The Problem with Public Safety’s Parking Misconduct

Public safety vehicle spotted parking within a handicapped spot.

If you have a car on campus this semester, I can guarantee you’ve had trouble finding parking at some point. It’s not uncommon on West campus to see cars parked up on grass fields or left on the side of the road in makeshift spots. Students are not alone in their difficulties to locate parking as Public Safety vehicles often resort to the same tactics. However, many students have also reported a disturbing trend: Public Safety vehicles parking in handicap designated spots across campus.

 The Americans with Disabilities Act requires parking spaces in most lots to designate parking spots accessible for temporary or permanently disabled individuals. They are placed closer to building entrances and provide sufficient surface area for those with certain disabilities to conveniently enter and exit their vehicle. Any misuse of these spots not only violates federal and state law but threatens the accessibility of spaces for disabled Americans.   

 Within the state of Pennsylvania, including Villanova’s campus, handicap spot violators are subject to towing and fines ranging from $250 to $1200. While it’s common to see fluorescent parking tickets placed on student vehicles across campus, few if any of us have likely seen one placed on a Public Safety vehicle. 

 Take one look at the popular Instagram account @villanovashittyparking and one can find a well-documented catalogue of Public Safety parking offenses. Posts illustrate the department’s vehicles parked within multiple spots, in the middle of walking paths and even officers’ personal vehicles parked in fire zones. Most concerningly, one picture depicts a Public Safety vehicle neatly parked in the middle of a handicapped spot with a “Violators will be subject to fine and towing” sign ironically noticeable in the background. 

 Anna Schmult, a senior at Villanova who took and submitted the aforementioned photo to the account claims that “it was taken on a Saturday at 7 p.m., and the entire rest of the parking lot was empty.”

 “Another issue I’ve seen is over by Tolentine, where the officers on duty in the guard booth park their personal vehicles by the building in that striped off area near the handicapped spot,” Schmult said.

 One of the department’s primary duties is to prevent the very activity they actively engage in. Operating above University policy and the law only encourages and condones similar behavior. 

 “There aren’t enough parking spots to begin with, and Pub Safety will regularly take up two spots at a time or park in illegal areas,” junior Andrew McSheffrey said.

 If the student body doesn’t hold the authority to ticket Public Safety vehicles themselves, what can we do? Spreading awareness is an important first step. Social media posts by students have already documented the issue as legitimate and widespread. The owner of the account, @villanovash*ttyparking, who’s asked to remain anonymous, claims they had “started the account for some fun, but also had hoped to actually make some positive change.”

In a statement to The Villanovan, Villanova University Assistant Vice President of Communication, Jonathan Gust said, “the Department of Public Safety recognizes the importance of maintaining adequate ADA parking on campus, and they are committed to addressing issues regarding misuse of these spaces,” once they receive reported complaints about this issue. He also emphasized that it is “helpful to know background information on the situation” and that there may be medical emergencies that require officers to, “park and get into a building quickly to respond.” 

It’s important to report these instances to Public Safety so they can gain more insight into the situation and understand the context. Gust encouraged students to submit an Internal Complaint Investigation via the Department of Public Safety’s website if they witness potential misconduct. This may be done by filling out the Make a Complaint Form online, emailing the Director of Public Safety at david.tedjeske@villanova.edu or calling the department’s office at 610-519-5800.

In addition to reporting a complaint via Public Safety, other outlets can be employed to alert the school of widespread misconduct. Students may protest to the Student Government Association (SGA) by submitting anonymous requests in writing through their box in the Connelly Center. The Department of Public Safety ought to be scrutinized by us Villanovans in order to ensure they execute the responsibility of “providing a safe, secure living and learning environment for the community.” Unlawful parking is a direct threat to fellow Villanovans and it is crucial that we hold one another accountable, especially the department in which we entrust to protect us from offenders. The responsibility now lies upon the Department of Public Safety and Villanova’s administration to put an end to this unlawful misconduct. They must set a standard that operating above the law and contradictory to our communities’ values will not be tolerated on campus.