A relationship worth investing in
Last Saturday afternoon, Student Union and Residential Life sponsored a block party on the corner of Kingsbury and Melville Avenues. Aimed at improving relations between Washington University students and the local community, the event drew approximately 150 people over the course of two hours. The reasonably well-attended event represents not only a positive point in the sometimes rocky Wash. U.-University City relationship but also something we can improve upon moving forward. Wash. U. students, both on- and off-campus residents, should take advantage of such events for the benefit of both their U. City neighbors and themselves—we all have a stake in improving the community.
The relationship between Wash. U. students and the rest of the University community “has become more positive,” according to Ashley Swanson-Hoye, assistant director of ResLife. The show of responsibility and engagement by Wash. U. students is encouraging, particularly given the multitude of recent issues with community-University relations.
In 2011, the sheer number of complaints from the Rosedale and Ames Place area prompted University City police to implement a “zero-tolerance” policy in regard to noise and party-related complaints in the area. While no such crackdowns have been reported this year, off-campus parties have continued to be shut down by the police. And earlier this semester, the University emailed off-campus residents about a high number of noise complaints from neighbors.
This does not mean that large parties shouldn’t happen. Students should just be cognizant of the fact that not everyone loves cheap beer and Carly Rae Jepson as much as they do. In the end, everyone wants to live in an area where they get along with their neighbors without sacrificing too much in terms of their own lifestyle. Living off campus is both an opportunity and a responsibility; learning how to live in the “real world” means that not everyone lives like a student. This should not encourage an us-versus-them mentality but rather collaboration to better the community as a whole.
According to Swanson-Hoye, ResLife plans to expand the block parties to other student-dense areas, such as Forsyth. Other events designed to foster Wash. U.-neighborhood relations include Neighborhood Voice meetings, held at the corner of Kingsbury and Melville every third Wednesday. While these events, particularly the Neighborhood Voice meetings, are primarily directed at students living off campus, the block party was open to everyone. No man is an island, as the saying goes, and living on a college campus does not actually insulate you from the surrounding community, no matter how thick the Wash. U. bubble might seem.
Events like Saturday’s block party represent a positive step in building better relations with the rest of the St. Louis and University City communities. Simply having such events is not enough, however, if locals but no students attend. Students must make an effort to be a part of the community at large. Turning down your stereo and refraining from dumping beer cans on the sidewalk are both great ways to keep your off-campus neighbors from calling the cops. More proactive steps include waving at your neighbors and attending events like block parties. Even if you live on campus, behaving as though you are a member of the greater St. Louis area instead of a long-term guest will give you a stake in the community. And it will make it a more positive living experience for everyone.