As the heated dialogue over Portland House continues, opposing views of the house just can’t seem to meet halfway. Since Brian Close’s article appeared in The Minnesota Daily on April 13, the halfway house near campus has been a prominent issue of student concern and debate. While both sides of the issue have been vigorously argued in editorial letters, supporters of the criminal rehabilitation center’s location present the most valid and logical arguments. Portland House does not pose a threat to students, and it should be allowed to carry on its mission without interference from the University community.
Portland House provides convicted criminals a transition between jail and their return to the general community. Most Portland House opponents cite the threat of crime as the central deterrent to the halfway house. They contend that the house, which is next to a sorority home, increases the risk of victimization on campus. Advocates of keeping Portland House have argued that universities should be places of acceptance. They add that halfway house residents are trying to rehabilitate themselves and should not have to serve a second sentence.
Portland House has resided near campus for 25 years, and complaints about it have surfaced just recently. The halfway house residents have not posed a significant disturbance to members of the neighboring sorority house before. Sorority members don’t have a justifiable reason why their neighbor’s behavior would suddenly change. The attitudes of some sorority house members and University community members have changed instead. Complaints about neighbors crossing each other’s lawns is an everyday occurrence and is not culture-specific. The views of the halfway house’s opponents make the University community as a whole look uninformed, ignorant and uncooperative. It is unfortunate that some of these outdated views still exist. In a setting where rehabilitation was once accepted and encouraged, it now meets with anger and distrust.
It is not the University’s responsibility to punish these men. Courts of law have already done so. Opponents should instead encourage sorority members to work with the halfway house to ensure the safety and prosperity of the entire Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. Showing hostility toward members of Portland House will do nothing but encourage ill feelings from halfway house members. This would likely bring about the exact reaction halfway house opponents fear. Drastic measures such as the proposed removal of the house should only be taken after genuine attempts have been made to resolve potential conflicts. Only by learning more about the rules and workings of the halfway house will opponents learn how to accept its presence.
College serves two primary purposes. Aside from the obvious purpose of academically preparing students, college helps induct students into the real world. It encourages openness and understanding rather than discrimination and ignorance. Opponents of the halfway house should face the issues, not chase them away. Until they learn to work with, rather than against, others, problems such as the Portland House debate will continue to cause unwarranted and unnecessary controversy.