Letter: It’s our neighborhood, too

Dear St. Thomas Students:

We hope you had a great summer and want to welcome you back to this neighborhood for fall semester! The key word in that previous sentence being “neighborhood”. While you are here, aspiring to higher thinking and planning your future, we ask that you consider your actions when walking, biking or just plain stumbling through the neighborhood. We ask that you treat our yards and streets with the same respect that you would your own home, wherever you might hail from. We won’t bore you with a list of the blatant vandalism that occurs most weekends, but we trust that you wouldn’t throw garbage on, vomit on or vandalize your own parent’s yard.

We live here because we like the area; however, we don’t like your actions from time to time. They frustrate us and set a bad example for everyone – including the many children that live here and your fellow students. Now we understand the freedom you feel while at school. The fact is, many people in this neighborhood attended St. Thomas – and came back because this is a nice place to live. But with that freedom hopefully comes maturity. I won’t bore you with the various items (some disgusting) found in our yards–except for the poor fella who left his clothes and underwear on our front porch along with his cell phone. We just couldn’t resist calling the listing “home” in the cell phone and telling his mother where his personal items currently reside.

We aren’t objecting to the fact that you throw parties or walk around the neighborhood – this is where you live, as much as it is where we do. We object to the fact that you want to be considered – and treated – as adults, but you don’t seem to act like them. Have you stopped to consider that there are people asleep in those houses you walk by, talking on cell phones, at 2 a.m.? That maybe you don’t need to slam your doors shut, after leaving them in front of our houses for 2-3 days at a time so you don’t have to pay for the ramp parking? Do you really think that is how adults act? Please realize that others live here, besides you. This is a diverse community – ethnically, economically and demographically – and that’s a good thing, but it requires respect from all parties to make it work well.

You chose St. Thomas for various reasons. One certainly was the urban setting, the wonderful campus and the surrounding beautiful neighborhoods. Help us keep it that way. Please don’t destroy what you value.

And if in the future you decide to return to live here–as so many have–because this is a stable, wonderful place to live with access to all the amenities the Cities have to offer – and a large number of private Catholic schools for your children to attend from kindergarten through college – we would welcome you. But we would also hand you some ear plugs and garbage bags and warn you to “brace yourself—they’re back” when fall comes each year. Which is unfortunate for all of us.

Elaine Weber Nelson

Class of 1986

19 Replies to “Letter: It’s our neighborhood, too”

  1. I’m glad we could re-establish that fact that there is a generational disconnect, oh and that you’re super old and forgot what it’s like to be 18-22. Yes, some students behave in less than flattering manners, however, “We object to the fact that you want to be considered – and treated – as adults, but you don’t seem to act like them.” Who exactly are you directing that to? With a campus of 6,500 undergrads, you couldn’t possibly be referring to all of us?

    “That maybe you don’t need to slam your doors shut, after leaving them in front of our houses for 2-3 days at a time so you don’t have to pay for the ramp parking?” – Yeah, we’re in college. We don’t pay for things that are free. I apologize for leaving the library at 2am because I had 2 exams the next day. It must be tough waking up and having to drive your kids to school and then sit around watching Young and the Restless all day. Oh am I stereotyping? Sorry… your letter must be rubbing off on me.

    Keep in mind, we have polar opposite lifestyles and you chose to move next to a college. Yes, it’s a beautiful area however writing a letter to the student newspaper is not going to change the lifestyle of students, which have been this way for generations. Remember Animal House? That was 1978. It’s not breaking news that college students party.

    (Flips off AM radio and sets down cup of decaffeinated coffee) Oh, and GET OFF MY LAWN!

  2. I agree with Matt that neighbors should treat students more as equals and less as adversaries. I have never urinated, vomited, vandalized, or done anything else of the sort in the neighborhood. I am sorry if some others in my class have but don’t rope me in please.

  3. I disagree with Matt. Wow-Matt so your excuse is you are inconsiderate and rude because you are young and in college? Apparently the letter was directed at you and not the other 6500 students.

  4. If you choose to live near a college campus, you make the conscious decision to expose yourself to the obvious parts of college life. Believe it or not, college students drink and do stupid stuff. Now its not as if their behavior extends throughout the week, mostly it only happens on Friday and Saturday nights. Short in short, deal with it or move away from a college campus. Simple as that!

  5. To those who are against this letter–Apparently we no longer have respect for the community and don’t hold ourselves accountable for the ignorant and stupid things we sometimes do. Do we, St. Thomas students, all of a sudden rule this community that we live in? Should we be able to do whatever we want (ie urinating on property, screaming at 4am, leaving bottles and cans everywhere) with no consideration of other people who live here?

    How about realizing the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around us and start understanding that there are other people who live here too.

