College sets policy on off-campus rowdiness

Towson University to hold students accountable

August 17, 2006|By LAURA BARNHARDT | LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTER

Ed Kilcullen has been awakened countless times to the sound of college students hollering at 2 a.m.

Corinne Becker routinely finds beer bottles and other trash in her neighborhood when students gather for parties at a nearby apartment complex.

And Don Gerding says he and his neighbors sometimes see students vomiting and urinating on lawns and in the street.

They and other Towson community leaders say such annoyances are why they're so eager to hear how Towson University plans to deal with disruptive students off-campus.

A university administrator will present the new policy for disciplining students for off-campus behavior during the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations meeting tonight.

Under the new policy, the student affairs office would track complaints about students' off-campus houses, visit students with police officers when they receive complaints and punish students who are "repeatedly causing problems" with sanctions ranging from community service to expulsion, said Deb Moriarty, vice president for the university's student affairs.

"We want this to feel less punitive and more educational," Moriarty said. "Our goal is not be the hammer on this, but to use our role as an educational institution to help students understand what's expected of them."

In the Towson and Loch Raven areas, off-campus housing has long been a source of town-and-gown tension. It is a problem that community leaders expect to worsen because the university doesn't plan to be able to provide enough on-campus housing to keep pace with its increasing enrollment.

When Towson University President Robert L. Caret spoke to the umbrella organization of neighborhood groups in February, residents spoke about disruptive behavior in the communities and asked why other colleges seem to have stricter codes of conduct that give university officials the ability to punish students for off-campus behavior.

The new policy was created, in part, in response to those concerns.

"I think it shows, on their part, a willingness to work with the community that we feel hasn't always been there," said Kilcullen, president of Towson Manor Village Community Association.

The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations' university relations committee saw a draft of the policy last month and made comments about it, said Mike Ertel, president of the council.

"I think everyone was generally pleased that the university is making an effort," Ertel said. "They were talking about real ramifications. In the past, there haven't been real consequences on campus for what students did off campus."

The university has also established a phone number for residents to report problems with students off campus so that they can better track problem locations and students, said Moriarty.

The "policy on off-campus disorderly and disruptive behavior" will be sent to some students - chosen randomly - by mail and will be incorporated into the university's guide to off-campus living, which is to be updated this year, Moriarty said. And, she said, officials hope that the policy, being reviewed by Caret and lawyers, will be in place on the first day of classes, Aug. 28.

The university's code of student conduct currently covers off-campus behavior that would affect the "university community," but the new policy would clarify the code so that students understand they will be "held accountable" on campus for what they do when they're off campus, Moriarty said.

The university doesn't plan to enforce county laws that limit the number of unrelated people who are permitted to share a house, she said.

Having too many students sharing houses and apartments adds to parking problems in neighborhoods, community leaders say. And they say it seems that more parents are buying houses for their children, who in turn, "thumb their noses at the regulations," said Gerding, a Rodgers Forge community activist.

"It's 5 percent of the students who are unruly, who don't want to abide by the rules," Gerding said.

Becker, president of Riderwood Hills Community Association, describes Animal House antics in her neighborhood. She called the new policy "great news."

The GTCCA meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Sheppard Pratt Conference Center, 6501 N. Charles St. in Towson.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

Towson's code

Towson University's Code of Conduct for students:

"Generally, student or group conduct subject to institutional discipline is limited to: on-campus actions; off-campus actions which affect the university community or the university's pursuit of its mission, policies or procedures; off-campus actions by officially sponsored organizations, groups, or NCAA teams; or actions on university property which is leased to, or managed by, an entity other than the university."

Prohibited behavior includes: lewd, obscene or indecent behavior; any endangering conduct that imperils or jeopardizes the health or safety of any person or persons, including oneself; public intoxication.

More information on the Web: www.new.towson.edu/studentaffairs/polici es/conduct.asp

[ Source: Towson University]

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