College life can be an exciting time for teens and young adults, as they begin the journey of personal discovery, absorb new ideas and philosophies and begin their often new-found independence.
For many young scholars, it is also a time for going to parties with friends, and enjoying oneself after a long week of studying.
Loyola Marymount University (LMU) students often attend parties in residential neighborhoods that abut the university, and some residents have complained that these functions often turn into loud early-morning disturbances.
Last month, several Westchester homeowners who reside west of the campus told The Argonaut and a television news crew that the level of student parties had escalated and they demanded that the university take steps to quell what some call inappropriate, rude behavior by several of the partygoers.
The image that is painted of the students who attend the parties by the homeowners is a topic of discussion on campus among many of LMU’s nearly 6,000 students, says Oscar Borboa, 21, editor of the student newspaper The Loyolan.
“It’s definitely a hot-button issue on campus,” Borboa told The Argonaut in a recent interview. “The student body is very concerned about it and it has sparked a lot of conversation.”
LMU officials have initiated discussions with nearby homeowners in an effort to find workable solutions to what many feel is a problem that has escalated over the years and has caused a large divide between Westchester residents and the Jesuit university.
Borboa, a senior who is majoring in theological studies, says that his fellow students are also interested in seeing a reduction in the animosity between the two sides.
“Everyone that I talk to wants to find a resolution,” he said. “Students want the community to know that it is a small number who are engaging in this behavior.”
Adrienne Wright, an LMU senior who rents a home in Westchester on Holy Cross Place, says that she attends neighborhood parties on occasion and when she and her roommates host a party at their home, it is usually during the day.
“Our next-door neighbor has a baby, so we try to be aware of that,” said Wright, 21, who is majoring in fine arts, with a minor in art history. She agrees with Borboa that student parties in residential neighborhoods are a frequent topic of discussion. “It really is a big issue for us,” Wright concurred.
The head of the university’s Public Safety Division, Hampton Cantrell, is looking into the possibility of obtaining limited enforcement powers for his department.
“We’re considering the idea of creating a memorandum of agreement with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which has jurisdiction in the residential neighborhoods, to allow us to have limited enforcement powers within a certain radius of the campus,” said Cantrell, who joined LMU this summer after retiring from the Inglewood Police Department as a captain. “We’ll also be looking at establishing off-campus patrols on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.”
Wright says that she and many of her friends are not the way some of the university’s neighbors portray them — drunken, unruly and destructive.
“I see myself standing apart from the stereotype that many people have about us,” said the fine arts student.
Wright also sympathizes with many homeowners who have complained about the number of partygoers and homes that host them.
“I can see where some of the families are coming from,” she said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Westchester, has proposed establishing a panel of community members, LMU administration, the LMU Public Safety Department, students and the councilman’s office to directly address the ongoing complaints of excessive parties.
Jess Echeverry, who lives on Fordham Avenue just blocks from the school’s southern entrance, likes the idea of setting up a task force to look for a solution to what many of her friends and neighbors feel is an annoyance that is quickly spinning out of control.
“Our car has been egged, and some of my neighbors have had some of their property damaged,” she said. “So having a community panel to figure out what to do about these parties and the party houses is something that I think is a good idea.”
Borboa, who has attended off-campus parties, also feels that the creation of a community panel could be beneficial.
“From those whom I have talked to about it, they are generally in favor of it,” Borboa said.
Regarding the possible enforcement powers that the university is considering, Borboa was less enthusiastic.
“A lot of students are relatively leery of the proposal to give our public safety department enforcement duties,” the editor of The Loyolan said. “I think that deserves a little more discussion.”
Wright thinks the panel could be helpful as well, but she is concerned that it isn’t a panacea to bridge the chasm between the neighbors and the students.
“I think that might help to temporarily smooth over the [animosity] that exists, but it would not change the situation,” she said.
Cantrell believes that the best way to begin to dissolve the anger that exists between homeowners and students is for them to meet face to face and begin a conversation that focuses on what both parties can do to ease the current tensions.
“As a police officer, I’ve always believed in community-based approaches,” said LMU’s public safety chief.
“It’s critical to develop relationships with those who live in close proximity,” Borboa added.
While Wright understands the viewpoints of the university’s neighbors, she also feels that it is not unreasonable for students to want to unwind on the weekends at a nearby party.
“[The homeowners] were in college once and they wanted to have fun,” she noted. “It should be expected that college students would like to have fun, too.”
Allison Sharp, a former LMU student, recently gave her views on the parties and student behavior.
“I attended and graduated from LMU and lived in the quaint areas of Westchester just like these so-called ‘party animals’ do,” Sharp, a Westchester resident wrote in a September letter. “As a responsible student, when I had parties I would inform my neighbors of the party as well as provide them with my phone number, should a problem or noise disturbance arise, just like other LMU students have done in the past.
“LMU has been around this community for far longer than the majority [of residents] have lived here,” Sharp added. “I know Westchester is not a city in itself; therefore unity among the community members is even more important to keep our community striving.”
Wright offered an explanation for the large number of parties that occur in the neighborhoods that are in close proximity to the university.
“The reason that there are so many parties off campus is that there are so many students who live in the neighborhoods,” she pointed out.
In the university’s master plan, which many of LMU’s neighbors oppose, additional student housing is planned, and LMU officials believe that will curtail some of the need to seek entertainment off campus.
Wright, who grew up in nearby Playa del Rey, feels that the key to resolving the contention between the neighbors and LMU students will require some compromise from all parties involved.
“It’s a matter of respect,” she concluded. “It’s learning how to live with each other in a respectful manner.”