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CCAC: Community, University relations have improved

Sarah Mervosh | Friday, April 3, 2009

Student leaders, University officials and community members discussed issues regarding off-campus housing at the Community Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC) meeting, which took place on campus for the first time Thursday afternoon.

Several group members said the relationship between off-campus students and their neighbors has improved overall.

“It’s been the best year in a long, long time. I’m very pleased,” Matt Costello, a South Bend resident, said. “There were a couple of big parties on St. Patrick’s Day, but they were shut down right after dinner. By the time the little kids were ready for bed, there wasn’t a peep out of anybody in the neighborhood.”

Mark Kramer, owner of Kramer Properties, a housing company in the South Bend area, said he has been taking a more proactive approach to parties.

“What we do before the major events [is] we send a mass e-mail out to all of the students reminding them of their neighbors,” Kramer said.

Kramer said he has also hired three off-duty police officers who have gone around to talk to students prior to major events, and the students “knowing that the presence is there” has made a difference.

Council chairman Al “Buddy” Kirsits said that for him, alcohol awareness is a main concern, and said it needs to happen early in the school year.

Kirsits suggested creating a video to post on the new off-campus Web site – which is currently in development stages – that would talk “about tragic consequences that happen when you make silly mistakes” in order to raise alcohol awareness.

Michael Carrington, a representative from the Alcoholic Beverage Board, said students will continue to throw parties “if they know they can party and raise hell all night” without repercussions.

“The new people coming in need to understand what the expectation is,” Carrington said. “And then you have to demonstrate that you are going to enforce it early in the year.”

Student body president Grant Schmidt, who participated in the CCAC meeting for the first time since taking office, said iTunes U would be a venue for student leaders, athletes and other officials to promote alcohol awareness.

The group also discussed the legal number of students living in one off-campus home.

“There are certain areas where you can’t have more than two unrelated parties [living in the same unit], whether students or not students,” Kramer said. “Some … homes are grandfathered so that you can have multiple students.”

Kramer also said it had been brought to his attention that Irish Row and The Foundry Lofts and Apartments at Eddy Street Commons are renting apartments to more than two unrelated people, which may be in violation of zoning agreements.

“I’m not calling around to find out who’s loading up their apartments,” Kramer said. “I’m doing my job as a businessman to stay competitive. I stumbled upon this.”

Kirsits said the South Bend Common Council had not been aware of this. He said the Council will look at the minutes from the meetings where these apartment complexes had agreed to zoning, and confirm whether or not this was in violation.

Kirsits also addressed taxi reform, a principal component of Schmidt’s platform as student body president.

Kirsits said he plans to work with Schmidt to better regulate taxi cabs and approach the Council president “to get a bit of a grip on the licensing requirements and regulations for the taxi cabs.”

“That’s my pledge to you. It will be an ongoing process,” Kirsits said. “It will involve a lot of players, but there needs to be some regulations on that.”

Northeast neighborhood resident Marguerite Taylor expressed an interest in increasing the interaction between community members and the student government off-campus president, because prior to last week’s Community Summit meeting, she had not been aware Notre Dame had such a position.

“As community people, we didn’t even know that that person even existed, and we’d like to work with him more closely,” she said.

Other issues discussed at the meeting include student safety and the upcoming CommUniversity Day, which will take place Saturday.

Carrington said he is grateful for the increasingly positive role the University has played in the community and for the work that CCAC has done to improve the relationship between the community and the University.

This relationship between the University and the community is “a wonderful, wonderful thing and we need to continue to cherish it and nourish it,” Carrington said.

Kirsits echoed his sentiments.

“When people say, ‘tell me something good about the city,’ I always say ‘well, let’s start with the universities that we have here.'”

The next CCAC meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, June 2 at the Robinson Community Learning Center.