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

Odds Without Ends

Lately, St. John’s can’t seem to catch a break.

Marillac failing a health inspection, a rifleman walking onto campus, and a student coming down with the Staph virus – what more could happen in just one semester?

Oddly enough, the aforementioned controversies pale in comparison to a more lasting problem that recently popped up.

Sean Fleming, a part-time SJU student, organized a series of protests outside Gate 1 in opposition to the University’s construction of a six-story dorm off-campus on Henley Road.

The protestors, mostly Jamaica Estates residents, claim that the University did not discuss the plans with the community prior to finalizing the deal. They also argue that St. John’s got the rights to build such a large structure due to a loophole in the law.

On the surface, the protestors sound entirely in the right. And, after reading a fairly one-sided Daily News article on the subject, I found myself sympathizing with the residents of Jamaica Estates. I also figured the protests would spell a nasty end to a semester in which the University has already endured more than a few hardships.

But, as time went on, and I read more information on the matter, I began to wonder: how justified are these protestors?
In truth, while Fleming and other Jamaica Estates residents have understandable complaints, their biggest problems with the University are somewhat off base.

For starters, St. John’s made the deal with the land’s owner completely fair and square. The law clearly states that dormitories are considered communal property, and can therefore legally be six stories. What St. John’s did was not sneaky or underhanded – they were simply building their dorm within the limits of the law.
To launch a fairly personal attack on St. John’s in this case is completely unnecessary, since the University did nothing illegal. If anything, the law itself should be protested.

But the protestors are certainly right in one of their complaints: the University has been far too silent about the subject. “St. John’s is paying no attention to us,” said Fleming, “so what choice did we have but to bring the attention to us?”

This is by far the most accurate accusation anyone could make against St. John’s. Many Jamaica Estates residents have legitimate concerns about the influx of so many students. Could it cause overcrowding, a decrease in water pressure, or problems with sewer drainage?

In a statement issued by the University in September, St. John’s claimed that “the University will continue, as always, to encourage open dialogue with its neighbors, including those at this new site.”
Where is that dialogue now when it is needed the most?

When asked for comment, administrators told me that St. John’s would not make any statements regarding the protestors. But why ignore this select group of residents that feel so strongly about the issue that they protest nearly every Saturday outside of Gate 1? It only infuriates them more when they get no response, leading to such personal attacks against the school.

Something needs to be done to stop this dispute, and that is an open dialogue. This falls on St. John’s shoulders; they need to address these protestors as soon as possible and try to ease their concerns. At the same time, the protestors need to be a bit more understanding of the University’s position.

St. John’s can’t catch a break these days, but the dorm dispute is one controversy that simply shouldn’t be. Only through mutual cooperation and discussion will the protestors feel more secure about the new St. John’s dorm. This needs to happen soon if the University hopes to end yet another controversy in what has been, undoubtedly, a rocky semester.

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