefit from the pantry every month.” Therefore, this program would help alleviate this problem.

Additionally, since one of UCA’s core values is service, the university should be interested in implementing this program.

The idea to lower fees through meal donation is not new to Conway. The Faulkner County Library, for instance, allows people to pay back a partial amount of their late fees in food for charity.

Other universities throughout the country have implemented this idea, too. The University of Pittsburgh at Georgetown started an event called “Donations for Citations.”

This two-month event “encourages people to donate certain food items to the Pitt Pantry — a local student-based food pantry on Pitt’s campus — in exchange for paying off tickets they received,” Emily Drzymalsk said in an article for The Pitt News.

University of Pittsburgh at Georgetown director of Parking Kevin Sheehy said the program was a success in an email he sent to Drzymalsk.

“The parking office looked at the most needed items listed on the Pitt Pantry website and came up with a tiered donation …we have seen a great response and a lot of support for the event,” Sheehy said.

I understand the need for parking ticket fees because they deter people from parking in areas that are off limits. However, this deterrent would still be in place if people had the option to donate meals to pay their tickets.

Last time I received a parking ticket, it was $15. However, I paid it off late, so my fee was doubled. If I had the option to lower my fee by bringing in food for charity, then I would have, and I think many students would choose this option as well.

UCA students pay a great deal in parking each semester.

“From August 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018, $77,306.45 was paid for parking citations,” UCAPD Cpl. Michael Hopper said.

The revenue from the tickets issued goes into the University’s General Fund, but I am unsure what those funds are used for or if this program would be possible to implement because UCAPD may need the funds to pay for things I am unaware of.

If the police department does not want to allow students to pay off their entire ticket fees by donating meals, then I hope it considers allowing students to pay off half of their ticket fees through the donation of meals or at least implementing a program like “Donations for Citations.”


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