  6. I don’t think anyone is questioning the fact that urinating, vomiting, vandalizing, or anything of that sort is completely wrong and should not occur. Contrary to what James is alluding to, I have never done any of those things during my time at St. Thomas. The reason why I wrote that first comment was not to condone such behavior – rather to criticize the condescending approach that Elaine chose to take regarding this issue.

    If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.

  7. The question here is not whether such activity (vomiting, being loud, littering, etc) is disrespectful…it obviously is.  The criticism that I share with Matt of this letter is the fact that the author generalized these attributes to ALL college students.  I am one of the students that gets annoyed with the obnoxious, immature behavior that is so often exhibited by members of my class.  Please don’t rope us all into the same pen.

    Also, the comment regarding students parking on the street was a bit uncalled for.  As Matt said in the original response, there is no reason at all to pay over $200 per semester just to park in an on campus lot.  Streets are public property, even if they are in front of a house.  Us students have just as much of a right to park on a public street that does not require a permit as residents do. 

    I do not condone obnoxious, disrespectful, and inappropriate behavior.  However, these behaviors come from a minority on this campus.  The rest of us do our best to be good neighbors…as for the parking situation, welcome to the city :)

    -Stefan Wolf-

  8. Although i agree that its wrong to generalize us like that, I don’t necessarily think that’s what she’s doing. I sort of took it as more of a “if you’re one of these people, listen” If you’re not doing anything wrong, chances are, nobody’s mad at you.

  9. Matt: As a UST alum, I’m so embarrassed by the selfishness of your comments. Instead of being outraged that the writer had the audacity to complain, why not ask what you can do to improve the situation? The writer explained her position in a civil way; why not you, too? Mature people certainly remember what it was like to be young. But, sorry, youth doesn’t excuse rudeness. If you were a law-abiding, tax-paying homeowner proud of the community in which you live, you’d take exception to others trashing the place and keeping your family up at night.

  10. “Instead of being outraged that the writer had the audacity to complain, why not ask what you can do to improve the situation? The writer explained her position in a civil way; why not you, too?”

    So I’m guessing that sweeping generalizations are the very definition of civility? And this is not a community-wide problem where we all have to band together to “improve the situation.” Any conflict here is caused by a few careless individuals, whose actions are rude and irresponsible, yes, but that is not the fault or concern of the entire student body.

  11. I have to disagree with you, Pat. What is selfish about those comments? He’s right – the author of this letter came out guns-a-blazing accusing every St. Thomas student of said behavior. That is not civil and is certainly not a way to improve the situation. I’m glad he said that – someone needed to.

  12. I am glad to see a healthy discourse on this subject. Yes, generalizations and sterotyping does happen. You may not like that, but to paraphrase Matt L. from his initial reply “that is not breaking news”. A few really can create a poor reflection of the many. Unfortunately it appears so far that those whose actions we are discussing don’t seem to be participating in this process. So to those of you who are offended by the sweeping generalization of the letter–-stand up and do something about it. Writing a letter to the school paper is a good first step. Do more. Forward the letter onto the University administration. Tell them you upset that such a few can cast a bad light on the whole student body. Voice your opinion—Facebook, Twitter or in person to friends. Be outraged that you are lumped in with students who act like this. Personal responsibility does not stop with oneself, it is also about holding others accountable for their actions that will directly or indirectly affect you. If that is not apparent yet it will be at some point in the future. I disagree with J.W.’s comment, apparently to some of you it does seem to be a concern for the student body and for that I am grateful. Truly I hope more students are offended by the actions of their classmates and will choose to voice their opinions and take some small step to hold them accountable.

  13. Well, it sure seems like I hit a nerve with my open letter to the UST student body. Just to clarify, I was directing the letter specifically at those students who feel their rights as individuals to do whatever they like pre-empt anyone else’s. Certainly, this is not the entire student body and I’m sorry if anyone took it as such. There are a few students whose behavior overshadows the majority and therefore becomes the focal point of the issue. While I suppose I am “super old” at 46, I do understand college students, since I teach at both the Carlson School at the U of Mn and occasionally at St. Thomas. I have defended college student behavior to my neighbors and explained that a diverse community is part of the reason we moved into Merriam Park to many friends who have the incorrect impression that living so close to a college sucks. It doesn’t – and nor are most college students rude. All I was trying to get across was the need for everyone to realize that we all need to live together – and that means respecting each other – your right to party, my right to sleep peacefully at night.

  14. After reading this whole blog I find it amusing that the neighbors around St. Thomas only focus on the “negative” student behaviors. They NEVER comment on our excellence, Tommie spirit, and most of all hard work.

