September 27, 2005

Colleges Work on Town Relations

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Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College students and administrators emphasized the need to build dialogue with the Ithaca community on the impact of alcohol-related problems at yesterday’s Campus Community Coalition (CCC) meeting. Held at Ithaca College’s Clark Lounge, the meeting gave Ithaca residents an opportunity to reflect on the recent revisions to the City of Ithaca Noise Ordinance.

Curtis Ostrander, Cornell’s director of public safety, said, “The bottom line [for administrators] is about safety. We enforce the law becuase we’re concerned about you.”

Tim Marchell, Cornell’s director of alcohol policy initiatives, said the University has taken a multifaceted approach toward curbing alcohol abuse by offering educational strategies. He focused on the success of, an online alcohol education course that all incoming students must take. Marchell said most students said they gained knowledge and awareness from the program. He also cited Cornell’s goal to increase substance-free social programs, such as “Welcome Weekend.”

“Our goal is to engage students on campus so they aren’t off causing trouble in the community,” he said.

Richard Holt, director of public safety at Ithaca College, said his university has taken a more direct approach to alcohol related problems – informing students’ parents. “Calling students into the VP of student affair’s office to lecture them may not have an impact, but sending a letter to their parents will cause a reaction,” he said.

Holt said he has used this practice against students who have repeatedly violated the city’s noise ordinances.

Several students attacked the city’s noise policy, which allows Ithaca police to issue tickets to people in charge of parties who produce noise that could interfere with the health and safety of people at a distance of 25 feet or more. Under this policy, adopted in April 2004, neighbors do not need to complain about noise if the police feel the party has become too loud.

Brian Lockard, a senior at Ithaca College, said he feels the police unfairly abuse their power when they issue noise ordinances.

“When students come to court, it’s their word against the police officer’s,” he said.

Mike Taylor ’05 (D-4th Ward) said there is tension between students and the community because of the ordinance.

“One of the few interactions students will have with the City of Ithaca is with the police,” he said. “There needs to be more focus on building better relationships between students and the town.” Despite student criticism, John Graves, a South Hill resident, said he is grateful for the new policy. Before the law, Graves said he was awoken many times during the night and had to walk outside to see which house the noise was coming from.

“It got to the point where I had to make up a list of all the houses and their addresses so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed to know where the party was,” he said. But with the new policy, Graves said, the noise is under control.

South Hill resident Pam Mackesey agreed with Graves, saying many Ithaca residents were previously too intimidated to complain about noise problems.

“We changed the noise ordinances because residents were frightened of aggressive drunken people,” she said. “If you’ve ever gone out at night to talk to people, it can be a scary experience. No one wants to begrudge students’ right to have a good time. [But] when your party interferes with our lives, it creates friction.”

However, Mackesey said since the policy’s implementation, she has noticed less tension between students and community residents.

The CCC was founded in 2002 to improve the quality of life and increase public safety in Ithaca. While its emphasis is on reducing alcohol related problems, it also discusses the importance of issues such as recycling. It meets periodically throughout the year.

Archived article by Olivia Oran
Sun Staff Writer