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Neighborly differences discussed

By Seth Mauzy
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 10, 2005
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Students and campus-area residents had a chance to discuss the ongoing problem of student-neighborhood relations yesterday at a panel discussion hosted by the Dean of Students Office.

The discussion, titled "Neighbors versus Students: What Would Mr. Rogers Say?" gave people on both sides of the debate a chance to voice concerns and offer solutions to a problem that plagues universities nationwide.

Dean of Students Melissa Vito, who hosted the discussion, stressed to the 50 students, faculty and residents in attendance that despite the title of the event, the university's goal is to bring students and neighbors together and stress how much the two groups often have in common.

"The name may seem as if we're pitting students against neighbors, but we are not trying to do that," Vito said. "We came up with the name as a way to get people's attention and engage them on this issue."

The discussion began with the showing of a short film made by the Dean of Students Office that illustrated the most common problems neighbors have with students. The film was titled "Desperate Neighbors."

The film depicted a group of studious UA students disrupted by a party thrown by loud, middle-aged neighbors, interspersed with unscripted footage of students and residents arguing about issues including noise, crime and underage drinking.

After the film, panelists representing the various sides of the issue had a chance to state their positions and field questions from the audience.

Panelists included representatives from the Dean of Students Office and Commuter Student Affairs, as well as Rick Mucklow, manager of NorthPointe Student apartments, and Alex Dong, a student senator and senior majoring in molecular and cellular biology.

Mucklow, who has been managing the student-based complex for more than two years, said loud and destructive neighbors are a problem for a number of students as well as older residents.

"We're not just talking about older neighbors, we're talking about students that are neighbors to other students who want a quiet place to live," Mucklow said. "It's not just old neighbors with unrealistic expectations that want people held accountable for their actions."

Mucklow told the audience about instances at his complex where students had called the police on other students for having loud parties before he could intervene.

Dong, who represented UA students in the discussion, said he understood why neighbors have problems with students who live nearby, but residents need to learn how to work out compromises with students who also have a right to reside in these communities.

"I think that often students are more willing to work with residents than the other way around; they will respond to requests to keep noise down if they would ask before going to the police," Dong said. "Students don't want to be red-tagged. Most of them are more approachable than their neighbors might think."

Panelists fielded questions and comments from the audience, including a few area residents who recounted horror stories of unruly, drunken students and wild parties.

But others, like Frank Soltys, vice president of the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association just east of campus, said communication and relations between students and residents are improving in his neighborhood.

"We've come light years from where we were a few years ago," Soltys said. "If a student lives in your neighborhood, then he's not a student. He's your neighbor, and as neighbors we all need work towards coexistence and respect."

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