Take it to the judge

Students appealing campus-parking fines may soon find themselves appearing in front of the men (and women) in black.

A new parking appeals process, if approved by Parking and Transportation Services, will see student appeals reviewed, and selected cases adjudicated, by the Student Government supreme court. Details of the new process will be presented to Greg Sylvester, director for Parking and Transportation Services, Tuesday. If Sylvester agrees, the new appeals process could be in place for students’ return in the fall.

Dustin Sachs, supreme court chief justice and one of the architects of the new process, said the new appeals system reflected the shift to greater student accountability promoted by the current state administration.

“With House Bill 353 giving Student Government more power and more weight within the state, and asking students to be more responsible for themselves, I think that this will add to that level of responsibility,” Sachs said. “The only way we can teach students about responsibility is for their peers to be holding them responsible.”

Under the new system, initial appeals would still be assessed by Parking and Transportation Services. Students would then have 14 days from the date of notification of the denial of the initial appeal to escalate their case to the supreme court. The regular court meetings of nine justices will then assess each appeal. Students whose appeals the court deems warrant a hearing will be notified of a hearing date when the student, or a Student Government student counselor representing the student, would be expected to attend to represent their case. The authority of the court will only permit them to uphold or rescind violations, not to amend the amount of fines. The new appeals process will not apply to faculty, staff or visitors who commit parking violations.

A committee of three faculty members and three students currently review parking appeals. According to Sachs, the committee has difficulty fielding its full quota of students.

“Most of the time, the committee is three staff members and maybe one student with a simple majority needed to set the vote,” he said. “If the two faculty members, minus the chair, vote against the student, the one student representative has really no say, and that’s unacceptable. Students need to have a say in what’s being done on their campus.”

The new process, if implemented, will greatly increase the workload of supreme court members. Sachs estimates they would consider between 60 to 70 appeals each week, in addition to any appeals that are granted a hearing.

“(The proposal) wouldn’t affect the overall budget at all because it would come from extra money that is set aside,” Sachs said. ” It would require that the hours that myself and the other senior justices would put in would increase dramatically.”

Sylvester said he would wait to see the details of the proposal before he reached any conclusion, but he was concerned the division of student and non-student appeal processes would mean maintaining a two-tier system.

“I really don’t have an opinion until I see the specifics,” Sylvester said. “It’s an idea we can certainly look at. It will require a significant amount of rule changes.”

Sylvester did add that he was in favor of students taking more responsibility on campus.

I look at a lot of the processes on this campus that involve students as part of the academic process. If they’re really going to do a judicial review process then I don’t have a problem with that.

When asked what would happen if a justice found himself or herself reviewing the appeal of a friend, Sachs said the existing procedures for justices and Student Government officials were sufficient in dealing with abuses of position.

“Any justice, or any representative of the court, who is found to be biased towards friends or people that they have personal contact with, would be handled with the appropriate disciplinary procedures set up in student government constitution and statues,” Sachs said.

Students hoping the proposed change in appeal process will herald a more lenient approach to parking violations may be disappointed.

“I think that it will allow for some understanding,” said Sachs. ” But I don’t think that just because we’re students and we understand what (students appealing) are going through that that’s going to weigh. We have to remember that as members of the judicial branch that emotions are supposed to stay outside of the court and that we’re supposed to be making judgments just on the rules.”