Letter to the editor: First years at off-campus housing

As the Off-Campus SGA Senator, I quickly realized that in terms of off-campus activity, this year has begun differently than any other year that the seniors, juniors and sophomores have ever seen on the St. Olaf campus.

Off-campus partying, drinking and overall disturbances are problems that have been discussed among St. Olaf faculty, student Senators and members of the Northfield community on numerous occasions.

I figured it was time to allow the off-campus students let on-campus students know what kind of behavior is acceptable in their residences, so I conducted in-person interviews and collected information from students via the off-campus alias.

Off-campus students were generally understanding of students’ desire to get out of the library and have fun on the weekends. However, many students stated that they have felt taken advantage of or violated by visitors in their homes. Students listed several “party fouls” in their responses, including:

  • Stealing
  • Loitering
  • Expecting the house to provide entertainment or alcohol
  • Entering the property without invitation and without knowing anyone
  • Noisiness and general rudeness
  • Damaging the house’s reputation with neighbors, police and St. Olaf community members

Most students said that only friends are welcome to freely enter off-campus houses, while some said that all students are welcome. However, one message was consistent across the board: Visitors are welcome only if they respect the house and those who live there.

Most off-campus residents who were interviewed spouted off some form of the Golden Rule: “Don’t do anything at someone else’s house that you wouldn’t want done in your own dorm or home,” one student said. “This is lost on the weekends,” another student said.

Many students said that although there are many students who behave appropriately, they were surprised at the behavior of some of the first years. They said that as first years these students should expect to be welcome only when they know the residents in some capacity.

Other students stated that they believe these issues are a result of St. Olaf’s dry campus policy, which has potential to cause students to engage in dangerous behaviors off-campus thereby placing off-campus residents in a compromised position.

In the end, we off-campus residents face the reality that we are responsible for being safe and respectful, but we share this responsibility with all visitors to our residences.

Nicole Cervenka ’14 cervenka@stolaf.edu is from Manitowish, Wis. She majors in political science with a management studies concentration.