SGA letter addresses town-gown relations
Responding to recent transgressions between students and Waterville law enforcement, Student Government Association (SGA) Co-Presidents Justin Rouse ’12 and Laura Maloney ’12 sent a letter to the mayor of Waterville, the chief of police and the city council to address the current condition of “town-gown” relations.
In recent weeks, close to 70 students have received court summons for underage drinking violations at off-campus parties. Rouse and Maloney received a request from the city council to respond to the issue, and they have been proactive in their efforts to alleviate recent tension, as the current state of affairs has left many students living off-campus frustrated and confused. “We want [students] to be more informed about what the laws are so they can be better prepared to deal with the police,” Rouse said.
In addition to the letter to city council, which Rouse and Maloney also sent out in an official e-mail notice to the campus community, the co-presidents have reached out to Chief of Police Joe Massey and Director of Campus Security Pete Chenevert to brainstorm ways to improve relations. As a result, SGA and Off-Campus Representative Emma Suojanen ’12 have put together a group of off-campus students to hold a preliminary meeting with Waterville police, although a date has yet to be determined. This meeting will serve as practice for a larger meeting between all off-campus students and the local police. “It will be useful to meet police in a situation where there hasn’t been drinking,” Maloney said.
The meeting is intended to clarify the laws and rights that affect students and to add a sense of community to off-campus residency. According to Rouse, Waterville law enforcement has responded positively to SGA’s efforts, and “officials are eager to move forward and make students aware of the policies,” he said. Students living off-campus have returned positive feedback as well, and some are enthusiastic about integrating further into the Waterville community. “We want to do everything we can to keep building, developing and improving our relations,” Maloney said.
Rouse and Maloney believe that issues with law enforcement can be avoided if students have an incentive to remain on-campus. They emphasized the advantages of registered parties, which provide an on-campus social outlet for students. Registered parties do not run the risk of disturbing Waterville residents, whereas “[one of the] problem[s] off-campus is that your neighbor isn’t 20-something. It’s more likely that it’s a family or a couple that has work in the morning,” Rouse said.
Even before alcohol violations became a prominent issue, Rouse and Maloney prioritized improving interactions between the College and the Waterville community. According to Maloney, they are “making a big publicity push to spread the word about events going on in Waterville,” and SGA is working with the Colby-Waterville Alliance (CWA) to create discounts for students at local businesses, like Barrel’s Community Market and Buen Apetito. The recent off-campus incidents have not slowed the enthusiasm for developing town-gown relations. Rouse said that SGA is “less concerned with what happened and more concerned with moving forward.”