On March 18, 2014, a mass email was sent out to the entire Norwich community discussing “Northfield residents’ concerns about Norwich University’s students’ off -campus behavior,” according to the administrator who penned the notice.
The letter from Brig. Gen. Frank Vanecek, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs (VPSA), stated that students who are “patronizing local businesses or visiting off-campus residences” are causing issues with residents in the downtown Northfield area because of “incidences of noise, vandalism and overall disrespect increase in the community”.
The letter discussed the importance of being more respectful and considerate of “our Northfield neighbors,” and prompted some Norwich students, faculty members, and Northfield residents to sit down to discuss the overall concerns of the community.
The meeting stemmed from a petition that was sent to NU last fall, signed by approximately 15 to 20 Northfield residents complaining about the noise issue on weekends.
“I sent a letter out to all the [signers] of the petition and I invited them to join me in White Chapel for a discussion. I invited students to show up. I invited the police chief of Northfield to show up and there were probably eight to ten people there, and we discussed the issues,” Vanecek said.
According to Vanecek, the concerned community members were asked what was bothering them, who they felt was responsible, and if the complaints were caused by students in a few specific houses.
As the discussion went on, it became more evident that “certain houses” were not just the problem.
“They all agreed that there are students, who are uninvited, come by to parties,” Vanecek said of the residents’ concerns. “In addition to that you have people who are walking from campus to various spots in town, like the Knotty Shamrock, and they are walking back and forth and sometimes they will stop at the parties and the noise starts escalating. ”
Gerard McEleney, 21, a junior majoring in computer science from Canton, Mass., attended the meeting “[The community members] were more upset with the lack of respect some of the students have in the town like being loud late at night and littering. Those were more of the issues that the individual houses,” he said.
However, the community and NU representatives were able to come to the conclusion that the noise issue was largely a result of “the groups of people coming back and forth between Norwich and wherever they are, whether they are at a house or the Knotty Shamrock, and sometimes it gets boisterous and that noise bothers the folks,” Vanecek said.
Caroline Barth, 20, a senior majoring in physical education from Pittsburgh, Penn., agrees that the noise is a result of groups of people coming back and forth from campus and parties.
“I don’t think the noise of the party or the amount of people is the problem. I think it’s what the kids do coming and going from a party, like leaving bottles and cans in our neighbors yards. I think that’s the big issue and why people get so mad and where these complaints are coming from,” Barth said.
When it came to the discussion about vandalism taking place around Northfield, most of the residents suggested it was because students are cutting through backyards on Main Street and Central Street, generating noise and also leaving behind trash,
Besides cutting through backyards, residents have also complained that street signs around town are being stolen. However, according to Vanecek, the police chief noted that there is no proof that those damages are a result of NU students.
Regardless of where the noise or vandalism is coming from, both parties agreed that something needed to be done, and if there are any noise complaints the Northfield police should be contacted.
“The police chief and I will be talking as the spring progresses, and he needs to do whatever his legal responsibility is to maintain some kind of appropriate quiet time for the residents of Northfield,” Vanecek said. He added “But [the Police Chief] also knows that he needs to respect the Norwich students because they have a right to be walking down Central Street.”
Vanecek also addressed the importance of being considerate to the residents in order for NU and the community to get along. “One of our parting tasks was that I personally would make sure that I would ask all our students to take our Northfield residents into consideration,” Vanecek said.
Ryan Johnson, the Assistant Dean of Students, who also helped write the emailed letter, agrees that the students need to be more respectful. But he also thinks the community needs to realize that Northfield is a college town with a large number of young people.
“I understand their concerns to a degree. I mean the community needs to understand college students will be college students, but I think there are certain standards we need to expect from students,” Johnson said. He added, “There is no reason students can’t walk from a downtown establishment to wherever without having to yell and scream at the top of their lungs.”
Johnson, however, does think that the community and students living off campus need to have better lines of communication.
“For me being responsible for commuters, I would like for our commuter students to communicate a little bit more with their neighbors and so forth and if they are going to host a party they should have open lines of communication with their neighbors,” Johnson said.
For Scott Yashinski, 22, a senior majoring in civil engineering from Kintnersville, Penn., he and his roommates haven’t had any noise complaints this year like they have had in years past. “We don’t let people leave in big groups any,more, we try and keep it small,” Yashinski said. He tries to keep the noise to a minimum when people leave the house so they don’t disturb their neighbors.
Yashinski said he is on good terms with all his neighbors. He and his roommates introduced themselves to those living close to them before they moved in last year, and told neighbors to call them if there were any issues.
Nevertheless, if the disturbances continue, Johnson has looked into other universities and how they have dealt with similar problems.
“There is a university in Pennsylvania where if you get more than two noise violations from the police, you had to move even if the school didn’t own those homes. Some schools take a little more active role in trying to cure this problem and sometimes the police take more of an active role. It will all depend on where it goes from here,” Johnson said.
However, by sending the letter out to all NU students and to those in the community who were a part of the meeting, Vanecek hopes that students realize those living in the Northfield community are their neighbors and that they should be respectful.
“We are all neighbors, and being neighbors we need to respect each other. We wouldn’t want people in Northfield confronting our students and disturbing them, nor should a neighbor like Norwich be disturbing other Northfield residents,” Vanecek said. He added that, “it’s just a matter of people living together in a small area needing to respect each other.”
“The community needs to understand college students will be college students, but I think there are certain standards we need to expect from students.”