The real issue is not zoning. It is that - while many students are perfectly respectable neighbors - some of the students are insensitive drunken pigs. There is a great deal of vandalism around the universities, like wires yanked out of utility boxes and toilet paper and other garbage in trees. Some student houses have unmowed grass, chairs in the front yard, and beer bottles everywhere. Some students have loud, late parties. Many do not seem to understand garbage collection, resulting in garbage blowing in the street and on lawns.
Whatever else is done about zoning, the behavior of the bad students has to be improved. The university administrations, student organizations, city by-law officers and police all need to work on the problem:
- During orientation, students need some training in being citizens. Most are living on their own for the first time, and it is evident that many do not understand how to put their garbage and recycling on the curb. They also need to be told what the noise by-laws are and what the penalties are.
- There needs to be enforcement. If residents call the police about loud parties after 11 or rowdy behavior, the police need to show up immediately and they need to be effective. During peak partying times the police should patrol student neighborhoods, both to curtail loud parties and to prevent vandalism.
- The universities need to step up. Students should be penalized for repeated bad behavior, with a note on their transcript, with rustication/debarment, or with something else.
- Perhaps we should try something new. If landlords faced fines for egregious problems, they might make students pay a fine deposit (akin to a damage deposit) that students get back if there are no fines. Another option is for the city to fine the universities for the costs of cleaning up after students.
When I was a graduate student at UW I went to a couple of big parties at Sunnydale that were appalling: smashing of beer bottles against trees, trashing of townhouses, competing stereos blaring distortedly. There is a culture in this town that that sort of behavior is not just fine for students, but almost de rigeur. I've studied at other universities and that is not the case everywhere. I think the whole town has bought into some notion that if you're a student you should be allowed to get stinking drunk and keep everyone awake all night. There is a sort of implicit "boys will be boys" mentality that applies only to students.
I'm not suggesting these measures because I love law and order, but because there is a crisis in our town caused by the rowdy behavior of some students. The problem goes far beyond the so-called student ghetto.
We have a problem and we need to fix it. It's not fair to the residents of Waterloo, and it's not fair to other students.