When preparing for St. Thomas students’ return to campus this fall after the St. Paul housing ordinance was passed, Neighborhood Liaison John Hershey created a public document outlining neighborhood initiatives that the university supports to reduce student disturbances.
Hershey said he wrote the 10-page document to give neighbors a tangible reminder that the university continues to monitor student behavior in the neighborhood throughout the year.
“My purpose in making the document as long as it was, was to challenge people to read it. You can really see what we continue to do on a monthly basis,” Hershey said. “It’s something that we work at all year.”
Hershey organized the document by month, spanning from April 2012 to May 2013.
One initiative in the document includes Public Safety working with an off-duty St. Paul police officer to help patrol the neighborhood and respond more quickly should a problem arise.
Bobby Ranallo, neighborhood student advisor, said the tension between neighbors and students that inspired this document’s creation is not a new one.
“It’s something that’s been going on for a long time,” Ranallo said. “It seems like it’s just heating up now, but it’s always been there.”
Sophomore Brooke Hill said she thinks neighbors overreact to students’ noise levels.
“They knew when they moved in that there is a college close by,” Hill said. “If they don’t like it, they should move.”
Hershey said students who make excuses for the noise made probably won’t help resolve student-neighbor conflict.
“People say, ‘Don’t you get it? You live in a college neighborhood.’ That’s one of the most irksome lines I think people can hear,” Hershey said. “My response is always, ‘Don’t you feel you have a social obligation to be polite?’”
After Hershey receives a complaint, Josh Hengemuhle, area manager for Off-Campus Student Services, meets with the St. Thomas students involved.
“My role is to get the students’ side of the story. I want to make sure that the university has record of what the students’ perspective is,” he said. “It’s not hostile, it’s not ill-willed, I really want to be helpful and make sure they can figure out how living in the neighborhood is different.”
Ranallo said as a neighborhood student advisor, a position created last year, he serves as a “go-between” for students and community members.
“We’re advocates for neighborhood students,” Ranallo said. “We try to keep an eye out. Also, to some extent, trying to help give students the tools to be better neighbors.”
Hershey said if students are conscientious, they can avoid clashing with neighbors.
“Just understanding where you are and how your actions are perceived by others; just trying to be a little more polite,” Hershey said. “It’s that simple.”
Ranallo said being personable with neighbors goes a long way.
“My biggest piece of advice is to go say ‘hi’ to your neighbors. Try to make friends and give them your phone number so that if you have any problems, they call you before they call the police,” Ranallo said.
He also advised students to steer clear of traveling in big groups and encouraged student homeowners to be aware of who they invite to their house.
Ranallo hopes students will rethink negative attitudes and adopt new habits to improve neighborhood relations.
“I think the most important thing we could do right now is not only be civil, but keep reminding people of the positive things we’re doing,” Ranallo said. “People want to be good neighbors.”
Baihly Warfield can be reached at email@example.com.