The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Cast the First Stone

At St. John’s, the word “community” is thrown around more than “weapons of mass destruction” in the Bush White House.

Student leaders and administrators incessantly refer to the community within the residence village, the community of faculty-student interaction, and the community of alumni that enriches the university’s legacy.

The community that is sometimes forgotten by students is the one that our campus is quaintly nestled within.

To the residents of the surrounding neighborhood, St. John’s has changed from a golf course, to a small commuter school, to the largest Catholic University in the United States. The addition of the residence halls has changed this institution-neighborhood dynamic and has required lengthy dialogue between the two parties.

“The university has significantly improved its communication with the surrounding community,” said Kevin Forrestal, president of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association. “But the fundamental problem is that 2,000 plus students live in buildings that are adjacent to one or two-family houses, and college students have a different way of life compared to senior citizens and families.”

That way of life, undoubtedly unique to college students, has caused a multitude of problems that the Office of Community Relations has unfortunately been forced to deal with.

“The vast majority of students are good, wonderful people I’m sure,” said Forrestal, “but there are some that cause problems from time to time, various drunken behavior, vomiting on lawns, dropping beer cans around the neighborhood.”

The sad thing is that Forrestal’s assessment is not far from the truth. Many students have a blatant disregard for their surroundings and have given neighborhood leaders a reason to complain and forget about the positives that students bring to the area, such as an influx of consumers.

“Theoretically it’s good for business I guess. I wouldn’t know though. I’m a homeowner,” said Bob Harris, president of the West Cunningham Civic Association. “But bringing in more teenagers, more young people, is a problem for the neighborhood at times.”

Though Harris admitted that one should not generalize when talking about students, he was completely convinced that many were detrimental to the community along with the rapid outgrowth of the university in general.

“The University is useful because a lot of seniors can take courses there for free, there are also cultural events, and they work with neighborhood high schools too,” said Harris. “The problem the neighborhood has is that the University is getting too big. The problem is too many students.”

We cannot allow this stereotype to fester within our communities. Similar to the loosening of residence hall visitation policies, we must be held responsible for our actions and realize that everything we do has deep reverberations for the entire school.

I will be the first to admit that some of my fellow students are less than model scholars and sometimes less than model citizens. However, strides have been made. Bars have been closed, and according to Forrestal and Harris, incidents have lessened in this past year.

Something often forgotten by our neighbors is that resident students visiting Manhattan and returning to their out-of-state homes on the weekends temper the impact on the area. What we have here in Jamaica is nothing compared to what an entire city like Albany deals with when it comes to student-community relations.

“Albany has a large establishment downtown with a lot of bars,” said Omar Torres, a former student and administrator at SUNY Albany and presently the Director of Judicial Affairs at St. John’s. “You’re going to have the type of trend where students are away from home and therefore they want to be independent. I mean mommy and daddy aren’t around anymore.”

Torres added that St. John’s proximity to the city and the availability of public transportation is a key factor in making our situation much more flexible than others.

“It’s different as far as the public, private dynamic,” said Torres. “At St. John’s we place expectation on every student that we admit, as far as our Catholic, Vincentian, and Metropolitan mission.”

And rightfully so.

Students at St. John’s should be held to these standards. It benefits each one of us as far as the strength of our diploma and the name that we will all put on our resumes someday. We as students should be held accountable and should be criticized for poor behavior that makes the school look bad collectively.

A tremendous amount of criticism has stemmed from this column in the past, criticism that has been directed towards the administration and has not always been tempered by the fairness of the occasional compliment.

At different times I have attacked apathy, mediocrity, dilapidated facilities, and a lackluster academic environment that I feel are apparent in the University.

On many occasions I have witnessed students hammer campus activities, residence life, and student services.

However, the different responses on the part of the school undoubtedly deserve commendation. Their reactions, initiatives, and programs have been nothing short of heartening.

Though some students with impossible expectations might disagree, the reshuffling of campus service locations, constant dialogue with students regarding Residence Life, and a concerted effort by a new campus activities team to spike involvement, has sparked a turnaround.

On the school’s part, it would be unwise to accept this upward turn and not continue to endlessly chase perfection. It is that chase, visible to me over the past four years, which I respect, expect and now commend the school for.

The University has grown and from what I can tell that growth has been a strong positive. The addition of residence halls has raised our academic standards and helped better our education, a point that the surrounding community needs to accept and feed off.

But while we better ourselves we must also be mindful of the concerns of others and never give community leaders like Harris any reason to say:

“Come on now why does it have to get so big? It’s not a moneymaking operation, it’s an educational thing.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

We love comments and feedback, but we ask that you please be respectful in your responses.
All The Torch Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *