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September 21, 2018

Panel Eyes Ways To Improve City-College Relations

OSWEGO, NY – A little communication can go along way in quelling quality of life issues regarding “problems” caused by college students in neighborhoods.

At a special meeting Monday night, facilitated by Third Ward Councilor Nate Emmons, college and city officials gathered to discuss college-community relations.

Councilor Nate Emmons, left, describes some of the positives and challenges of being a college town.Part of the panel are, from left: Oswego Police Chief Tory DeCaire, Dr. Jerri Howland, of the Department of Student Affairs and Enrollment, and Chief John Rossi of the University Police.

Councilor Nate Emmons, left, describes some of the positives and challenges of being a college town.Part of the panel are, from left: Oswego Police Chief Tory DeCaire, Dr. Jerri Howland, of the Department of Student Affairs and Enrollment, and Chief John Rossi of the University Police.

About a dozen residents and a handful of city employees attended the meeting. The panel consisted of five representatives from the college (including the chair of the City-College Relations Committee) and city and two council members. Emmons served as MC for the evening.

“We are all here a part of the same community, whether you work at the college, live at the college, live on West Eighth Street – tonight it doesn’t matter,” Emmons noted. “We are all part of the city of Oswego. Every so often, we as a community need to come together and have conversations like these about how you improve relationships.”

Every few years, people get new neighbors, that is especially true when you’re talking about off-campus college students, he said.

The meeting was intended to be educational, the councilor pointed out, adding that it “isn’t an us vs. them sort of conversation.”

“By and large, most college students are good neighbors,” Council Vice President and panelist John Gosek said.

The panel also included Chief Tory DeCaire of OPD and Chief John Rossi of the University Police at SUNY Oswego.

DeCaire told how, working in collaboration with Chief Rossi, officers have visited off-campus students. He described the meetings as “Hi, how are you? This is who we are and here’s what we expect from you.”

“I think that has had a very positive impact,” he said.

They also have had round-table discussions with students.

OPD conducts expanded Quality of Life patrols through the academic year. They are typically on Friday and Saturday nights, he explained.

The students’ code of conduct manual has been expanded to include off-campus behavior, Chief Rossi said.

“So now they can be held liable for anything that happens off-campus. I have gotten reports from California, Colorado, Florida and Virginia of our students getting into trouble in these places,” he said. “Of those students, I can say, none have been repeat offenders. That is a big change from about four or five years ago, where the same names kept popping up over and over.”

Wherever a student gets arrested, they stand the chance of going to a real jail, he added.

“There isn’t just a college jail ward in our county jail. They will go in with the other inmates at the time,” he said. “I get a lot of wide-open eyes when I relay that information.”

Last (school) year there were 25 students expelled for bad behavior, according to the chief.

When the college department’s officers come to Oswego to assist with things like Harborfest, the city isn’t charged, Chief Rossi said. He takes it out of his budget “because it is the right thing to do.”

In years past, there were a lot of arrests due to the Bridge Street Run (and end of the year pub crawl, which isn’t sanctioned by the college) – most of those arrests were not students, they were people coming up to visit students, Chief Rossi said.

The implementation of a large festival (Oz Fest) and concerts on campus has now greatly reduced incidents related to the BSR, he added.

Everywhere they are, (students) represent SUNY Oswego, said Dr. Jerri D. Howland, of the Department of Student Affairs and Enrollment at SUNY Oswego.

The college offers various program about being responsible, being a good neighbor, she said.

The programs are an educational opportunity for the students. Her office continues to communicate with the students about behavior – not just to be good students, but to be good citizens, leaders, after they graduate, she said.

City resident Miles Becker, a SUNY Oswego graduate, said he talks to the students who live around him.

“I talk with these kids all the time. That’s what they need,” he said. “With some communication from the neighbors, maybe we can all get along.”

“The students are members of this community. We’re all part of the same community,” city resident Bruce Holman said. “What we have to learn is to accept everybody and realize that we are all part of this city. We need to be a little more tolerant, I think, of what goes on. Years ago, we probably had the same attitude; it’s a learning experience.”

Sue Sweet tells about some of the issues she's faced regarding college students living off-campus and how she's dealt with it.

Sue Sweet tells about some of the issues she’s faced regarding college students living off-campus and how she’s dealt with it.

He added that people from the city should go to campus and interact – “let them know we are not their enemy,” he added.

College students have performed many community service projects in the city, he said, adding there should be more publicity of these events.

Sue Sweet explained how her corner of Oswego has changed over the years. What was once owner-occupied homes has now become mostly student housing, she said.

A few years ago, she had a big cookout and invited her student neighbors.

“Maybe if they look you in the face, they’ll be a little bit nicer at night,” she said. “That worked for a while.”

She said she realizes that kids will be kids. But she would like to see “more attention paid to the fact that we do have these situations that put kids in danger,” especially at the end of the school year when a lot of parties occur.

Emmons said more workshops will be planned to keep the lines of communication open with the college.

4 Responses “Panel Eyes Ways To Improve City-College Relations”

  1. Larry klotzko
    March 14, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Not one mention of the vast intellectual capital amongst the students and professors,sad that this precious resource is totally disregarded and not even considered viable towards the future developement of this potentiially fantastic town!
    Engineers artists logicians physicists linquists marketers writers singers, business people ,and on and on and on
    There is the gold in the college community relations !!!!
    Embrace that aspect

  2. Terri Benedict
    March 14, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    What about the fact that all the local landlords cater to these college students and the rent is outrageous!!! Its a shame when a hard working family who wants to stay in this town, cant find affordable housing because these landlords see dollar signs when they see students whose parents pay for their housing expenses. Its considered a cost of their education! And if you happen to find something that is affordable in this town it is likely owned by one of the many slum lords in this city! It’s a crying shame that this city just isnt the same as it was 20-25 years ago and it will never be the same again! Harbormess is just that, a mess!! How about we fix the community as a whole?? Get rid of the meth heads and heroin dealers who create more and more addicts every day!! Then and only then, this community will become whole again!

  3. Mike
    March 15, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Terri, There will be a glut of apts in a couple of years. The new student housing being built in the Town of Oswego will free up some housing. There is also a new complex being built at the old Flexowire site, there may be one at the corner of W1st and Bridge and there is talk of another at the old Midtown Plaza. Don’t know how they plan to fill them all.
    This city would be dead right now without the college. Those 1000 jobs and 6000+ young adults mean a lot of money to this city. Think about it….in 10 years Nine Mile 1 will probably be closing and the other 2 won’t be far behind but the college will still be here.

  4. Terri
    March 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    My issue is not with the students or the college. My issue is with the landlords who hike up the pricing of these places that are for rent. My father was a Professor at the college for over 20 years as was my mother. The point of my comment was that the issues in this town are much deeper than student/neighbor relations and yet I see nothing in the paper about those things. Only the police blotter where there are always arrest around public urination, AUO’s and DWI’s.

    I get it that the mayor is trying to work on some of the issues with the slum lords in this town and giving code enforcement more power. But what good does that do a family if they get kicked out of a home with no place to go? As was the case of the woman who lived on E 3rd? People are not going to want to turn to code enforcement if there is no other “affordable” housing options in this town after what happened to that family.

    From an economic standpoint, this area is not doing well and hasnt for a long time. The long term outlook is bleak as well. And going back to the very first comment on this post, that is why the majority of these graduates from Oswego do not stay here upon graduation. They are off to bigger and better things, where the economy is not so depressed.

    I could go on and on about the issues that I see here as an average person who goes to work and just wants to raise a family in peace but I feel its all in vain anyway.

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