New Loyola office tries to boost community relations

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Education reporter
  • September 15, 2008 @ 7:30 AM

As a new class of freshman gears up for the heady first days of college life, Loyola University is launching an effort to cork off-campus partying and keep  neighbors happy.

Strains in town-and-gown relations exist at nearly every college and university. A surge in Loyola's enrollment has further frayed the ties between the urban campus and surrounding neighborhooods. The big problem now: Roaming groups of underclassmen who live on-campus but are keen on finding large off-campus parties.

"They are spilling out into the neighborhoods looking for parties," says Cliff Golz, an assistant dean who runs Loyola's new Off-Campus Student Life Office. "That quintessential Animal House old-school atmosphere that has become such an icon of college."

Worsening the problem is an increase in the number of students living off campus. That group now includes up to quarter of the school's 8,000 undergraduates.

In response, Loyola created the Off-Campus Student Life Office three weeks ago. The office teaches students how to live responsibly and mediates disputes with neighbors. It also tracks complaints from neighbors.

Previously, several campus offices handled complaints and the university kept no comprehensive tally of incidents.

Tom Lisy, the longtime president of the nearby Pratt and Columbia Together block club and a Loyola alum, has seen both sides of the debate. As a neighbor and an active member of the college's Lakeside Community Advisory Board, he's voiced concerns about loud parties and groups of students roaming nearby neighborhoods.

As the landlord of more than a dozen student rental properties, he's had to deal with neighbors upset about parties in his houses.

"We spend time demanding that Loyola do something, and at the same time tell the neighbors we'll be happy to watch the behavior of students that rent housing from us," Lisy says.

Overall he's pleased with Loyola's efforts, but said some residents would rather see all the students live elsewhere.

Student reaction to the changes are mixed, Golz says. He and campus security officers have started walking neighborhoods, knocking on doors to hear neighbors' concerns and stopping students on sidewalks to find out their plans. Some students are taken aback, irritated at the added supervision, one of the very reasons they chose to move off campus, Golz says.

Peter Sachs is a Chicago-based journalist. He covers higher education for the Daily News.