Point of View

Manhattan College must take control of off-campus students


How many years, how much destruction, and how much taxpayer-funded cleanup and policing will it take for Manhattan College to claim responsibility for the impact that their growing off-campus population has on the Riverdale and Kingsbridge communities?

I think that the answer is, there is no limit. As long as the school is not pushed to fund security and cleanup, it will be happy to continue to abrogate their responsibility to residents and the 50th Precinct.

It is not my, nor any other resident’s, responsibility to ensure students uphold Manhattan College’s code of conduct. To Manhattan College’s chagrin, I’m sure, the New York Police Department and the city’s sanitation department are also not under their employ, though you would not know this given the college’s reliance on publicly funded services to do their job for them.

If you contact the school about the trash, the drunken rampages, and the total lack of respect regularly seen, you may or may not receive a response from the dean of students. If he does respond, he will eventually stop because somehow it’s an annoying inconvenience that your building or neighborhood is getting trashed and that you routinely wake up on a Friday bleary eyed for work.

I must have missed the memo, but it seems that Thursday is also a weekend night. I should really alert my boss.

The first time the dean responded to my pleas to deal with the student population last year, it was only because I posted an embarrassing video of student behavior publicly. After contacting me to schedule a call, I foolishly removed the video, which resulted in him determining the call was no longer a necessity.

This year, after a brief period of initial responsiveness, again I guess complaints about the ongoing destruction became annoying. Despite claiming to work with residents, he stopped even acknowledging emails. While lamenting the situation with another frustrated pregnant neighbor who could have had a horrible accident as a result of a student prank, we decided to call and leave a voicemail, hoping for a response. 

He never returned her message, or mine.

Riverdale is not a college town. It’s filled with longtime residents, young professionals and families. And if Manhattan College endeavors to bring in more money by adding to the student body, or continues to permit off-campus housing for undergraduates, they also need to increase expenditures to ensure the students treat the neighborhood like a neighborhood — with respect.

Otherwise, they need to reduce class size, or return to being a primarily commuter school.

Students cannot claim to be adults and rally to be treated as such if they are unwilling to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. This includes understanding how to behave in a community.

This entitled and privileged student populace would not, in their parents’ neighborhoods, display the behaviors Riverdale residents typically observe. To students, this is not a community of which they are a part of or share responsibility for. It is a temporary playground that can be trashed and destroyed at will with few real consequences.

I would welcome the opportunity to be proven incorrect about my generalizations, and have given the school the benefit of the doubt in the past. But as Manhattan College refuses to rein in the majority of their most visible and obnoxious ambassadors, there are not other conclusions I can come to.

School administration will lead you to believe that the task at hand is nearly insurmountable, that they can only take action if you, as a resident, risk harassment and bullying by taking close video and photo footage of the misbehavior.

I’ve attempted this approach, and at 5-foot-3, have had male students verbally and physically intimidate me while doing so. Issuing warnings and modest fines to the occasional individuals — the college’s general method of reproach for misconduct off-campus — does not change the school’s well-known party and binge-drinking culture, and does not present a long-term solution.

Fairfield University, when faced with a similar situation, employed assistant directors of resident life to monitor nearby off-campus residences on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Students in off-campus housing must register their addresses, making it easy for security to target particular areas and issue citations for un-neighborly behavior, even if it is not illegal.

The Riverdale community is small, this is a reasonable solution here. Additionally, off-campus students should have a mandatory orientation at the beginning of each school year which could include messages from the 50th Precinct, our local councilman and residents — serious discussions about the consequences of binge-drinking, and clear communication of the ramifications of good neighbor policy violations.

Don’t let Manhattan College fool you. There are real, immediate and effective solutions to student behavior in Riverdale, but the college would prefer that residents — not the school — foot the bill and responsibility for these. 

The efforts of Deputy Inspector Terence O’Toole of the 50th Precinct and Councilman Andrew Cohen have been persistent, but it’s time for Manhattan College to be held accountable and mobilize their own resources to address problems created directly by their students.

Whatever steps have been taken, clearly, have not been enough, and continued dipping into the public coffers is no longer tolerable.

Karolina Janik