Student, city governments talk relations

Kate Bigam

The members of Kent’s City Council want the Kent State community to know they are not anti-student. But at yesterday’s Undergraduate Student Senate meeting, some student senators and audience members seemed less than convinced.

Council members and other city administrators attended an open forum held to discuss issues between the two factions, especially the nuisance party ordinance that went into effect March 7.

According to the ordinance, parties can be labeled “nuisance parties” if they violate any one of 10 conditions, including disorderly conduct, open container laws and providing alcohol to underage guests. Those who violate the ordinance are subject to a minimum fine of $500 and up to 30 days of jail time.

“What a lot of people misunderstand is the ordinance is aimed at bad behavior, not at students, per se,” said Ward 5 Councilman Ed Bargerstock. He and other council members emphasized that the ordinance was designed to discourage repeat offenders who

consistently throw large, loud parties.

Still, many senators and audience members deemed the punishments for violating the ordinance too harsh.

“The degree we’re going to with this is a little intense,” said sophomore English major Doug Hite, who said students might have to drop out of school to serve jail time. “There should definitely be loss, even great loss, but these punishments are extreme.”

Capt. Michelle Lee of the Kent Police Department said in the past, student partiers have not responded to warnings or even arrests.

“We’re finding consistently that we (the police) were spending too much manpower and too much time on one issue and one house,” she said, adding it’s not just residents who complain about partying – often it’s students themselves, calling anonymously to report their neighbors.

Still, Senator for Student Relations Christen Coppola questioned why residents moved into a college town only to complain about typical college behavior.

“That’s like me moving to the top floor of a building and complaining that I’m too high up,” Coppola said.

City Manager Dave Ruller said he is working with Dean of Students Greg Jarvie to find a solution that works for both the city and the university.

“The misperceptions that plague any university are that it’s the city versus students, and that’s wrong,” Ruller said.

He and other council members emphasized their desire to do away with the “us vs. them” mentality between city residents and Kent State students, although Coppola said the forum was perpetuating the idea.

Members of both sides agreed the dialogue was a good start to opening the lines of communication between students and the City of Kent, but Senator for Governmental Affairs Amy Groya said she’d have preferred it happened sooner.

“It’s almost like this dialogue is too little, too late. Why didn’t council come to us beforehand and say, ‘We’re probably going to pass this ordinance, and it’s probably going to affect a lot of you’?”

Contact public affairs reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].