By Juan Garcia
As public editor, it is my job to criticize the student run paper any time it is being unfair. But it’s also my responsibility to tell reporters and readers when the campus’ only student-run media outlet has done a good job. Here’s one case where I think the staff put critical thinking and ethics ahead of deadlines.
This semester there was an outcry against students who don’t pay for parking permits.
As of Dec. 6, 2,550 student parking permits have been sold, according to the university police department. Compare that to the approximately 4,000 students enrolled at Texas A&M-San Antonio this semester and you’ll see that we have a large proportion of the student body that is parking illegally.
How are those students pulling it off when everyone else has had to pay the full $60 for the privilege to park?
Sergeant Robert Lopez said there is no excuse for not buying the parking permit. The fine for parking without a permit is $50, and the longer students wait to purchase their permits, the greater students risk individual fines adding up to hundreds of dollars.
“We would like it if all the students bought the pass,” Lopez said. “But there is no set quota for how many get sold.”
Several complaints regarding the passes were brought to the attention of The Mesquite. During “Story Booth,” a Mesquite-sponsored outreach event in the cafeteria of Main Campus Building, one education major told a reporter that she avoids UPD by placing an old ticket on her windshield to avoid getting ticketed again.
Overhearing this, another student who paid for the permit, said students like that make her “incredibly mad.” She cautioned the newspaper that if they were going to report on parking issues, they better bring up the issue of cheating; students who claim excuses (not enough money, a household to run, limited hours on campus) are cheating those who pay for their permits.
The student run newspaper decided that it was their job to investigate the matter once it became apparent that permit holders were getting argumentative with non-permit holders who were finding illegal means to park.
However, before reporting on the issue, The Mesquite’s faculty adviser asked editors if they were in good standing with UPD. Did their own staff members all own parking permits?
Not exactly. Half of the editorial board members did not.
It is The Mesquite’s job to speak out on student issues; to be their voice when they feel as if their concerns are falling on deaf ears. However, at the same time they asked themselves whether it’s ethical to report on an issue where they are also having compliance issues.
Can a news staff objectively report on parking violations if its own members practice the same tricks? One admitted that she places an old ticket on her dashboard to ward off UPD. As an editor on assignment, and parking illegally, she had to ask whether student reporters should be held to higher standards.
You’ll notice that The Mesquite hasn’t written about parking permits this semester, even though it’s been a concern among students. The student-run newspaper believes in fair and accurate reporting.
Although they devote themselves to working tirelessly for the student body, they must always be aware of how they are representing themselves. In this instance, they put their ethics ahead of a good story and the whole university needs to be mindful of this.
Hopefully, in the spring The Mesquite will be able to follow parking trends and pick up where this semester’s staff left off. But only if everyone on the news team purchases their parking permits, which is now part of student media policy.