November 3, 2009 |

Universities want their students to fit in with the South Side community

South Siders experiencing problems with unruly college students have an ally — the universities and, specifically, its student codes of honor.

That was the message conveyed by University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University officials at a meeting called by city Councilman Bruce Kraus.

Its purpose was to facilitate communication between community members and the schools about resolving issues regarding students when such a need arises.

"The South Side is densely packed, so we want meet-and-greets to work, not trips to the magistrate," said Mr. Kraus, the city's public safety chair.

More students than ever are seemingly calling the area "home." Mr. Kraus said residents contact him from Arlington and Allentown about problems as students move up on the Hilltop due to South Side becoming "saturated."

Tim Lewis, director, Office of Commuter Affairs, Duquesne Univ., said 90 percent of the freshman class lives on campus. Students are not permitted to live off campus until their junior year.

At Pitt, about 7,000 students live on campus. "We try to create the kind of living arrangements kids would want," said John Wilds, assistant vice chancellor for community relations.

But because on campus "they can't do anything they want to do when they want to do it," they prefer to live elsewhere, he said.

Mr. Kraus referred to it as the "right of passage of being twenty-one": being legal and away from home.

"Herein often lies the catalyst that starts a lot of the neighborhood problems," he said.

To make matters worse, said Deborah Walker, Pitt's student conduct officer, is the "drastic increase" the past three years in new students' experience with drugs and alcohol.

Ms. Walker said residents should call her at 412-648-7910 if they are having problems with Pitt students in their communities.

Supply her with as much information as possible, such as the names and addresses of the students, so she can look them up on the university's computer system.

If you do not know the name, try to learn the number on the parking pass belonging to the university. Or, if the landlord's name is on the mailbox, contact him for the name of the tenant.

The student code of conduct, she said, applies on and off campus. It can be found at: www.studentaffairs.pitt. edu/conduct/code.html.

When a student violates the code, a judicial complaint is filed. Ms. Walker contacts the student to discuss the offense.

Sanctions range from a warning to a reprimand to suspension to permanent expulsion, with the latter two for the most egregious cases.

A student can accept the sanctions or contest or deny involvement before a three-person hearing panel comprised of a faculty member, staff member, and student representative.

The process typically takes a number of days from the time of complaint to contacting the student. Hearings are usually held within two weeks.

At the hearing, the charged student can give their side. Residents with knowledge of the offense may be witnesses at the hearing.

The hearing panel then makes its recommendation to the vice provost/dean of students.

A decision is rendered, and sanctions pronounced. There is an appeal process.

"We provide fair, educational, due process for all our students," said Ms. Walker.

For Duquesne Univ. students, residents should call Mr. Lewis at 412-396-6660 with names, addresses, and whatever other information can be provided.

The school's Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct applies to all students on and off campus. It can be found at: www.sites.duq.edu/student-life/student-handbook.

When a report is filed regarding a student residing off campus, Mr. Lewis meets with the student to address the report. If no further behavior occurs, no action is required.

But if the student is reported in a second incident, the case is referred to Susan Monahan, director of the school's Office of Judicial Affairs. The student meets with Ms. Monahan about the incident, possibly resulting in sanctions.

If the student does not accept the sanctions, a formal judicial hearing is scheduled.

Residents are invited to attend the judicial board hearing to provide details and information regarding the incident.

But while troublesome students are quick to grab headlines, less heralded student involvement in the South Side and Hilltop areas is often exemplary, say university and city officials.

On October 17, 44 Pitt students volunteered to help with a neighborhood cleanup organized by the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association as part of the students' Make A Difference Day.

Pitt students also helped that day with cleanups on the Hilltop: in the Mount Oliver area sponsored by the Hilltop Economic Development Corp.; in Allentown with the Allentown CDC; and, in Carrick with the Carrick Litter Patrol among the neighborhoods.

A "How to be a good neighbor" article was recently posted in Duquesne's "DU Commuter & South Side Newsletter."

Among the 13 points are: "Watch your noise levels ... Loud music, cars and shouting individuals will disrupt your neighbors."

And, "Entertain responsibly. Do not allow your parties, guests or music to become a problem."

The article also lists opportunities for Duquesne students to volunteer with a South Pittsburgh agency, such as at the Brashear Association, Carnegie Library, and Goodwill Industries.

In April 2009, 400 students from the Duquesne University Volunteers (DUV) program participated in the spring clean up of "Keep it Clean South Side," while more than 350 students participated in the Aug. 2009 clean up.

The recent G-20 clean up attracted more than 250 students and community members.

On the same evening as the Market House meeting, Duquesne hosted a dinner for its students who live on the South Side.

"We try to do a lot of pro-active things," said Mr. Lewis.

Reader Comments

(0)