Students criticize PATS’ decision to cancel parking permit refunds

Parking and Transportation Services said it can no longer provide parking permit refunds to students due to having to maintain parking facilities and operational costs. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

After already sending in their parking passes through the mail or dropping them off at Parking and Transportation Services (PATS), some students were disappointed when the department rescinded its statements to provide partial refunds. 

However, according to Assistant Director of Communications for Administrative Services Aaron Nichols, the situation was out of PATS’ hands. 

“After weighing the current and future financial impact of the COVID-19 situation, PATS was directed to change the policy,” Nichols said in an email to The Oracle.

Students were instructed to send their parking passes via mail or deliver in person by the March 29 deadline. However, on March 18, PATS sent an announcement informing students that the refunds were being “temporarily suspended,” despite it being well before the refund date. 

The email stated that “USF is working to develop a plan for refunding returned parking permits.” 

As a result, some students had already turned in the parking passes and others were upset they no longer could. 

“Some people being able to get refunds while others aren’t is unfair and makes me think differently about the university,” junior Brooke Myers said. “It’s very shady to give refunds in such a short window and then eliminate the refunds altogether.”

“As the refund policy was suspended, there were no refunds issued during this period (March 20-30),” Nichols said.

On March 30, PATS announced that the department was not going to give out the refunds at all. 

“This decision is to ensure Parking and Transportation Services can continue to meet existing requirements while maintaining our parking facilities and covering operational costs,” the announcement said. 

Nichols said the reasoning for the change is because PATS, which also runs the Bull Runner bus system on campus, is not funded by the state.

“Parking and Transportation Services functions as an auxiliary unit at USF. This means they do not get state funding. Instead, they must be self-supporting,” Nichols said.

Despite the department’s reasoning, students like sophomore Brooke Anderson said they doubt the money is going to the right places. 

“[PATS] never cared about us, this isn’t new or frankly unexpected,” Anderson said. “Let’s be real, I could use the refund, but it is by far the most dishonest department on campus so I never had my hopes up.”

Others, like nursing student Troy Moulton, said they understand the position the university is in.

“I think it is OK. They didn’t expect this to happen this semester,” Moulton said. “College students go into college knowing it is a money-sucking organization, and they have to do this to keep afloat. It baffles me that people care this much?”

Junior Aubrey Rigney also said that she can see where USF is coming from. 

“Of course, if I got a refund I’d be happy. But USF had no idea this would be the outcome of this semester,” Rigney said. “I believe they are doing everything they can to keep us happy and safe. At this point, I don’t think we should be greedy.”

USF is not the only university to deny students parking pass refunds. 

UF has also denied its students parking decal refunds, stating that “while the University of Florida will move classes online beginning Monday, March 16, the campus remains open and fully operational so no parking decal refunds will be available at this time.”

Students have said that they need those refunds for financial help, especially after many throughout the country have been laid off, caused by COVID-19 closures.

Parking permits for USF students can cost anywhere from $62 to $226, depending on vehicle, location and whether the permit is issued per semester or all year round. 

“After being stripped of my last semester and my right to walk across the stage, I also am being stripped of my finances that I so desperately need right now,” senior Lauren Scapin said. 

“The least they could do is give back the money for parking which could be a week to two weeks of groceries for many struggling kids.”

Nichols said he understands the frustration from students and the decision was made to “ensure the continuity of parking operations.”

“We appreciate the frustration of students who have parking permits and have not been on campus to utilize parking services,” Nichols said.

Additional reporting by Leda Alvim.