February 14, 2011
TC3 adjusts to ‘growing pains’
College turns its attention to students impact on community
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Tompkins Cortland Community College students use the college Learning Commons in this 2008 file photo. The college has begun a campaign to teach students about living in an extended community where they mingle with older people and year-round residents.
DRYDEN — Tompkins Cortland Community College is examining students’ off-campus and on-campus behavior while trying to build a sense of citizenship.
A college steering committee formed in recent months is especially interested in students living in Cortland, where the population of TC3 students has grown in recent years.
The committee brings together staff who have been working on different aspects of the college’s transition, partly in response to recent problems with students that have generated news headlines.
“It’s part of growing as a college,” said Jim Hull, dean of student life, who leads the six-person committee along with Blixy Taetzsch, dean of operations and enrollment management. “As we’ve become more of a residential college, we’ve connected our student judicial system to community judicial systems. We’re modeling what we do after what SUNY Cortland does.”
The latest initiative for TC3 is Panther Pride Pledge, a campaign to teach students what it means to live in an extended community where they mingle with older people and year-round residents.
Modeled after efforts by SUNY Cortland to ease tensions between its students and Cortland residents in mixed neighborhoods, the pledge asks TC3 students to be responsible, honest, respectful and to communicate with an open mind.
Hull said 130 students signed the pledge last week, the first week since the campaign began. The college will try to sign up more at Tuesday’s final home men’s basketball game.
“We really want student leaders to get involved and sign up students,” he said.
Taetzsch said the committee is mostly a network for different aspects of campus administration to talk about what is going on, then try to pass along accurate information.
“We are transitioning from a community college to a residential college, so there are a lot of adjustments,” she said. “We’ve been talking about these topics for a while.”
TC3 officials have become concerned over news reports of crimes, fights and other incidents involving students in Cortland in the past year. Young people registered as TC3 students have been arrested for hazing connected with a banned SUNY Cortland fraternity, fights between student groups, an arson attempt and thefts.
Hull said the college is not sure what percentage of its students live in Cortland but knows it is substantial, as enrollment has grown this year by 4 percent without new campus housing being built, and as students find Cortland an appealing place to live.
“Ithaca is more expensive and Dryden does not have a population of college students, the way Cortland does,” Hull said. “Plus, many of our students plan to transfer to SUNY Cortland, so they live there. In some cases, our students are former SUNY Cortland students who enrolled at our college for a semester. There are a lot of connections between our campuses.”
Hull said Cortland has stores such as Walmart in Cortlandville that are easily accessible to TC3 students. About 100 TC3 students live down Route 281 from the store, in College Suites student apartments.
Hull understands that some city residents believe TC3 students cause problems because they are either too young to live on their own in apartments, at 18, or come from the Long Island or New York City region, bringing downstate problems with them.
He said neither image is supported by evidence.
“The arrests seem to be local students,” he said. “Some arrests are people who were TC3 students but aren’t anymore, who stay in the area.”
An 18-year-old from Syracuse who was arrested last week for drug charges on Lincoln Avenue was enrolled at TC3 for the fall semester but was not enrolled now.
Some young people living in Cortland enroll at TC3 for a semester, then take a semester off and work.
“So it’s a complicated picture,” Hull said.
Taetzsch said the majority of TC3 students still come from host Cortland and Tompkins counties and neighboring counties. She has not compiled the number of downstate students.
TC3 has 800 students living on campus and a total full-time equivalent enrollment of over 4,000.
“The pattern is, students are bouncing around” between being enrolled at different colleges, Taetzsch said, calling it a national trend. She said the college is growing in every category of student, so there probably are more from outside the area.
The steering committee brings together staff who were already discussing student behavior and meeting with SUNY Cortland and Cortland and Ithaca officials, such as Hull, Taetzsch, Director of Public Safety Beau Saul and Director of Residence Life Darese Doskal-Scaffido. Dean of External Relations Bruce Ryan and Public Information Officer Peter Voorhees joined the committee to help with communication strategy.
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