Massachusetts Daily Collegian

University, Amherst discuss off-campus weekend issues

By Chelsie Field

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University of Massachusetts Police Chief John Horvath said the relationship between students and Amherst residents may be bumpy.

But, “it’s going to get better,” he said.

Last night, about 60 community members from Amherst and a handful of students crowded into the UMass Police Department conference room to discuss off-campus student behavior.

Horvath and Dean of Students Enku Gelaye led the forum and answered questions from attendees. They also explained the process of the student justice system.

Gelaye called the meeting “productive,” and said “it will refurbish the way the community sees us.”

Horvath said he was “very happy” with the meeting and with the honesty of the community members. He said it was “obvious that the community wants to be a part of the solution.”

The community “has concerns and we share those concerns,” Horvath said.

But, Horvath said, rebuilding the relationship won’t be quick and easy.

“This is a marathon,” he said. “This is not a sprint, and I know many residents don’t want to hear this. Ultimately, it’s a challenge, and it’s one we can certainly meet.”

Gelaye introduced and explained the Student Code of Conduct to the present community members with a slideshow presentation.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a student who doesn’t know this code exists on campus,” Gelaye said, calling the code the University’s “primary tool for intervening in incidents.”

Gelaye made sure to distance the code from mimicking any criminal processes.

Though Gelaye said “the code is not the answer to everything,” she did say the code is an effective “educational intervention” tool for her office to use in addressing student behavior cases.

Key findings from 2011 to 2012 were outlined in a presentation on off-campus student discipline. Seventy-nine percent of students who violated the code were first-time offenders, according to the event’s presentation.

Gelaye and her office met with a total of 652 students involved with 459 off-campus incidents, according to the report.

Following the presentation, Gelaye and Horvath addressed the concerns of the attendees. They started with the issue of the masses of students who travel back to campus in the early hours of weekend mornings.

Members of the crowd also spoke on topics ranging from concern over students trashing lawns, UMass possibly paying for extra officers in high-traffic areas for the weekends and students who are kicked out of dormitories and forced to live off campus.

With the last concern, Gelaye said students’ housing statuses’ are generally related to enrollment.

“We’re giving them a clear sign that ongoing disrupting behavior will move you off this campus,” she said. “Being enrolled as a UMass student we see as a privilege.”

Amherst resident Gretchen Fox, who has lived on Fearing Street since 1980, said though residents have the option to move elsewhere and avoid the off campus issues, many choose not to.

“It’s OK. It gets a bad reputation,” Fox said of living on Fearing Street. “We love our neighborhood.”

Fox said she thought there was “a lot of coordination between the community and the campus” at the meeting last night.

Town of Amherst Select Board Chairperson Stephanie O’Keeffe said that though she wished more people had attended the meeting, she hoped the event would “help to spread the word” about the information presented.

O’Keeffe said she thought “the University and the town need to find more ways to communicate” about dealing with off-campus student activity.

At the forum were only a handful of students; most in attendance were longtime residents of Amherst.

Chelsie Field can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “University, Amherst discuss off-campus weekend issues”

  1. Dr. Ed Cutting on October 17th, 2012 8:33 am

    George Santanya had an interesting saying about those who fail to learn from history — and once again we have labor & management ganging up on what they perceive to be a captive customer.

    The railroads made that mistake after WW-II, loosing first passenger and then freight business to cars & trucks. The steel industry did likewise, loosing business to European “mini-mills” that could produce the types of steel customers needed/wanted.

    And then there is the auto industry. Americans once had three choices of automobiles — GM, Ford, or Chrysler — management & labor got what they wanted but the customer didn’t — until the Japanese spoiled everything for them.

    The same thing is gonna happen again. The days of the residential undergraduate college are numbered — price has gone up while quality has gone down and last night’s meeting could be summarized as two players (town & gown) conspiring against their customers, the students.

    And memory is that John Fox is a dean at another college in Eastern Massachusetts. So as much as he complains about college students, he also makes his living from, well…..

  2. Chris on October 17th, 2012 7:22 pm

    One student’s name popped up in the arrest logs 3 times last month. Some are slow learners.

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