Neighbors: We're held captive by students

By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 27, 2005

Communication key in fostering good relations

Reckless and unruly student behavior in neighborhoods near campus is annoying some long-time neighbors who have been forced to deal with loud noise, trash and vandalism.

Jason Pfeiffer, 32, a homeowner near North Mountain Road and East Lester Street, said his student-neighbors were pleasant at the beginning of the semester, but lately they've had a sudden change of attitude.

The students have been cranking their stereos up to full blast until 4 a.m., leaving empty beer cans in their yard and other neighbor's yards, and have shown a total lack of respect to the community's desire for quiet nights, Pfeiffer said.

Whereas these student-neighbors seemed receptive to quieting down in the beginning of the year, they now act like these occurrences should be expected on the weekends, Pfeiffer said.

"Everything seemed fine, but then I don't know what happened," Pfeiffer said. "There's definitely a difference between noise which is tolerable and noise which is inexcusably loud."

Carol West, Ward 2 City Council member, said a major problem exists between Tucson residents and UA students, and she isn't happy with student behavior she's heard about from her constituents.

Establishing relationships with neighbors from day one can help prevent unruly behavior like loud parties during the week and weekends, and leaving beer cans around neighborhoods, West said.

"Communication is the key," West said. "We must be advocates for our constituents."

Resident concerns about rambunctious and disrespectful neighborhood etiquette has cost one fraternity a chance of getting recognized, said Matt Hesselbacher, a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

A neighborhood association must approve the recognition of their two-year-old house on East University Boulevard and North Second Avenue before the Interfraternity Council will recognize them, said Hesselbacher, an electrical engineering junior.

So far, Hesselbacher said the men have reached out to the neighbors by inviting them out to barbecues and attending neighborhood meetings. Phi Kappa Psi has also tried to keep their parties under control, but Hesselbacher said all the effort is wasted because the neighbors' attitudes are unchanged.

"Getting recognized would help us grow faster as a fraternity to get a house on campus, away from these residents," Hesselbacher said. "What's funny is that we would have to follow stricter guidelines if we were recognized as a house."

But residents living near the fraternity tell a different tale about the fraternity's attempts to make peace with the neighbors.

Sam Costy-Bennett, 49, said problems have risen with student-neighbors each year since he first moved to the area in 1986.

It's inappropriate to have a fraternity in the neighborhood because of the nuisances that always seem to result from their disrespect, Costy-Bennett said.

From Thursday night to Sunday night, the neighborhood that includes the fraternity is usually trashed with beer cans and broken glass strewn on the sidewalks, yards and streets, he said.

Such disrespect has brought about fights, theft and vandalism on North Second Avenue, which includes the breaking of the passenger's side window and gas cap cover on his truck, Costy-Bennett said.

But for some students like Jon Edwards, a marketing senior, the problem starts with the residents not understanding the area they live in.

"These residents need to simply understand and accept that college students live around here," Edwards said.

While Edwards said he hasn't experienced any complaints from neighbors, he notices officers from both the Tucson Police Department and the University of Arizona Police Department randomly cruising his neighborhood to check out rowdy behavior.

The different perceptions of respect are part of the issue, said said Karin Uhlich, a candidate opposing Ward 3 Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar for City Council.

The problems that exist seem to be a result of differences in lifestyles, not that students are doing anything wrong, Uhlich said.

"It's not that students are to blame. After all, they are just renting property that is made available in this market," Uhlich said. "The problem is that the neighbors may be accustomed to a quiet neighborhood, and so their tolerance is lower for noise."

Behavioral problems are not always ongoing problems, said Chris Goldsmith, 43, a 16-year owner and resident in the Sam Hughes Neighborhood.

Inappropriate behavior that he's had to deal with usually happened in isolated incidents, Goldsmith said, and students are just finding their niche for living on their own.

"They're just letting their hair down, so to speak," Goldsmith said.