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Residents, university students
 come into conflict

Ingrid Mezo

Some residents of Warthans Court in Emmitsburg have had it with the all-night parties and the general lack of consideration they say Mount St. Mary’s University students have for them, and want the town or the university to do something about it.

Several university students rent townhouses in the neighborhood.

Though the residents have not called the university directly to complain, they did ask town officials to intervene, at the Sept. 19 town meeting, and have called town police in the past.

Residents allege that the students have parked their cars all through the neighborhood, often blocking residents in when they need to leave for work in the morning. Residents also said they have found their lawns littered with debris, including items such as empty beer bottles and condoms.

‘‘One night I opened the door, and there was a young lady with her pants pulled down, urinating in my flower beds,” resident Sherry Myers said.

Two winters ago, the Myers’ Christmas decorations were stolen.

‘‘My son went to school crying that day,” Myers said.

Myers believes the students stole the decorations, and she wrote them a letter expressing her outrage. Not much has changed since then, she said.

A new group of students comes in every year to rent two of the townhouses on Warthens Court, she said.

‘‘It’s been a persistent problem for three years,” Sherry’s husband, Bob Myers, said. ‘‘It’s getting old.”

Mount St. Mary’s University does not have a policy in place to handle problems with students who live off campus, because the university does not have an off-campus enforcement agency, said Kate Charuhas, associate director of marketing and public relations for the university.

Because troubles between university students and residents of neighboring towns is such a universal problem, many universities have established ‘‘town and gown” committees to help improve their relationship to the town. The Mount does not have such a committee.

‘‘Of course, if a call came in here, we would follow up on it,” Charuhas said, but to her knowledge no one has called the Mount to complain about students living off campus in the two years she has worked there. Students could be subject to disciplinary action if their behavior off-campus conflicts with the student code of conduct, Charuhas added.

‘‘We are willing to work with residents,” Charuhas said. ‘‘If they feel like they aren’t getting enough help from local authorities, they should feel free to contact Vincent DeCerchio, director of public safety at The Mount.”

Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover said he did not know of any formal attempts made by the town to handle conflicts between town residents and university students in the past, other than notifying sheriff’s deputies of areas where problems have occurred, and those areas change every year.

It would be very difficult to enact an ordinance that would restrict people from renting out their properties to university students without coming into a legal conflict, Hoover added.

‘‘Mount St. Mary’s, for the most part, is a very positive asset to the community,” Hoover said. ‘‘Ninety-five percent of students there we never hear about. But kids will be kids. The folks that complained live behind me so we share that problem.”

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