September 22, 2009 |

School officials want to know what their students are doing

Officials from Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh came to South Side last week to talk with residents about how they can work better together to help protect the neighborhood and the students that live, work and play in the neighborhood.

District 3 Councilman Bruce Kraus called the Town Hall meeting at the South Side Market House for those attending to "have an opportunity as a resident to put a face to a name from the (schools)." He told the small crowd of residents he hoped to create an avenue for South Side residents to the colleges' student housing directors to help solve issues pertaining to the students.

Attending the meeting from the University of Pittsburgh were: James Williams, assistant director for City-County Relations, Office of Government Relations; Paul Supowitz, executive assistant, Office of Government Relations; and, Deborah Walker, student conduct officer.

Representing Duquesne were: Timothy Lewis, director of the Office of Community Affairs; and, Susan Monahan, director, Judicial Affairs.

Addressing the residents first was Mr. Supowitz who explained there is a process in place for dealing with students in off-campus housing. The school's Code of Conduct applies to all members of the university community, students, teachers and staff alike, whether on campus of off.

"It does allow us to deal with students harder, particularly if they're a danger to the community," Mr. Supowitz said. However, the university doesn't always know where off-campus students live. Students aren't required to provide the university where they are currently living, only an official address – often their parents' home address.

Anytime residents have a problem with someone they suspect is a student, officials from both schools confirmed that if they are given a name, they would be able to contact the student at their individual schools about the problem. The school is also able to track down students through other means, such as utilizing a registration number off a parking permit.

"There are a number of programs in place that try to make students understand they have certain responsibilities on the campus and in the community," Mr. Supowitz added.

Pitt has been working to get students to live on campus. Several years ago, 3,500 students lived on-campus, now more than 7,000 call the campus home.

"There are always going to be students that want to live off-campus," Mr. Supowitz added. "Particularly juniors and seniors."

Mr. Kraus questioned the officials about what disciplinary actions are taken against students for alcohol violations such as underage drinking or running a "speakeasy" (charging for alcohol at a house party).

Mr. Supowitz said the student could face the student judicial system in addition to having to go before a district magistrate. He said alcohol issues are addressed in the Pitt Promise, a pledge all incoming students take.

"Binge drinking is something that we all deal with," he continued. "It's an issue around all college campuses."

"We do expect them to act as good neighbors," Ms. Walker added. "Anyone can file a judicial complaint against a student, on-campus or off-campus." The majority of student complaints she deals with are alcohol related.

If a student is called into her office for a complaint, sanctions can range anywhere from a warning to expulsion.

"The Super Bowl was a nightmare," she said. "We took it very serious."

After the Super Bowl celebration almost 30 students were

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