Archive for Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lawrence studies university relations in other cities

June 25, 2011


Growing up in Lawrence and now serving as a city commissioner, Hugh Carter often hears about issues in Lawrence’s older neighborhoods, which now are heavily populated with students near the Kansas University campus.

Among complaints: Noisy late-night parties, alcohol and underage drinking, and other nuisances.

But after attending a recent conference in Boulder, Colo., about “town-gown” relations, he’s trying to process lots of ideas from other communities that are home to major universities and are working — or have already done lots of work — on the same issues.

“The main thing is virtually none of these issues are as unique as they may feel,” Carter said.

And they are often cyclical. Every year a new freshman class moves to Lawrence, and at some point the students may move off campus and into a neighborhood with thousands of other students living away from their parents for the first time.

Now Carter is envisioning a broader partnership between KU and the community to try to tackle issues involving students. He says KU and Lawrence can look to several other cities to see proactive examples of how they’ve approached certain issues.

Other communities

City Manager David Corliss said city leaders have a good relationship and frequent meetings with KU’s leaders, but the city wants to look deeper into what other communities have done, especially on issues related to neighborhoods with a high student rental population.

“There are some more advanced programs and practices than what we have right now,” said Corliss, who also attended the Boulder conference. “We want to see if we can apply them in Lawrence.”

Carter said cities like Gainesville, Fla., and Syracuse, N.Y., are seeing results based on several years of work. Gainesville, home to the University of Florida, formed a major task force. Several policies resulted — not just related to helping enforce certain ordinances. Several educational efforts also came about.

UF now has a director of off-campus life on staff who concentrates on working with students who live off-campus and with landlords and neighbors when they have issues.

Syracuse University has an office that deals with services for off-campus and commuter students, and a liaison works with the community on neighborhood issues.

“I think it’s an expectation the community has,” said Kate Hammer, the university’s community relations associate. “There are multiple programs that we have in place and that we continue to put out and work on.”

During the past two years in Gainesville, the city and university have focused one day at the beginning of the school year on going door-to-door to provide information to off-campus student residents in certain neighborhoods to give them information about city code violations and other ordinances.

“The university is in the city. We’re both so dependent on each other, and our successes are shared and our failures are shared,” said Nora Kilroy, director of off-campus life at the University of Florida. “I think it’s very important for us to communicate with each other and collaborate to be proactive and supportive in the things that we’re trying to do to create a successful community.”

Capt. Ed Book, an operations commander at the Gainesville Police Department, said the city has also in the last three years created new ordinances regarding underage drinking in bars and noise violations. The ordinances give warnings to first-time offenders, but they target repeat offenders with stiff penalties because most people or businesses when warned are more diligent about the problem.

Book said, for example, the department only has about one-third the amount of underage drinking in bars since 2008 because bars face more severe penalties, and he hasn’t found Gainesville has had an increase in calls for house parties in neighborhoods, either.

“Only the problem bars that don’t take appropriate management practices to stop underage drinking here are penalized,” he said.

He said it’s important to target underage drinking because it can lead to other crimes, such as drunken driving and sexual assaults. Education through the university also is vital.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of underage drinking,” he said.

Moving forward

Corliss said the Lawrence Police Department has focused on neighborhood issues as well in recent years. The department has two neighborhood resource officers, and the city has focused on enforcing a noise ordinance and other related issues.

Jane Tuttle, KU’s assistant vice provost for student success, said KU does not have a staff member that solely focuses on off-campus student life but there have been certain efforts, such as a student-led educational campaign to provide information to students in Oread neighborhood.

“It’s good for the students to be well-informed, and it’s important to be a good neighbor,” she said.

Carter also said he would like to get more information from Fort Collins, Colo., George Washington University in Washington D.C., Lincoln, Neb., Roanoke, Va., and Berkeley, Calif.

“The results have been significant and measurable everywhere they’ve engaged in this,” Carter said. “And I think that’s a real positive to see.”


Robert Rauktis 6 years, 5 months ago

Syracuse, N.Y.: where student occupancy has aged buildings years per days of housing and made neighborhoods as inhospitable as a Detroit ghetto on Devil's Night. Go Orange!

Bob Forer 6 years, 5 months ago

Why do we need to study the relationship between the city and campus? The answer is obvious. There is no relationship. For years there has been an abject lack of leadership on both sides of the fence.

nativeson 6 years, 5 months ago

KU does not want a relationship. They have consistently been indifferent to the community and the state. KU perceived itself exclusively as a research institution that Kansas is lucky to be blessed with in contrast to the reality that it is a land grant school that receives signficant funding from the taxpayers of Kansas.

