Love thy neighbor

The first in a non-sequential series of two

While people who live in the same neighborhood as colleges often complain about living near students, AU's neighbors seem to have less of a problem.

Although some students seem to think that students living off campus cause a lot of problems for neighbors in the Tenley and Spring Valley area, many community members and AU representatives think all is under control.

"It's just not a widespread problem," said Dean of Students Faith Leonard. She said every year the University gets calls about a few houses, but they are generally isolated incidents.

"We typically have four to five houses over the year that might be problematic," she said.

Hugh Mullane, a commissioner with Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D, the local D.C. governing board for the area that includes AU, said that during his two-year tenure he hasn't had anyone complain to him.

"AU students do a lot of good in this neighborhood," Mullane said. This includes students who tutor at a neighborhood elementary school.

The only complaint he'd ever heard of coming to the board was when some students had a party in the Spring Valley neighborhood, and younger children from the area were around, Mullane said.

However, AU senior Mel Gagarin, who lives in The Berkshire Apartments at 4201 Massachusetts Ave., thinks his neighbors have a problem with students in the area.

"The neighbors find us to be a nuisance, but this is unfounded because many students are good neighbors," Gagarin said. "I'm a model citizen."

Gagarin has not heard of many specific complaints about students and has never had a problem with any of his neighbors.

"Occasionally someone will have the cops called on them for having loud music after 10:30 [p.m.]," he said.

When students do become a nuisance, the University tries to intervene, even though it cannot remove anyone from housing, Leonard said.

Ultimately, she said it's the landlord's prerogative.

"We work at it from an educational perspective," Leonard said. "We try to ID the students and call them in to talk about the risks they're running and what the consequences may be."

To help put the neighbors at ease, AU has roundtable discussions about various issues three or four times a year, according to David Taylor, chief of staff for AU President Benjamin Ladner.

The University puts out a newsletter two or three times a year to tell neighbors what is happening on campus and possibly to address off-campus issues. The newsletter is mainly meant "to put a face on the students," Taylor said.

"We're not perfect, but we have a pretty good behavior record," he said. "For the most part we do OK."

The University provides "Good Neighbor Guidelines" that advise students on how to interact with neighbors, but Gagarin said he has never heard about anything like this from AU.

The guidelines include responsibilities of living in a community and the considerations students should have.

Whether students have actually read these guidelines is questionable, but either way Leonard feels AU students are doing all right.

"The vast majority of AU students who live in the area really are good neighbors," she said.

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