Council seeks reconciliation with locals

Washington University students and University City residents who live north of campus have started regular meetings in the hope of addressing lingering tensions between the two groups.

Eight people discussed ideas such as a community garden and a volunteer neighborhood patrol in the area just north of campus at the first meeting of the new Neighborhood Voice Community Council earlier this month.

The number of students living in off-campus housing in the surrounding area has risen significantly in the past two years, and noise complaints stemming from the loud parties in the neighborhood at night rose sharply last year. Tensions came to a breaking point last semester when University City implemented a zero-tolerance noise policy and police started to arrest students without warning.

These meetings have two main goals: to establish an ongoing dialogue between students and residents and to brainstorm community activities that would provide opportunities for the two groups to interact with each other.

Among the attendees at the first meeting were Justin Carroll of Residential Life, and Neighborhood Liaison Jenni Harpring. Most of the attendees were students.

Harpring, a Washington University employee, became the first neighborhood liaison in September.

“The job is for the University to have someone in Rosedale with the goal of creating a positive living space,” Harpring said.

Harpring believes that the main problem that led to the tension between students and the local community is the lack of communication between the two groups.

“It’s hard to realize you are in a neighborhood with families, retirees and children when you are still living primarily with other students,” she said.

After attending the meeting, junior Ashley Brosius commented on the role of students in the local community.

“I feel a strong connection to the [University] community, but, living off campus this year, I’ve realized the importance of being a part of the greater St. Louis community,” Brosius said. “Whether you are living on campus or off campus, I think it is valuable to establish relationships and ties with community members and feel like you have put down roots in the city.”

Student Union and the Office of Residential Life began communicating with the local residents over the past summer. The result was the creation of the Community Council at the beginning of this semester. The council plans to hold monthly meetings for all interested students and local residents alike.

In an effort to spark student and local resident participation, Student Union hosted a block party on Kingsbury Boulevard last month for all residents around Rosedale Heights and Ames Place to mix and mingle while also informing them about the newly established council.

Even with Washington University’s staff’s involvement in the Community Council, the plan was for the University’s students to take the leading role in building the new relationship with the local residents.

“I want students to have ownership over what happens,” Harpring said.

The next Neighborhood Voice Community Council meeting is Tuesday.

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