When the Township and College Together (TACT) committee started its Fourth Annual Good Neighbor Forum, there was one question: Where are all the students?
The forum, which took place on the night of Wednesday, Oct. 25, was open to all “community members, township leaders, and (College) students, faculty and staff,” according to a press release.
However, only one student representative, PJ Spigner, IGC liaison to the TACT committee, was present.
“We’re sort of preaching to the choir,” Patrice Coleman-Boatwright, associate vice president of Public Affairs, said. Coleman-Boatwright added that that’s not necessarily a bad thing because “the choir needs support, too.”
According to TACT chairwoman Marita Sciarrotta, the committee started “out of what seemed like a real need for dialogue between” the Ewing community and the College.
“Everyone else is looking to someone else to take responsibility,” Janis Blayne Paul, community and major events coordinator at the College, said during the open discussion at the end of the forum.
During the open discussion, community residents shared their experiences having College students as neighbors.
Mildred Russell, vice president of the Brae-burn Civic Association, pointed out that most of the houses that landlords rent to College students are old homes situated near communities where older Ewing residents live.
Russell, who said she found 10 Solo plastic cups on the ground on her way to the meeting that night, said that students “have to have some respect for the community.”
Tom Kreszl, the only landlord at the meeting, faced criticism from some members of the Ewing community who felt that landlords should pay closer attention to what the students renting their homes do inside those houses.
“I am not their parents,” Kreszl said. “(College students) are adults. At a certain point, it’s no longer my responsibility.”
Spigner said the general attitude of students renting homes off campus is that “we live off campus. We shouldn’t have to deal with the College.” Spigner added that “if there’s a disturbance at the student’s house, it’s the student’s fault.”
Some Ewing residents were particularly concerned with the noise students make when leaving a party and walking back to campus in large groups.
“If the students behave themselves, they can do what they want,” Todd Roundtree, the leader of Ewing’s community watch program for the area near the College, said.
Sometimes, Roundtree said, students going back to campus slam car doors early in the morning or damage mailboxes.
One proposed solution was increased communication.
Spigner, who lives off campus, said he has a good relationship with his Ewing neighbors, who introduced themselves to Spigner and the other students he lives with.
Jim McManimon, Ewing Township business administrator, said Ewing residents insist that “if students have a party, they respect the neighborhood.”
Despite past problems, Grace Montgomery, Ewing Township resident and president of Brae-burn Civic Association, said, “I have seen a great improvement in my area (this year).”
Montgomery said part of the reason for the improved relationship between herself and her college-aged neighbors may stem from the fact that she introduced herself when the students moved in.
Attendees of the forum broke into small groups at the start of the meeting to discuss different hypothetical scenarios. The scenarios were, according to Sciarrotta, “exaggerations that are based in fact.”
In the “Tuesday Night Party” situation, a loud party took place in a house next to a home occupied by a family with young children. In the situation, the family left its house for school and work the next morning and found blue and red plastic cups littering the lawn, as well as a used condom.
A second situation involved a loud dog that disrupted the student tenants of the house next door.
Participants were asked to react to the hypothetical situations from someone else’s perspective.
“Who cares about the community but the people who live in it?” McManimon said, speaking from the perspective of a landlord.
Attendees of the meeting included vice president of Student Life James Norfleet, Sgt. Michael Bell of Campus Police and associate vice president of Administrative and Environmental Services Kathryn Leverton.
“I was very upset to hear that there weren’t at least a few students in attendance at the TACT meeting,” Christine Cullen, Student Government Association (SGA) executive president, said.
According to Cullen, SGA plans to assign a senator to attend future TACT meetings.