Liaison meeting discusses ways to curb student behavior
A task force of students, city officials, law enforcement and Mount Pleasant residents assembled to answer one question: How can student behavior be addressed to improve their relationship with residents?
The CMU/city liaison committee met for the first time Wednesday to brainstorm ideas and open a dialogue between all parties involved.
"We're not going to walk out of here with a solution," said City Manager Nancy Ridley. "It's not one and done. It's an ongoing dialogue."
A task force was first formed in the 1990s, which made recommendations on how to deal with "problem" student behavior. This summer, the Mount Pleasant City Commission voted to reinstate the group, fearing problems like nuisance parties, trash and an unsafe atmosphere for students.
Welcome Weekend was the first topic brought up by Mayor Jim Holton. He said the large number of people partying in neighborhoods north of campus brought more problems than he is OK with.
"We all have to live together in this community," Holton said. "I would hate to see it go back to the End of the World (parties). We don't want it to get to where we have to ID people, but that's on the table."
About 15 representatives from different organizations offered ideas to help improve the relationship between the students and city.
Ian Elliott, Student Government Association's city commission liaison, said quantifying the problem is difficult. He has talked with students and residents, and noticed three common issues: People coming from outside of the community to party, the need for more education for new freshmen and more activities for students and residents to participate in together.
"The expectations and consequences are not communicated," he said. "There is inconsistency in the way parties are enforced."
Elliott and Mike Degregory, president of CMU's Residence Hall Council, both brought up more education during freshmen orientation sessions, and utilizing technology to inform students of expectation.
"The city needs to utilize social media," Degregory said. "Money is not being put into that. We are in a new age and there needs to be new age communication."
Mount Pleasant Police Officer Jeff Browne said the department is working on utilizing social media more often. He took issue with Elliott's sentiments about the department's lack of educating students.
"I struggle with the effectiveness of education," he said. "We walk around in those neighborhoods and answer any questions students have. We've been working with the Office of Student Conduct for years as well."
Nicole Zbiciak, a student and representative of the neighborhood north of campus, said everyone needs to work on how CMU is perceived to new students.
"A lot of perception comes from younger students," she said. "Students come in with expectations of Main Street. We need to know when to educate students and make strategic plans."
McGregory agreed, saying new students come in hearing about the "party atmosphere" before they reach campus.
"The parties are not going to stop," he said. "No one understands consequences because they aren't communicated effectively. We also need to stop minimizing that (students) are a problem sometimes."
The committee plans to meet again, but a date has not been scheduled.