The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Community fed up with Mac parties

By Emma WestRasmus

It’s the beginning of a new school year, and for many that means a chance to celebrate friends reunited after a summer apart, or to let loose after a busy week. But Macalester students may be taking their weekend activities farther than ever before to the detriment of Macalester’s relationship with the community. According to Dean of Students Jim Hoppe, the school typically receives three to four official complaints per year from community residents about noise and other disturbances caused by off-campus parties hosted and attended by Macalester students, but Hoppe has already received six serious complaints in the first two weeks of the semester alone.

“We typically don’t get that many in an entire year,” Hoppe said. “Drastic isn’t the right word, but this is certainly a significant increase.”

Hoppe received a dozen calls last Monday in regard to complaints from Friday and Saturday nights, with the majority of the calls about three addresses in particular.

Hoppe noted that there is always a heavier concentration of complaints during the beginning of the fall and the end of spring which coincides with the better weather that is more conducive to heading to a party or being outside.

According to the Macalester administration, the major complaints that community members are reporting are excessive noise, large crowds loitering in front lawns and in the street and public urination, which Hoppe identifies as a “big problem.”

“People aren’t finding a discreet corner. They’re peeing in people’s yards and on their property, and not stopping when neighbors ask them to,” Hoppe said. “Peeing on someone’s house? Come on. That’s above and beyond inappropriate behavior.”

Though most of the complaints are more measured and even-tempered, Hoppe says about one in five calls he gets from community members are “very angry.”

“I’d be angry too if I was dealing with the things they’re dealing with,” Hoppe said.

The worsening situation is not being ignored by the larger community. One party near the corner of Marshall Ave. and Fairview Ave. that took place the first weekend of the school year was picked up by KMSP-TV (Fox 9) after police broke up a party at a duplex several blocks from campus after neighbors complained about the noise from 250 Macalester partiers spilling into the street.The problematic off-campus party scene started early this year, with the administration receiving half a dozen calls in the last few weeks of August before the semester even started. Pre-season athletes, R.A.’s, and other students who had spent the summer in St. Paul or had arrived to campus early were involved in several off-campus events that sparked complaints before classes rolled around.

As the issue of off-campus disturbances continues to escalate and tensions with some community members increase, the administration has been meeting with students to strategize how to avoid such problems.

“Our attempts at outreach are changing,” Hoppe said.

When complaints come in with an address, Hoppe invites all the residents of the house to the Dean of Students’ office to talk about what happened and how to proceed.

“In most cases the parties just got out of hand,” Hoppe said. “The hosts didn’t expect it to turn into the party of the century. Most students are embarrassed that they’re connected with an event that caused a disruption and they take it seriously.”

However, some of the blame may be unjustly concentrated on Mac. Because of their proximity to Macalester, residents have made reports about misbehaving Mac students when in reality they are students at other area colleges or just young people.

“People make the assumption just because they see it’s someone college-aged,” Hoppe said.

Even students that aren’t hosting major weekend social gatherings are facing higher tensions with neighbors over issues of noise and behavior this year than in previous years. Megan Fitz ’12 and her fellow junior housemates have been struggling as their relationship with their neighbor has deteriorated despite their attempts to avoid negative or disruptive interactions.

“He told us we were ‘clueless’ and we should pretend our parents lived next door,” Fitz said.

Several students who have met with the Dean of Students about neighborhood relations have cited it as a non-accusatory and supportive process.

After the neighbor wrote an email to the college complaining about alleged excessive noise and activity in the house, Fitz’s housemates met with Hoppe and found the administration “very supportive and empathetic,” Fitz said. “It was a huge relief to hear that the administration did not assume that we were at fault just because we’re students.”

This is also the first year that the Social Host Ordinance is in full effect at the start of the school year. The new ruling makes it a misdemeanor to host or allow an event where underage drinking occurs, and allows the police to penalize one individual who organized and hosted the party where underage drinking occurred without having to prove the direct provision of alcohol to a minor. Hoppe noted that the ordinance also brings with it the potential penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“Unfortunately some of our students are involved in cases right now,” Hoppe said.

Hoppe noted that while there has been an increase in major reports, it may not necessarily be reflective of a worsening problem between students and community members. For some neighborhood residents, Hoppe notes that this may be “the fifth or sixth fall in a row” that they are dealing with behavioral problems on the weekends, and have finally decided to bring it to the attention of the administration.

Also, a third of the reports have come from alumni, faculty, staff or other people that have some connection to the college. Hoppe sees this type of involvement from Macalester community members as a result of the high expectations those with ties to Macalester have for current students, and he also noted that people familiar with the policies of the college know who to get in contact with if they have concerns.

Despite the increasing coverage by media outlets and general frustration on the part of some community groups, the administration is not concerned about the message that the negative publicity may be generating for the college but is instead focusing on direct outreach and hopes this can be a learning experience for students.

“We’re not worried about our image. It’s really about the relationship with the community. One of the main life lessons you learn in college is how to live in community, and there’s always the potential for clash if people aren’t aware,” Hoppe said.

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