John Hershey, neighborhood liaison for St. Thomas, said he has received about 40 separate complaints from neighbors this semester regarding student behavior.
“I’ve received a lot more really bitter complaints from people about roving bands of students,” Hershey said. “Not just that they’re in the neighborhood but that they’re being disrespectful … who knows what’s true and what’s not, but I don’t have reason to disbelieve them.”
Hershey wrote a letter to TommieMedia last week and said there have been “a significant number of disturbing incidents in the neighborhood over the past month.”
These “disturbing incidents” involve vomiting, destroying and stealing property, public urination and walking on cars. Hershey said these incidents have increased tenfold.
But writing a letter to TommieMedia wasn’t something he wanted to do. He said he was compelled to do so because of the circumstances.
“Writing that opinion piece was one of the saddest days in my professional life here,” he said. “That I had to actually write something to advise our students about, like, civility … It just made me sad.”
Since the posting of another letter to TommieMedia from neighbor Elaine Weber Nelson, there have been some hostile comments from students, alumni and other neighbors.
“I’ve heard from all sorts of people, ‘Don’t they know they live in a college neighborhood?’ Well, duh, yeah they do,” Hershey said. “But they have a right to be treated civilly.”
Some St. Thomas students think that there is no problem with how most students are treating neighbors. But others, like senior Amanda Leaveck, disagree.
“We forget that it’s not just St. Thomas students living here,” Leaveck said. “We just think, ‘Oh, it’s college!’ We forget that there are neighbors with families.”
Senior Greg Hartung said that the respect toward neighbors entirely depends on the group of students.
“There are those who are very polite, walk quietly and they don’t leave trash …” Hartung said. “Then there are those who don’t do that in their own houses and could probably care less about property that isn’t theirs.”
Hartung read Weber Nelson’s letter to TommieMedia and said he thought it was mostly polite.
“There were a few comments that were generalizing the student body,” he said. But Hartung added that the first comment on the letter was out of line. As for Hershey’s letter, Hartung said it was very professional and “a respectful reminder to everyone.”
Complaints have increased in the last few years
Hershey has been the neighborhood liaison for 12 years and said that this year, he has received the most complaints of this kind in such a short time period. He added that the number of complaints has been increasing a bit over the last three or four years.
There are several contributing factors to the number of complaints this year, Hershey said. The most influential factor may have been the long period of time between the beginning of September and the start of school as it created a “perfect storm” with many students starting leases Sept. 1.
“You’re looking at the only St. Thomas employee who walks out of his workplace on Friday afternoon and looks up at the sky and hopes for a cold, rainy weekend,” he said.
Hershey recognizes that sometimes the complaints come from the same neighbors on a different weekend because the behavior isn’t changing.
Selby Avenue: a hot spot for complaints
“The majority of the plaintiffs have let me know of their dissatisfaction on Selby but I’ve had complaints from Lincoln, from Cleveland, from Wilder north of Marshall, from Portland, Ashland, Laurel and Dayton as well as Selby,” he said. “[Selby’s] kind of a main artery; it leads back to campus from O’Garas and the Blue Door.”
Hershey has two sons in college and said that he can understand that some of the noise is innocent. He suggests common sense when going out at night, including keeping the noise down and not stealing or destroying property.
Stephani Bloomquist can be reached at email@example.com