May 17, 2008
Rite of spring —
College students pack up, head home
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
An empty pizza box rests against the curb along Clayton Avenue Friday morning, a reminder of the downside residents see in the college population.
SUNY Cortland students are heading home this weekend and their absence will not go unnoticed.
“You definitely miss the students’ presence in the community, the whole community, because it’s quieter,” said Vivian Bosch, who lives on West Court Street in the college hill area and heads the Hill Neighborhood Association, a group representing families living around the college hill.
As students depart, noise, traffic and crime decrease, Bosch and others said, but with them also goes a vibrancy that benefits businesses and the overall community.
The college does not track what percentage of its approximately 7,000 students leave Cortland over the summer, but roughly 1,500 students were enrolled in summer classes last year.
West Court Street resident Andrew Lowell, 36, said loud parties are always a concern of his during the school year.
“I would say it’s been noisier this year,” he said, noting new students apartments have been added at the bottom of his street.
“I am looking forward to the peace and quiet on the weekend.”
City Police Chief Jim Nichols said his department is significantly affected by the students’ departure.
Each year hundreds of criminal charges are filed against students, he said, adding that 410 charges were filed in 2007 and 93 so far this year. Most of those are related to underage drinking and noise, he said.
Once students leave for the summer that number drops, he said, and extra officers patrolling neighborhoods around the college on weekends are not needed.
“When students are gone, we are able to reduce those costs,” he said.
Lindsay Coons, 21, a graduating senior, said she would like to think she has contributed to the community during her time in Cortland. She has participated in at least one local community service event each semester.
She said a number of her friends have volunteered in the community and student taught at local schools. One of her friends, a physical education major, taught Homer students about sports played in other countries.
“It’s undeniably benefiting them,” Coons said about college students teaching in local schools.
YWCA Executive Director Amy Simrell said during the school year about 100 SUNY Cortland students mentor local children through the Bridges For Kids program.
When the students leave Cortland for the summer, it can be tough on the children, she said.
“Our little kids really miss them, and a number of them keep in touch by sending mail. Children love to get mail or e-mail, though many of our children don’t have access to a computer at their home.”
Simrell said the YWCA will also miss the approximately eight SUNY Cortland interns and 50 to 60 part-time SUNY Cortland employees who work through the YWCA at any given time during the school year.
Many students, such as SUNY Cortland graduating senior Valene Parringon, 21, say the Cortland area residents they have gotten to know best are downtown business owners.
Those include bar owners, pizza shop owners and owners of businesses that cater largely to students.
Beach House Owner Bill Dallaire said students make up about 60 percent of the tanning center’s business. From spring to summer his average daily number of customers drops from 450 or so to 140, he said, mostly due to the student’s absence.
Dallaire said he always looks forward to the students coming back, both for business and social reasons.
“Some of my older clients like it when the students are gone, and they don’t have to come in and wait to tan. But for the most part, I personally miss the students,” Dallaire said. “We have more fun and our jobs are less boring.”
Bosch said she believes SUNY Cortland students benefit the community, even if that can be forgotten from time to time.
“I would say the pros definitely outweigh the cons,” she said. “However, if you got me on a night when I was woken up, my answer might have been different.”
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