October 11, 2002

Council Works to Calm Orientation Festivities

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In an attempt to settle the ongoing disputes between Cornell students and Ithaca residents, the Collegetown Neighborhood Council (CNC) met last night at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church to discuss possible solutions.


The CNC — which includes Cornell students, Ithaca Common Council members, residents, landlords, and business owners — addressed the concerns about Orientation week parties that occurred Aug. 22 to 26. During these nights, residents reported incidents of public urination, trespassing, fighting and violations of noise ordinances to the Ithaca Police Department.

Many CNC members agreed that underage alcohol use plays a major role in the Collegetown parties.

Cornell students Andres Cruciana ’03 and Alexa Mills ’03 — the founder of the CUTonight Commission, an organization that funds late night, non-alcoholic activities — presented a plan to the Council. They said they hope their proposed event will decrease underage drinking and change the community’s perspective on Collegetown. Cruciana and Mills are planning a night in April where the University would rent out the bars, the City would shut down the streets, and Collegetown would be free of alcohol. The sponsoring organization would charge a fee to participate in the event and donate the proceeds to Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a charity for terminally and chronically ill children.

“Collegetown is a great place,” Mills said. “We’re hoping that, that night, drinking will not be seen as the cool thing to do.”


Although some CNC members supported the effort, others voiced objections to the idea.

“Why does it have to be at night?” said Frances Weissman, Ithaca resident. “I don’t believe anyone has the right to take over my street and prevent me from sleeping.”

Beyond the student proposal, Weissman said she believes that alcohol usage is not the main problem.

“We aren’t talking about alcohol, we’re talking about mass behavior,” she said. “3000 people in my neighborhood, [when] it is totally inappropriate for them to be here.”

Several people agreed that this past fall has seemed worse in terms of parties than past years.

“From our perspective in the Police Department, the crowd numbers, the level of negative interaction with the police … was something we had not seen before, to this degree,” said Lauren Signer, of the Ithaca Police Department.

“When it comes to crowds of that size, we’re talking about public safety, officer safety. At that point, we’re just trying to maintain order,” she added.

However, students have also complained about lack of support from the Ithaca Police Department.

During Orientation Week, “the students didn’t feel like they could work with the police,” said Paul El-Meouchy ’03, vice-president of University and community relations for the Interfraternity Council. “[Orientation Week interactions with the Ithaca Police] felt more like confrontation … more of an us vs. them.”

The CNC discussed a variety of solutions to the problem, including the University’s efforts to plan alternative, alcohol-free activities.

“The planning [for Orientation Week] needs to happen later in the year so we have something for the students to do in the fall,” said Susan Blumenthal, MFA ’78 (D-3rd Ward).

Some residents expressed skepticism toward these efforts.

“The crowds are going to happen, they’re just going to happen before and after the activities,” said Kyle Couchman, Ithaca resident and Collegetown landlord.

Others saw the problems as ongoing and ingrained in the Cornell culture.

“I do not, for one second, believe it is the students’ fault,” Weissman said. “They are doing what they have been taught for the last decade.”

Some council members felt that the current problems would wane if students understood the rules for appropriate behavior at the beginning of their college careers.

“They’ve got to know from day one, ‘You don’t do this,'” said Sharon Marks, Ithaca resident and Collegetown landlord.

Weissman recommended that the University follow Ithaca College’s example and send a packet to incoming students’ which outlines the Ithaca City laws.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Alan J. Cohen ’81, answered questions from CNC members.

In response to Weissman’s comments on crowd control, Cohen said, “College students are members of this community. They are adults and they need to be held accountable.”

“I am not going to do something that will cause a riot,” he added.

Archived article by Shannon Brescher