A group of Loyola Marymount University (LMU) students and Westchester area residents plan to join university and police officials in a working group to address ongoing community concerns about student life off-campus.
The proposed working group is the product of a Westchester town hall meeting organized by Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl Thursday, October 12th, when representatives from LMU, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and City Attorney’s Office discussed concerns of several local residents regarding student and community relations.
Among the concerns expressed are noise emanating from off-campus student housing and the behavior of students in the neighborhoods following parties.
While university and police officials say they have been proactive in working to settle the concerns, Rosendahl said the input of both students and residents will add a “new element” to the effort.
Many of the complaints voiced at the town hall meeting related to ongoing issues between the university and surrounding neighborhoods, which were also brought up at another town hall meeting last year.
In the year since the last meeting, university officials say they have taken many important steps to help resolve the issues, primarily with the creation of the Office of Off-Campus Student Life in July.
The new office, which serves as a link between the university and students living off-campus, is one of LMU’s initiatives to be more proactive in its relationship with the community, said Jade Smith, LMU assistant director of student life.
“What we’re trying to do is create a relationship as neighbors,” Smith said. “A number of the concerns voiced we have heard.
“We’re definitely making a concerted effort at the university to address them.”
Some of the local residents at the meeting told the LMU representatives that off-campus functions continue to have an impact on their neighborhood.
Playa del Rey resident Alex Weir, who claims he has seen some students urinating in the street, said that he would like to see the zoning laws in the neighborhood enforced for single-family homes.
Resident Michelle Wechsler said the noise coming from some off-campus housing has been “so disruptive” that she and her husband have considered selling their home.
Another resident, Christina Helms, said she also attended the town hall meeting last year and many of the neighbors are tired of the continuing problems.
“Something needs to happen so that the new kids coming in understand the rules of living in Westchester,” she said.
According to an LMU handout, the university has received 29 complaints since August 28th regarding parties, crowds and neighborhood disturbances. Fifteen of the complaints were sent to the LMU Office of Judicial Affairs and four warranted a “more thorough disciplinary review,” the handout said.
Some LMU students living off-campus attended the meeting and said the behavior of some other students has been unacceptable but that they want to work with the community to try to solve the problems.
“There has to be open-mindedness on both sides in order for this to work,” said LMU student and off-campus resident Andy Kelly.
LMU student Kyle Christensen acknowledged that large parties were held at some off-campus houses in celebration of “Greek Week,” but they were not meant to disrupt the neighborhood.
“The only thing we can do is apologize and work on these things,” said Christensen, adding that it’s the first time many students are living on their own.
Smith said the university has taken several actions within the last two months to address the off-campus issues.
A first-year student orientation was held in early September, when over 650 freshmen met with representatives from LAPD, the City Attorney’s Office and LMU Public Safety and Judicial Affairs to discuss the demands and responsibilities of college life, as well as the implications of off-campus social activities.
University officials have sent out letters to landlords and neighbors, providing those within a three-mile radius with a calendar of all currently planned amplified events during the academic year.
The Office of Off-Campus Student Life also plans to hold mandatory student orientation for students living off-campus to address issues such as civility, courtesy and community relations, Smith said.
LAPD Pacific Captain Bill Hayes said police are “trying to be responsive” in working with LMU to handle complaints, but the issues will not be resolved overnight.
The LMU Public Safety Department does not have authority to patrol or enforce laws beyond the LMU boundaries, but Captain Gary Morgan of LMU Public Safety said officers are taking a proactive role in addressing the complaints.
Local residents who have a complaint may contact LMU Public Safety at (310) 338-2893.
Rosendahl said he was impressed with the university’s outreach effort in addressing the ongoing community concerns.
“I think it was a very positive meeting,” Rosendahl said. “I’m impressed with the university folks who are focused on the issue.”