Students express frustration over university’s decision to not reimburse them for parking passes amid COVID-19 campus shutdown
With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting normal life across the globe, the University of Victoria is receiving criticism from students for not refunding the 12-month annual parking pass after classes for the remainder of the winter term and entire summer term moved online in March.
An annual parking pass for the 2019/20 school year cost $568.05, which the university says is offered at a discount price compared to purchasing daily parking passes. 2 419 students purchased annual parking passes this year.
When UVic announced on March 26 that all summer courses would be offered virtually, students reached out to the university to ask for a refund for the months they won’t be physically on campus.
At $568.05 over 12 months, students paid about $250 for parking spots they’ll never park in.
“Basically, UVic has offered us six and a half months out of a year’s worth of service, and then they’re cancelling it and not giving us a refund for the five and a half months that we can’t use now,” says Aaron Elsser, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student, in a telephone interview with the Martlet.
Elsser originally heard about the issue from a friend, who forwarded him an email from Patrick Seward, UVic Manager of Parking and Transportation. After being asked for a refund, Seward responded by outlining how the annual parking pass cannot be refunded as it was originally offered at a discount price.
In the email, Seward wrote that the $568.05 parking pass works out to be $47.34 per month and $2.37 per day — which is a 73 per cent discount on the daily parking pass of nine dollars. Also, the university’s Traffic and Parking regulations state that annual parking passes cannot be refunded after the final working day of December.
At the time of writing, Elsser had not heard back from UVic since emailing them on April 21.
In an email interview with the Martlet, Paul Marck, Associate Manager of Public Affairs, wrote that parking is considered an ancillary service for the university and that fees go towards the operations of Campus Security Services along with UVic’s maintenance of their parking infrastructure.
Marck also clarified that although classes have moved online, UVic is not closed and there are students being supported on campus by campus staff. For these reasons, based on the discounts and university regulations, Marck confirmed that parking passes would not be refunded.
“Despite the cancellation of most face-to-face services and classes, UVic is not closed as the university continues operations, albeit many of them remotely and with many facilities shut due to the risks of COVID-19. Also, there are students who continue to live on campus and employees who are regularly on campus for work that supports those students.”
After UVic shut down CARSA and all other athletic facilities on March 16 until at least June 30, Marck says that students on four- and eight-month membership plans will receive a credit on their account.
“Students with four- or eight-month memberships will have a credit applied to their account, while 12-month memberships will be determined and applied upon resumption of regular services. Faculty, staff, retirees and community members will receive a membership extension once CARSA reopens”
Marck went go on to say that it’s too early to speculate when CARSA will reopen, and that Vikes Athletics and the university will listen to the Provincial Health Officer and the BC Centre for Disease Control to decide when it is safe to open. A decision will also be made in the coming weeks regarding the future of Vikes Summer Camps.
Elsser, who also held a CARSA membership, received a $25 credit for the month lost on his gym pass after hearing back from the athletic facility after reaching out about a refund. Elsser expressed that he doesn’t see it fair that he was able to receive a credit for his CARSA membership, but not for the five months left on his parking pass.
“It makes no sense because I received a credit from CARSA for only one month we were missing, and the parking pass was supposed to go until August and it’s worth way more than the CARSA membership.”