November 10, 2009
College trying to organize weekend cleanup crew
Student Government Association responds to complaints from residents in college hill area
SUNY Cortland’s Student Government Association is looking for ways to handle complaints from residents about student behavior, starting with a weekend cleanup crew.
“I’m recruiting volunteers that would go around on Sunday morning and pick up broken glass and trash, just clean up,” SGA President Jesse Campanaro told the 60 students at Monday’s SGA meeting at Corey Union. “I would like clubs to take part in this. I’m trying to give back to the community, for the mayhem and breakage.”
He said he hopes to gather ideas and implement them through the college and city, once he recruits help from his fellow students.
Campanaro has been involved in community forums where college officials, city police and elected representatives, and residents discuss the problems from students’ partying and causing damage. The latest forum was on Oct. 21.
The SGA is composed of 15 elected at-large senators and another 30 or 40 representatives from clubs. It has nine officers.
Campanaro said he hopes SUNY Cortland students are safe at Saturday’s Cortaca Jug football game between Ithaca College and the Red Dragons, which is in Ithaca this year.
“Respect Ithaca,” he said, “and respect Cortland. Don’t come back all wild and crazy.”
The junior from Monticello, who will serve as SGA president until July 1, has been receiving e-mails from Hill Association members about what he said were “broken fences, broken bottles, loud parties, loud students.” Pleasant Street resident Katy Silliman has been forwarding e-mails she receives from residents.
One SGA representative, David Bitterbaum, asked how Campanaro knows damage is being caused by college students, not high school students.
“I don’t always know,” Campanaro said. “But there are not many high school students walking around this area at night. Our students see other students causing problems.”
Bitterbaum is the son of college President Erik Bitterbaum. He represents the AIDS Prevention and Awareness club.
Year-round residents of the streets around campus, especially on the hill, have been angry this fall with what they say is a rise in student noise, litter, public urination and drunken behavior.
The Faculty Senate discussed the situation last week. The College Council will discuss it next week, said Campanaro, who reports at both meetings as well as meeting once a week with the college’s Vice President of Student Affairs Gregory Sharer and once a month with Erik Bitterbaum.
“It’s becoming a college issue now,” he said, in an interview Monday afternoon at his office. He said he has been trying to find solutions, touching base with student leaders at other SUNY campuses.
But he thinks the Hill Association needs student representation, something its members have agreed to consider.
“It’s unfortunate to say, we can wreak havoc on the town and go home in December,” Campanaro said. “It’s not all of us. It could be 100 college students ruin it for 7,000.”
But he wants landlords who rent to students to be part of the discussion. He wants neighbors to use common sense in dealing with drunk or loud students.
“Yelling at a drunk student at 1 a.m. leads to two things: the student thinks his neighbor is a jerk, and the next day he doesn’t remember what he did but he remembers his neighbor is a jerk,” Campanaro said. “You have to wait until the next day and then talk to students. Tell them what they were doing and ask them to respect that you have kids, you want to sleep. Meet them halfway. Students don’t know that noise is an issue.”
He said the campus Judicial Affairs staff, who work with students who have been arrested in the city and on campus, could give students community service in the neighborhoods.
“I can’t do anything about individual incidents,” Campanaro said. “Your fence was broken, someone urinated in your bushes, you found a broken bottle — it’s too late. I went to the community forum last semester and the one last fall. I hear the same complaints every time. But once a semester does nothing for me. Too much time has gone by and nothing gets accomplished.”
Campanaro may try to meet with the new Cortland County legislators for the neighborhoods, Amy Cobb (D-3rd Ward) and Ray Parker (D-4th Ward), and the new alderman for the 2nd Ward, Stephanie Hayes. All three were elected last week, so he has not met them yet or planned how to involve them.
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