As far as KU in concerned, issues created by students off campus is the problem of the City. The recent student alcohol-related deaths produced a tacit response. Forming study groups and on-line training is a way to deflect responsibility without really doing anything.

mae 6 years, 5 months ago

at least georgedip supports his job by writing about the commish and creating new taxpayer paid committees, not to mention the multiple paid flights and hotels for it all.

i guess what i'm saying is the article should've been slanted against the idea instead of proactive, look at the editor....

jester09 6 years, 5 months ago

KU is NOT a land grant university... however, they are a space grant university.

begin60 6 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

MorningGlory 6 years, 5 months ago

Relations with KU and Lawrence can always be better. However, if laws are being broken off campus then the city should handle it. Remember, they may be students but they are also adults. If underage drinking is happening in Lawrence establishments then the owners of those establishments should be penalized and held accountable. What was KU supposed to do that they didn't due in the recent alcohol issues? Based on what I could tell adults made poor decisions and other adults stepped back and let it happen. KU starts with what is handed to them; students that don't know how to study (because high school was to easy), students allowed to drink while in high school (supplied by parents and other legally drinking adults), and young adults learning that life sucks and not everyone gets a trophy.

The last thing we need to do is create an upper level administrative position with a fancy title to appease the local community which it sounds like happened in the schools mentioned above.

It is a college town and both the city and the university are needed to keep this city thriving but don't place blame solely on KU. The city of Lawrence with it's taxes and high cost of living has made it hard for the people who work at KU to afford to own and live in Lawrence. Also, KU and the city should recognize the third major player in this problem, landlords.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 5 months ago

Wow, Morning Glory! Great comments!

I really do not understand how KU can be held responsible for what students do off campus. It's the city's responsibility to expect reasonable behavior. The city fails at this - from trash to zippy or drunk driving to noise to damage and so on. "Oh, kids will be kids" is not acceptable.

I do think KU should be more responsible for housing. Some universities have actually applied for HUD money to make the neighborhoods around their campuses more attractive. And, why doesn't KU contract with some of these large scale apartment developers to build on campus?

Another issue is the students using up affordable housing. That inflates the rental market, because the landlords can get more rent charging by the head.

And, last but not least, student rentals destabilize neighborhoods. Schools are closed. The rental houses are not as well maintained. There are behavior problems. And the neighborhoods are trashed.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

These neighborhoods are also home to many families with children who are hard working and pay taxes.

cmm889 6 years, 5 months ago

Most students who want to drink and party all of the time would rather live in area's with more students who want to do the same. I dont think they are out trying to destroy "family neighborhoods" in fact most of the time they try to avoid those neighborhoods becuase they dont want constant complaints.

You only have to live here for a week or so before you know which blocks are for families and which are for students. theres a large lifestyle difference from block to block.

if you dont like the neighborhood then move. Everyone here are adults (whether or not they act like it) and not everyone has to live a quiet family lifestyle like you either...

my lifestyle isn't of a partygoing nature and I prefer a quiet neighborhood but life is short and its okay to have some fun...

Carol Bowen 6 years, 5 months ago

The issue is not that clear. It does not make sense to expect families to move, not even those who rent. Families are not transient. Students may not be interested in living in family neighborhoods, but landlords troll older neighborhoods watching for houses to pick up from elderly owners before the houses hit the market. Realtors are involved, too. In some cases, elderly homeowners and their families have been harassed.

Students are living in family neighborhoods because of the "block-busting" by investors. Once a house becomes a student house, so do other houses in the neighborhood.

cmm889 6 years, 5 months ago

@hear_me fair enough, I didn't cover all the possibilities... so touche'

I'm saddened I missed out on whatever response was so lovely it was removed...

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

Many children are too young to pay taxes.

Vinny1 6 years, 5 months ago

and once again the problem can be traced back to the government raising the drinking age to 21 and trying to make it a taboo subject.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 5 months ago

Why hasn't anyone picked up on the unfair housing? Landlords charge by the head, because they can get more for rent. Restated, does that mean the students are paying more for a house than a family would? What is being rented, houses or students?

TimW 6 years, 5 months ago

Of course the students are paying more than a family would. The majority of them (not all, but most) fall into one of two categories: 1)Mommy and Daddy are footing the bill, if rent goes up the student doesn't complain, just asks his parents for more. Or, 2)Footing the bill will loan money. If the rent goes up, he doesn't complain, just asks for more money next semester.

Student renters are always going to be there, you're not going to price them out of the market. At least not in the same way that you would price families out of a neighborhood.

It's not exactly an analogous situation, but I've seen my father walk by the building where he (and his father) grew up and just shake his head. Not because what used to be a five-unit brownstone now houses twenty-five separate units. Not because he couldn't afford to live there if he wanted because one-bedroom units are being rented at $1800/month or more. But because what used to be a working class community has now lost all semblance of "community" in favor of a transient population that just recycles itself year after year.

I'm not saying we need to kick all the students back onto campus where they belong, because I don't necessarily believe that. However, as enrollments continue to increase year after year, the same thing is happening in university towns all over the country...Their communities are losing their identity as rooted residents get priced out and transient residents move in. I don't necessarily think it's right or wrong, just a little bit sad.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.