The transition to off campus living can take some adjustments, with bills to pay, garbage to take out, nagging landlords, and the first attempts at cooking ones own meals. And let's not forget that school work is also thrown in the mix, sometimes a job. It can seem as if there is hardly time to think about the world that lies outside the campus and home circuit.
This is why the Let's Talk Forums were created. First held in fall of 2005, this forum is an attempt at fostering a sense of community and good relations between students and permanent residents. These forums, held at least once a quarter, originated from Communication Department lecturer Korry Harvey, and now are the joint effort of the Campus Community Coalition (CCC) and Carmen Werder's Civil Discourse Class, Lara Welker, CCC coordinator said.
The forums are open to all members of the community and are usually attended by Associated Students board members, members of the Bellingham Police, the University Police and the Liquor Control Board, Welker said. All of these viewpoints provide informational resources for students who attend. The forum becomes a place where all members of the community can voice their opinions on such issues as noise, loud parties, parking, and litter, Welker said.
“Students didn't really have a place to talk about these issues,” Welker said.
The CCC is focused on stopping alcohol misuse by students, Welker said. Misuse being the operative word as the CCC is not anti-drinking, it is simply concerned with problem drinking, Welker continued. The CCC is also the original catalyst for the Late Night activities on campus and also distributes the “think neighborly, act locally” door knockers to many neighborhoods.
The first of these forums for the year was held at Oct. 15 at the Garden Street Methodist Church for members of the York neighborhood. The tone was cordial as the 40 to 50 participants circled up in small, 10 person groups. Almost half of the attendees were students, which some neighborhood members made a remark about being a positive sign of student community engagement.
The discussion, facilitated by Western students for a class, started off by describing the reasons behind conflict between students and residents. David Doughty, University Police chief, described student lifestyles, which are usually transient, as not instilling a sense of community in the same way as those of long term residents. Students described the frustrating assumption held by many residents that all loud, young people are Western students and that all students like to drink heavily.
Later, the discussion turned to parking, as student houses sometimes have as many cars as residents, which in turn fills the already limited street space. Student get-togethers can also cause parking nightmares as friends of residents flood street spaces. Devin Branson, AS alternative transportation coordinator pointed out that this issue is attempting to be quelled as the bus system is picking up 2,000 more riders a day due to the new bus passes. The Whatcom Transit Authority (WTA) is also hoping to increase service to the York area, he said. However students could still help this situation by being aware of where they are parking and encouraging visiting friends to walk or carpool.
Student parties were also a hot topic. The CCC recommends telling neighbors about the party and giving them a phone number so they can call if the party gets too loud. Dan Kelsh, a Bellingham Police officer, said that a noise violation is an unreasonable noise that is a repeated disturbance. Often officers will give warnings and only issue citations with residents who aren't compliant, Kelsh said. However, if the party shows evidence of underage drinking the Bellingham Police have a no tolerance policy, Kelsh said. The Party Patrol, a group of officers from the University Police and Bellingham Police Department that target parties, are more active at this time of year, at the beginning of fall, Kelsh said.
So what's the best way to keep parties Party Patrol-free?
Keep parties small enough that they can stay inside the house and under control, Kelsh said. People on the porch cause a lot of noise problems. If you're not advertising the party with people puking out front, or a booming base, then you will probably be okay, Kelsh said. Also comply with officers warnings, they can write citations on the first visit, warnings are giving you the benefit of the doubt.
The last Let's Talk Forum for this quarter will be held for the Sehome Neighborhood, 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Co-op Connection Building.