September 2, 2004

Spy Case Draws Attention To Student Housing Issues

Print More

The recent Collegetown landlord spy case has sparked discussion on the University’s role in student off-campus housing.

Before listing apartments, C.U. requires that all properties have a current Certificate of Compliance with the Ithaca Building department. The properties of David Church, the landlord who has recently been arrested and charged with 10 counts of Class E felonies for videotaping female students in their apartments without their knowledge, were not listed with Cornell.

There is no also no record of complaints to Cornell about David Church, however. In addition to serving as a landlord for 404 University Ave. and 108 East Yates Street, Church served as a maintenance contractor for 301 College Ave. Megan Belkin ’06, a resident of 301 College Ave., commented that “since a large portion of students live off-campus, the University has an interest in keeping off-campus housing safe,” but that she “felt very comfortable and relieved that [her] landlord handled the situation so well and that the police were so helpful.”

Belkin is not alone for thinking that Cornell should take a more active role in ensuring the quality of student’s apartments. “It makes me a little uncomfortable that the police had to search my apartment for hidden video cameras,” said Amy Tauchen ’05, another resident of 301 College Ave.

A possible problem with Cornell’s housing system might lie in the fact that “most housing complaints go to the city of Ithaca, which doesn’t really have a system for providing information on local landlords,” said Linda Grace-Kobas, director of Cornell news service. Others, however, feel that once students have moved out of dorms, the burden of finding decent housing falls to them.

“The university offers us dorms; once we move off-campus, it’s out of their purview,” said Dana Sckolnick ’07.

Some attribute it to being a product of our geography.

“If we were in a major city, it wouldn’t be an issue,” said Tracy Himmelstein ’07.

At the University of Michigan, a school situated in the middle of the city of Ann Arbor, 27,500 students live off-campus every year. Michigan has an Off-Campus Housing Program that registers individual landlords on their website. Before landlords are allowed to advertise on the Off-Campus Housing website, landlords must first agree to make time for mediation with students for any problems that may occur. They also educate landlords before registering them to try and prevent incidences like the ones with David Church from occurring.

“We have about 580 landlords registered in our system,” said Melissa Goldstein, the Off-Campus Housing advisor at the University of Michigan. “We’re here to make it easier for students. We walk them through step-by-step.” Even despite their efforts, however, Goldstein said that “unfortunately, I think [what happened at Cornell] could happen anywhere.”

Local landlords did not know what to make of the situation.

Ike Nestopoulos, a landlord with properties on Eddy, Blair and College streets, said “Cornell should do whatever it sees fit or deems necessary. Of course, we would support anything to protect the kids.”

Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun Staff Writer