Marcy-Holmes residents said they hope community events like eating chili at a neighbor’s place during finals week or building a float for a Fourth of July parade will bring an end to rancorous student-homeowner relations.
The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association is working with students and University officials to build stronger relationships and better communication.
“We’ve got to be proactive,” Marcy-Holmes homeowner Joe Stokes said. “Then when something happens you already have a name and a face.”
Failure to Communicate
All sides recognize deeper problems than loud students and nosy neighbors. One problem has been how to engender meaningful discussions between the factions.
Joe Blankholm, a cultural studies senior, said people need to learn to connect on a one-to-one basis.
“If you don’t want your neighbor mowing his lawn at 7 a.m., don’t throw a party that lasts until three in the morning,” Blankholm said.
Like Stokes, Blankholm said he believes the basic policy of being a good neighbor and getting to know the people next door is important to foster communication.
Associate Vice-Provost of the Office of University Relations Jerry Rinehart said residents often fear students will “take over” their neighborhood, and students often feel excluded because they are not full-time residents.
“The only time there is communication was when something bad happened,” Rinehart said, citing the hockey riots of 2002 and 2003, and loud house parties in the neighborhood.
Neighborhood association President Brian Beal said homeowners in Marcy-Holmes have not hesitated to use the police as a mediator in the past.
“To have a party in the neighborhood is really not intelligent,” Beale said. “The police have to show up.”
But some said they think this reaction has led to the poor communication.
“You don’t have relationships if you’re just reacting to people,” Stokes said. “I’m not just some old guy trying to ruin the party, and (student residents are) not just some kids trying to keep me awake.”
The student contribution
The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association holds spots for students during its meetings, but those chairs are often empty, board members said.
University Relations Director Jan Morlock said getting students to attend the neighborhood meetings is a perennial problem.
“Students have so much on their plate that unless they have a specific issue, it is hard for them to carve out space,” Morlock said.
This is one issue the students and community representatives are trying to work out, Morlock said.
Interfraternity Council President Paul Horner said he thinks many students are more interested in participating in area activities than the administration of the neighborhood.
Blankholm said an ever-changing student population makes it difficult to form relationships.
“Part of the problem is the high turnover with students, and there is no student organization,” Blankholm said. “There is nothing that binds them all together.”
Homeowner Ardis Johnson said, “Every September I’m separated by new neighbors. Every year you have to build up a new neighborhood.”
Despite continual introductions, Rinehart believes the short tenure of students can be a positive.
“You don’t have the history with students,” he said. “They don’t care so much about past bad things; they talk about making things better going forward.”
Student participation in the neighborhood has produced results.
The PanHellenic Council, an inter-sorority group, leads the “Light up the Night” campaign for better street lighting on Fifth Street. And former Interfraternity Council President John Kokkinen worked last year to draft amendments for neighborhood association bylaws.
“It was a good faith effort and it was frustrating that it didn’t pass,” Rinehart said of the bylaw amendment attempt. “But I think there was some good groundwork laid.”
Many hope increased student involvement and face-to-face communication will eliminate miscommunication.
To do this, the neighborhood association hired a student liaison to communicate with student residents on a door-to-door basis.
Sara Schwan, a liberal arts senior who has lived in Marcy-Holmes for nine months, was hired as a communicator between groups.
“This position was created to let (students) know that they are welcome in the neighborhood,” Schwan said. ” Ö and to help make the best possible living situation.”
Blankholm said he thinks the student liaison will help improve the relationship between students and homeowners.