    As a student that lives off campus I want to speak out to my neighbors. I have lived in this neighbor for only five months and I think most, not all, but most neighbors judged me (and my roommates) from the day we moved in. We were automatically “labeled” or “tagged” a “college house” which I think is sad and judge mental. In the five months I have lived in that house I have spoken to only two neighbors hence those two were very kind and welcoming. But I have walked those sidewalks thousands of times and received many, many dirty glances and even heard other neighbors gossip about our “college house”. It’s pathetic. I, personally, have gone out of my way but they have not. A quick example, one summer night I was having a grill out with a four friends and we found a lost small dog. We took it in and read his collar and thankfully found his owner. We called the owner who lived on our block, the owner came and picked her dog up. She never said one word to us, not even thank you.

    What I’m trying to express is please look at WHO we are as a student body and everything we have accomplished. Elaine, you said yourself you went to UST years ago but I don’t hear ANY Tommie pride in your statement, all I hear is complaining. I don’t know you personally but I can make an educated guess that you haven’t stopped by campus lately to check out all the marvelous events and programs that we have created and participated in. Have you even given a thought to how hard we, as students, work in our class, teams, and clubs to make our University, community, and world a better place? Please take a moment and think about that. Each one of us went to the University of St. Thomas because it’s different than any other campus around here. We are taught at St. Thomas to “make a difference in our world”. We are taught to make this world a better, happier, healthier, and more peaceful place for our next generations.
    How do we do this, you ask? Just check out some of our programs, events, and clubs on campus. For example: Gamma Sigma Sigma Service Sorority and Delta Sigma Pie Business Fraternity. Elaine, you mentioned you work at the U of M. Have you ever been over there when it gets dark? The fraternities at the U of M are having party after party, but St. Thomas bans all their sorority and fraternities from having houses to reduce the number of parties around campus. Maybe a thank you to UST is needed?
    Moving on to more admirable programs and clubs UST has…
    **Tutor/Mentor Program: where 100s of UST student dedicate their precious time to helping our youth and community.
    **Up til Dawn: another program that 100s of St. Thomas students participate in. It’s a program that we organize that donates over $85,000 to St. Jude’s Children research hospital to help fight cancer.
    **VISION a program where again 100s of UST student go to different states or even over seas to help the needy, poor, and sick. This year St. Thomas will have students going to five different countries and seven different states to make our world a better place to live, learn, and love.
    These are only a few….UST has many, many more. I encourage you to check them all out!
    Therefore, I suggest next time you speak out against our St. Thomas community you look beyond your backyard after a Saturday night. Feel free to visit our website to learn about how we, ALL OF ST THOMAS STUDENTS, are changing the world one step at a time. http://www.stthomas.edu

  15. Alaura has some very good points. However I would venture a guess that why she and her roommates have been shunned or largely ignored by her immediate neighbors goes back to Pavlov’s dog. We as neighbors have learned over the years to be cautious. Certainly St. Thomas students do good in the community, but in the immediate community? We as neighbors don’t see much of that good she speaks of. We see our children’s bikes being stolen; chairs from our front porches being broken over our own cars; endless trash in our yards and sidewalks. We see students driving down our neighborhood streets at break-neck speeds; students actually sitting in our yards talking on their cell phones late in the night. And when you go out to speak to them they are rude and drunk. The list goes on. The houses Alaura speaks of that St. Thomas forbids is not borne of some altruistic streak. The City of St. Paul made them buy those houses and sell them as single family dwellings because the party problem became so intolerable not only for the neighborhood but for the city as well. These are not isolated incidents. They happen every weekend throughout the school year. So it is difficult to have Tommie spirit and “look beyond your backyard after a Saturday night” when it is every Friday and Saturday night. We lived by Macalester and St. Kates and never had these problems. So the argument that “this is just what college kids do” is a myth. So Alaura, I am sorry you have not felt welcome. We as neighbors could do a much better job of welcoming students into our neighborhood and don’t want or mean to condemn every St. Thomas student. But understand we live here and raise our children here and will always strive to keep it the beautiful neighborhood it is.

  16. Maybe if public safety didn’t make students feel so threatened instead of actually making them feel safe, they wouldn’t travel in drunken packs off campus all the time. Any UST student would rather puke and pass out in a random lawn or bushes than risk walking back to campus and face the wrath of public safety – who inevitably is staked out trying to “bust” students.

  17. Perhaps this has become a belabored topic, but I would like to offer a different perspective just the same. As a former Tommie and now a resident of Merriam Park I can honestly say that I am pleased with our Tommie neighbors, past and present. They have been approachable, sociable, and well-behaved. They have shoveled for us. They have hired my son to mow for them. I am grateful for their good example as my son looks up to them with hopes of attending UST himself. Maybe I have picked up a beer can or two, but I am ok with that. I understand and know what it is like to be a student.

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