Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since it was originally published.
With the removal of parking lots for new academic buildings and restrictions where people can park, parking at a growing college campus can be difficult. Students receive tickets attached to the front of their cars’ windshields daily for not having the correct permits and sometimes they even get a boot.
With that in mind, Student Government Association (SGA) launched Food for Fines, a pilot program where students can donate food or other acceptable items to The SHOP for forgiveness dollars, which will help students pay tickets.
According to Jason Brooks, the SGA’s assistant vice president of student affairs and a junior political science major, one donated item equals $2, and students can earn up to $30 by donating 15 items. However, he stressed that the forgiveness dollars are only good for undergraduate students with $50 parking violations.
Junior biology major Christine Pobega, a student who tried to use the pilot program, said that when she went to make a donation for forgiveness dollars, she was told that the appropriate amount Rowan Bucks for her donation would be put on her account once she paid her parking fine.
All donations must be dropped off and verified at the SGA office located in the Student Center during the following dates: Jan. 27-31; Feb. 24-28; March 23-27; April 27-May 1. Along with donations, students must bring their parking ticket number, student ID and banner number.
Students online from Rutgers University and North Carolina A&T State University (NCAT) have expressed their wishes for a program to help pay parking fines with food donations. Both schools have a food pantry similar to Rowan’s The SHOP.
While several students express excitement on Twitter, some students wish Rowan would add more parking spaces and another student worries about the students with food insecurities who might have trouble paying fines.
Brooks encourages students who are food insecure to go to The SHOP and utilize it. The SHOP, located at the Rowan Boulevard Apartments in Room 141 of building five, opens at select hours on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
“We’re not saying ‘the only way to pay for your parking violation is to give us cans of green beans.’ That’s not what it is,” Brooks said.
He brought up the idea last April and has worked on Food for Fines since July. Since the beginning, Brooks has gotten support from the administration.
“Many of the students who would take part in the program maybe wouldn’t have given to The SHOP otherwise, and this is an opportunity to introduce them to The SHOP,” Andrew Perrone, the assistant director of volunteerism, said.
One of the major things SGA had to figure out while planning Food for Fines was the money they would be taking from parking tickets.
“It’s a substantial amount of money that you’re knocking off of people’s bills. It adds up,” Brooks said.
The money from parking tickets goes to Rowan’s general fund, Rowan’s main account, and it gets dispersed to different areas, according to Brooks.
Since Food for Fines is a pilot program, midway through the semester SGA will evaluate the program. If the program is a success, Brooks hopes to expand it so everyone, including faculty, employees and graduates, can participate.
“We have to get people excited about it and we need people to know about it, because if people get a ticket it kills two birds with one stone,” Brooks said. “I would love to see The SHOP filled to capacity.”
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