South Bend is not a college town.
The fraternities, sororities and off-campus houses that line the streets of cities like Bloomington and Dayton are no where to be found on Notre Dame Avenue, Eddy Street or Angela Boulevard.
Tensions sometimes do arise from a discrepancy between students’ expectations of college town freedoms and local families’ expectations for quiet neighborhoods.
A South Bend resident of 68 years, Deacon Brian Miller said he felt students needed to understand the stereotypical Animal House college lifestyle does not fit the family neighborhoods of South Bend.
“The students, they need to try to be respectful neighbors. If they have a party they need to make sure there are parameters,” he said.
Tensions rose when a spike in arrests occurred earlier in the semester, but cooled, and arrests declined. Miller said he felt the student presence in the neighborhood to be largely positive.
“Most of the students are well-intentioned and respectful,” Miller said.
But South Bend resident Jim Carter considers calling police to be a reasonable response if a situation warrants it.
“I suppose neighbors probably think it is their right to call if the students are being loud,” he said.
Shirley McFarland, a local resident, said she felt some of the arrests might have been unwarranted.
“I think some of them could have been avoided,” she said. “I have phone numbers for the students so I would call them first.”
McFarland moved into her house on Notre Dame Avenue in 1984. She said students back then were often problematic residents.
“Years ago, when my husband first died, I thought I was going to have to move out of the neighborhood,” she said. “I would come home from work and 200 kids would be across the street, two cars would be parked in my driveway, and when I asked them to move they drove through my yard. That was the worst time.”
She said since the 1980s, students in her neighborhood have become significantly more considerate.
“After that, it got better, once the police started talking to them,” she said. “Most of the time I don’t even know when people are over there.”
Good Neighbor Guides, distributed to off-campus students at the beginning of the year, suggest communicating with neighbors about upcoming parties and giving them contact information. Miller said while communication is helpful, parties need to be contained.
“It’s just not acceptable to be having big keg parties. It’s a recipe for trouble,” he said.
In addition to forming relationships with their immediate neighbors, residents said student involvement in the community was also crucial to maintaining positive relations.
“I think the students are quite involved, I see pictures in the paper of them volunteering downtown,” Carter said.
He said some parts of the city are on the decline and need help from students.
“I think the rest of South Bend is getting let go and getting pretty rotten,” he said. “[Students should be] just trying to keep the neighborhood halfway decent.”
South Bend resident and Notre Dame 1964 alumnus Ben Cashman said student and community relations improved along with an increase in student outreach.
“Students do a lot of volunteer work, so that has helped relationships,” he said. “There was not much involvement with South Bend in my student days. We did not have chances to get involved with non-profits like the Logan Center or the homeless center.”
MacFarland said student volunteers at the Robinson Community Learning Center helped her son and other local children with after-school programming.
“[Students should] continue to be involved at the Robinson Community Learning Center, because they have a lot of kids there who have no help in the afternoons.”
Some residents said they saw the University’s involvement in the construction of Eddy Street Commons as another positive way for Notre Dame to contribute to the community at an administrative level.
“I’m over there a lot, to me I think it’s growth for the neighborhood,” McFarland said. “It brings business, it’s something for the community to look forward to, and people off campus can get jobs.”
Miller said individual students could help maintain good relations with the community by continuing to be active in South Bend and maintaining open lines of communication with neighbors.
“I think the students are great in helping the community,” Miller said. “If you’ve got a problem you need to talk to the people involved.”