I moved off campus my sophomore year and my roommates and I were immediately ecstatic to be living on our own, not having to check-in people at a front desk and most importantly, having our own bedrooms.
However, I don’t think my current neighbors shared that enthusiasm.
This year we had around 10 people over for a grill out, and when the sun was setting, we had a bonfire in the pit in our backyard. One of the neighbors came out of his house and informed us that he didn’t want us having a bonfire simply because his windows were open and he didn’t want his house smelling like bonfire. To me, this was absolutely ridiculous.
The 2010-2011 winter was a pain in the butt. There was more snow that winter than I had probably seen in my entire life. Even in the spring, the yards were packed with three feet of snow. My roommate and I would often be in our back parking area shoveling out our cars for hours on end.
One day when we were shoveling out our cars, the neighbor to the right of our house came down the alley with a snow blower. On his way back to his house, he managed to blow snow from the alley onto our cars. He kept going and didn’t even offer to help us when we were struggling.
Many neighbors are quick to criticize students and the appearance of their homes, especially in the winter. In St. Paul, residents have 24 hours after the snowfall to clear the sidewalks in front of their house and their walkways. I can’t count the number of times that my roommates and I had our sidewalks and walkways shoveled before anyone else on the street.
Now, I’m not saying that all neighbors are bad because that’s just not true, and it’s not the point I’m trying to make. I have had very positive experiences with my neighbors as well. For instance, on the one snow emergency in St. Paul this winter, I woke up to my neighbor across the street banging on our front door to let us know that we needed to move our cars. He helped us avoid a hefty fine, and I am very thankful for that.
Still, there is a lot of tension between students and their neighbors in the community. Students often bear the brunt of criticism, but we need to remember it’s a two-way street. Permanent residents and students are equally responsible for neighborhood relations.
Students and neighbors need to learn how to get along because no one is going anywhere soon. The neighborhood surrounding St. Thomas is always going to have students, so why not make it a positive experience for everyone?
The first thing students and neighbors need to do is to get to know each other. When you move into your off-campus house, apartment, duplex, whatever the case, introduce yourself to your neighbors. Exchange phone numbers and let one another know your expectations. The best way to improve neighborhood relations is communication.
When my roommates and I moved in, we brought our neighbors cookies with a note that had all of our names and cell phone numbers. Neighbors, let your student-neighbors know your expectations as well, but please be realistic in your requests. Asking that parties are over by 10 p.m. is a stretch. That’s usually when people start to go out.
Compromise. Permanent residents, it is unlikely for students to never have parties so don’t set them up for failure. I think most students would agree that it would be extremely disrespectful to have loud, house-rattling parties seven days a week. Students, give your neighbors a heads-up on your party plans and let them know you’re available to handle any problems that may occur. Please be respectful of their homes and schedule.
Set Rules. Inform your party guests of the appropriate etiquette and that certain behavior will not be tolerated. Whenever my roommates and I have people over, we are always conscious of the noise level, and we don’t let people wander around outside. If you’re at the party, you’re inside after a certain time; this will cut down on noise complaints and it won’t bring unwanted attention to your house. I also do not tolerate people going outside to go to the bathroom. If I see you peeing off of our deck, you will be asked to leave. Some of these things are common courtesy.
Lend a hand. Students and neighbors both lead busy lives but helping each other out once in awhile will improve your relationships. If you’re going by with a snow blower and you see students struggling to dig their cars out of the snow, ask if they could use any help. And students, if you get outside to shovel your sidewalk before your neighbor, clean theirs off quick, too. It will take 10 to 15 minutes, and it will leave a lasting impression.
Both sides need to take responsibility for neighborhood relations and work toward reaching a manageable living environment for everyone.
Olivia Cronin can be reached at email@example.com.