On September 16, numerous local residents and college students attended a City Council Public Safety Committee that sought to address growing concerns over student conduct downtown. For this meeting, the City Hall was more crowded than normal, the reason being that many residents and council members believe that something is different about this year’s incoming students. They believe that the students are more destructive, noisier and in general more disrespectful than previous years, and that for many local residents, too many lines have been crossed.
Numerous testimonials were given from locals who have just moved to town and from those who have spent their entire lives in Oneonta. Stories of furniture being stolen from porches, people waking up to find vomit and condoms on their front yards and some residents going so far as to say that they have considered moving out of the downtown area. When asked, one disgruntled resident who gave testimonial stated: “I am not anti-student, I am anti getting woken up at 3 a.m. every night by a student screaming outside my window.” Others seemed far less accepting of students, with many stating that they desired stricter law enforcement and penalties for disruptive behavior.
However, not all of the town’s residents in attendance came to condemn the student body. Business owners, landlords and even every day residents came forward to defend the students. In fact, numerous residents, council members and even the Mayor acknowledged that Oneonta needs college students, for without them the town’s economy would cease to exist. These same individuals went on to stress the need to not make broad generalizations, claiming that the vast majority of college students are respectful individuals who strive to be good neighbors, but that a few “bad apples” have tarnished the whole group’s reputation.
To many resident’s surprise a large number of college students also attended the committee meeting. Like the residents themselves, many college students believed that something had to be done to address noise levels and vandalism. However, as one student stressed, those that live in Oneonta for 10 months out of the year in order to attend school consider themselves to be residents too. They are also invested in the city of Oneonta and believe that the town shouldn’t be divided between residents and students.
Regardless of various views, as the meeting progressed, ideas were expressed as to how this issue should be fixed. However, little consensus could be reached. Some believed that more police officers were needed, others that bars should be forced to set prices above a certain limit to discourage drinking. Meanwhile, many more wondered if the students were truly behaving worse than other years. As for now, no consensus has been reached and it remains to be seen how the city government will respond to resident’s concerns. One thing though is clear, both the local residents and the college students call Oneonta home. Therefore, both groups must work together in order to address these issues. Until this can happen, drunken college students will continue to be loud at 3 a.m., and residents will continue to become increasingly frustrated with their inability to live in peace and quiet.