Online June 29, 2006

OPINION HEADLINES
 

LETTER: Neighbors of students should be focusing on the positive

 

The glass will always be half full for some and half empty for others. Certainly for the last year round resident on Green Lane, the glass feels empty in the face of continuing bad behavior from student neighbors. In Mark Schieldrop's June 15 article (Residents say students rowdier than URI admits, Independent, June 15), this resident's experience is used as a glaring contradiction refuting reports of improvements. The fact that it is so glaring indicates that such awful situations are beginning to be the exception to the rule.

The federal government doesn't hand out money to sloppy researchers. The facts and figures are not being "twisted" to anyone's advantage. By any and all measures, the myriad initiatives undertaken by the Narragansett-URI Coalition in the last five years and by URI's Common Ground NIAAA/NIH grant in the last three years, have improved students' off campus conduct and have helped to build a community of mutual respect.

Why must some insist that things are getting worse? Those with current negative experiences with student renters deserve all the sympathy and support and action the community and the University can bring to bear. There are some residents with scars left by bad experiences they or their friends have suffered in years past that are simply unwilling to let go of their anger. There are some who fear that acknowledging progress will diminish focus and action on an ongoing problem.

While the University builds additional campus housing as fast as state approval and financing will allow, there will always be a student presence in Narragansett. Young people share residents' enthusiasm for the town's seaside beauty and, as college students everywhere, they are eager to stretch their wings in a less monitored environment. There is too much profit in seasonal rentals. There are no zoning laws or neighborhood association rules that limit the number of rental units in any given neighborhood. So, depending on luck or economics, a permanent resident may be in the company of a few or a few too many students.

No one believes the problem is solved, no one claims we can relax our efforts. Every year new students move into Narragansett and, without vigilance, things can get worse just as they can get better.

However, it is imperative to talk about improvements, to chronicle progress. Students need to know that their activities are being measured and that positive change is being celebrated just as negative change would be condemned. It is imperative to publicly applaud progress towards high standards. Can we create a better future if we can't cultivate a belief that one is possible?

Fran Cohen

Dean of Students,

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs

University of Rhode Island

Principal Investigator

Common Ground Administrative Grant

 

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