Author: Ryan Strong
President Jonathan Veitch recently received a strongly worded letter from local resident Rick Taylor complaining about off-campus partying and threatening to take his complaints to the Los Angeles City Council if the college does not deal with the problem. Because major construction projects require city council approval, the college worries that the neighbor’s complaints could potentially complicate those processes, Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara Avery confirmed.
On the weekend of Friday, Sept. 16, Campus Safety visited 13 off-campus parties and broke up many gatherings early in the night, according to Campus Safety Records. That was more than double the contacts Campus Safety had with student tenants the week prior.
Taylor said that the situation has improved since then but asserted he would continue to work to better the community.
“I met with Dean Avery three weeks ago. Since then there has been improvement within the community. However we will continue our pursuit of a harmonious neighborhood; even if that means going to the City Council,” he said, via email.
Taylor lives next door to Jungle House and specifically directed his complaint at those residents. He also mentioned other student houses nearby. In an email to students living at Jungle House, Taylor pledged to use his meeting with Dean Avery to get rid of Jungle House.
“Our meeting is less to do about the current residents and more to do about the systematic problem of the infamous Jungle House. I am here to cut down the jungle,” read an email from Taylor to Jungle House residents.
Avery said she is worried about the college’s reputation in the neighborhood as complaints about loud off-campus parties pile up.
“You don’t want to be known as a party school,” Avery said, noting that such a label erodes the college’s standing and prestige.
The college also realizes that students are going to socialize on the weekends, neighbors are going to have complaints and reconciling all of the interests is a challenging and ongoing process.
“It’s a crazy sort of dance you have to do,” Avery said. Students have to do a better job communicating with neighbors and controlling the amount of people entering their houses, according to Avery.
Meanwhile, the college is looking at possibly bringing in an expert to talk about responsible partying, holding a campus meeting to discuss issues with students and facilitating other meetings between stakeholders, including landlords, students and neighbors.
“Students should really think about themselves as part of the community,” Avery said, noting that many already do.
Taylor thinks the students who live around him are not respectful community members. “I apologize it had to come to this, but put your feet in our shoes. You (Oxy kids) are visitors in the neighborhood. You plant your flag and tap your keg. You yell and scream most every weekend (including the middle house and the nearby student residents). Like I said, it is like living with an abusive alcoholic,” one of Taylor emails said.
While Jungle House residents agree that it is important to communicate with neighbors and control parties, they argue that most of the noise complaints are about hoards of people walking around the neighborhood with nowhere to go, which they cannot control.
“These people are wandering around campus because Campo keeps shutting down parties, and our house has this notorious reputation for parties, so they try to come and we get in trouble,” Jemielita said.
Jemielita thinks that some of his neighbor’s complaints lack context.”He honestly makes it look like Occidental students are a bunch of alcoholics who on the weekdays are quiet, of course because we’re working, but then on the weekends are, he says, criminals. I don’t know where he went to college, but I would be surprised if this is the wildest campus. It’s definitely not. This neighborhood is mild compared to USC,” Jemielita said.
Jemielita thinks that the college’s response to the threat to go to city council is understandable.
“It makes political sense what they’re doing right now. They have to bring this attitude that they don’t want the partying,” Jemielita said.
Avery is focused on solving the problem and said that making sure students have choices is important and scheduling events and gatherings every weekend on campus is critical to giving them those options.
Avery also said that there is a real possibility students will travel farther from campus to party. This could lead to more instances of drunken driving and also takes Campus Safety out of the equation, which could spell serious issues for students if and when the L.A.P.D. steps in.
“If you’re further afield, you’re out of our control,” Avery said.
Though the college has to deal with complaints it is also mindful that college students are inevitably going to socialize and that administrators need to work with students to solve resulting problems.
“We were students ourselves, we understand,” Avery said. “Our goal is not to destroy their lives.”
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