Loving thy neighbor: WU acts early in response to past complaints

As each new semester starts, moving vans and pickup trucks roll into Whitworth’s surrounding community to fill empty houses with college students. Some of these off-campus students save money on rent by packing as many people into one small house as possible. Many students also look forward to being exempt from the “Big Three” and living without adult supervision. While some of these off-campus students quickly adjust to this freedom, others have difficulty realizing that there are certain rules of the neighborhood that they must abide by in order to maintain healthy relationships with their neighbors.

“As we’ve grown to over 2,250 students it affects the neighborhood as our off-campus student housing grows too,” said Brian Benzel, vice president of finance and administration.

Benzel said that within the last 10 years, he has watched the number of rentals increase west of Waikiki, drawing more parties, noise and alcohol to the area. Within the last year, there have been at least three complaints by community members who have become increasingly concerned by the noise levels and partying, he said.

“Last spring we had a meeting with the neighbors,” Benzel said. “One guy had a college-aged kid on his roof. He took the time out of his day to come talk to me because he was concerned.”

Benzel said that Whitworth gets complaints every year about off-campus partying, noise levels, trespassing and property damage caused by students leaving parties. However, Whitworth does not have the jurisdiction to call the police about its off-campus residents. Benzel also said he is not completely persuaded that the noise levels and damages are all caused by Whitworth students.

“We kind of get tagged and unfairly labeled,” Benzel said. “But I’m not entirely convinced that all those kids leaving the parties and causing damage are necessarily our kids.”

Off-campus senator Ryan Charlton said that he has heard complaints of people leaving parties around the Whitworth Terrace area, the stretch of housing between Hawthorne and Holmberg Park. The complaints have been in regards to property vandalized by students who cut through neighbors’ backyards.

Charlton said the biggest issue that stems from the complaints is that of respect for Whitworth’s surrounding community.

“As Whitworth students, we need to be respectful and accountable for what happens in our community,” Charlton said. “Pause, think and be aware of your surroundings.”

Benzel said that while the most recent complaints were voiced last May, Whitworth is trying to problem solve in advance.

“No one wants to be denied fun, but there are a lot of really cool people in our neighborhood that are trying to sleep at night,” Benzel said. “It’s a general college responsibility to see what can be done to bring people together.”

Junior Seth Owens, off-campus representative, said that ASWU is trying to prevent the problem now so that they don’t have to solve it later.

“We are trying to hop on the issue now and promote conversations with neighbors rather than doing clean up duty in the future,” Owens said.

Owens said that right now he and Charlton are trying to get a pulse of what is going on so that they can find a way to best address this issue. Owens said that the first step toward solving this issue is well underway. Owens and Charlton sat down with a few members of the administration as well as a few concerned neighbors Monday, Oct. 15.

Both off-campus representative and senator agree that the next goal is to bring students and community members together directly to allow an open conversation for all who are concerned.

“The most we can do is encourage communication,” Owens said. “If you just talk with your neighbors, you will create a new relationship built on consideration for those on a different schedule than you.”

Owens said that as Whitworth students, he hopes that students will take responsibility for the people they might become after leaving the pinecone curtain. He hopes this will set an example so that others might step up too.

“This is a preventative gesture, not a gesture of reaction. Let’s keep it that way,” Owens said.

Jennifer Ingram Staff Writer   

Contact Jennifer Ingram at jingram13@my.whitworth.edu.