Vandalism causes UH outrage

November 17th, 2011

Climbing trees, littering, trespassing on to front porches, destroying election signage, urinating and tearing up seasonal decorations – these are some of the many acts committed by John Carroll University students, as described by some University Heights residents, in their neighborhood.

The residents, who live in homes on Meadowbrook Boulevard from Warrensville Center Road to Miramar Boulevard and on Glendon Road from Washington Boulevard to Church of the Gesu, held a meeting with University Heights Mayor Susan Infeld and police chief Steven Hammett last Thursday evening to discuss the vandalism that has taken place to figure out ways to address the problems.

The meeting was the second one that has taken place with those residents, Infeld and Hammett. The first took place on Sept. 14.

Many of the 15 residents in attendance at the meeting expressed frustration with the University and its students.

One of them, whose husband graduated from JCU and attributes his life’s success to the Jesuits, said she will no longer financially support the University as long as the behavior continues.

She wished not to be identified by name for fear of retribution.

“These parents are paying 40-some thousand dollars a year for their kids to act like animals,” she said. “You better reconsider who you’re admitting as your students.”

Some neighbors don’t mind students having a good time, but say they need to be respectful of residents’ property.

“It’s more the fact of not what was destroyed, but the fact that those items were on somebody’s front porch and that meant that somebody came up to their front door,” said resident Megan Bayhurst. “It feels like it’s getting bolder and bolder. I have noticed it get worse over the years, and the size of the groups increases each year … Now it is literally an entire floor of Murphy [that] goes together to a party.”

Significant steps forward have been recently made in the relationship between JCU and University Heights, and unacceptable actions – like vandalism of neighbors’ property – will hurt that progress, say administrators.

“While we know there are only a few students who behave inappropriately, it is still not acceptable and will not be tolerated by the University, as it is not a good reflection on who we are, and our mission to be ‘men and women for others,’” said Dora Pruce, JCU’s director of government and community relations. “John Carroll seeks to bolster good will with the community, and when we pursue approval for campus improvements that largely benefit the student body, we need to be able to show that our students are respectful of our neighbors.”

Neighbors also brought up concerns of a lack of police presence during the weekend of Nov. 4 and 5, when a lot of the vandalism occurred. Hammett said University Heights police will make some improvements for the next weekend.

“It’s kind of difficult to predict these random acts,” he told the residents at the meeting. “We’ve identified the weekends that are most active and we know what they are.”

After this past weekend, when police stepped up their enforcement, Hammett said it was a quiet weekend.

“The activity was minimal this weekend,” he said. “We’re going do what we’ve been doing and we’ve added a few other twists that we hope will eliminate the problems that existed in the prior weeks.”

One of the initiatives by University Heights police is to patrol using unmarked cars.

“That’s one of the things that we did do that we’ll continue to do,” Hammett said.

Campus Safety Services was also involved – as they are every weekend, according to Hammett – in the increased patrolling this weekend. A mutual aid agreement between University Heights police and CSS, which should be finalized by the end of this year or beginning of next year according to Infeld, will assist both police forces in pooling their resources together.

“It’s a legally binding document. The purpose of it is it would enable us to have some jurisdiction to act beyond the campus. So, it’s typically adjacent streets or whatever is included – maybe Gesu, Miramar, Washington and the surrounding areas of campus,” said CSS Assistant Director Brian Hurd.

Sophomore Megan Landon couldn’t understand why students would vandalize residents’ homes.

“Do you have nothing better to do on a weekend than to wreck someone else’s stuff?” she said. “Don’t crush a child’s jack-o-lantern, that’s just soul-less.”

Freshman Karyn Adams said students are probably being stupid due to their drinking.

“It does not make it acceptable,” she said. “I don’t understand why we [students in general] are doing it.”

Students go through the Shaker Heights Municipal Court if they are caught for acts such as vandalism. Fines rank from $600-$1000, according to Hammett. Students go through a first offenders program, complete community service, go through drug or alcohol counseling if either substance was involved, donate to the Cleveland Food Bank and have a meeting with the dean of students. Hurd also said those caught vandalizing residents’ property could pay restitution if the resident wants them to. Students will additionally go through the University’s disciplinary process.

“[JCU has] a code of conduct that [students] sign,” Infeld explained to the residents at the meeting.

After meeting with numerous JCU administrators this past week, Infeld felt it best to not invite JCU to last Thursday’s meeting at City Hall with residents.

“I don’t think that that would be productive because I knew that people were very upset after last weekend,” she said. “I was concerned that we wouldn’t actually accomplish what I need to accomplish as the safety director of this city.”

At that meeting, one neighbor named Brian said he understands how college students think, but offered a statement at the meeting asking students not to destroy his or his neighbors’ property.

“These are kids. They’re college kids,” he said. “Drink your beer. Walk home. Leave us alone.”