Hunter Guic, an N.C. State senior, lives in a townhouse on infamous Brent Road in Raleigh, where the huge parties used to be. Last year, he says, he and his roommates were hosts to a more intimate gathering of 40 close friends or so. He smiles, recalling it. Then a Raleigh cop arrived on the street, supposedly in response to a complaint about too much noise--and charged the five guys in the townhouse next door with violating the city's nuisance ordinance. Guic shakes his head at the irony. "They were just in there watching a movie," he says. Now they're all guilty of a misdemeanor.
Which just goes to show, a group of NCSU student government leaders told their City Council representative the other day, how it feels to be caught in the middle between the warring Raleigh neighborhoods around the university and the absentee landlords who've invaded them, turning older, single-family houses into multi-student rentals. "Yes, some students cause problems. We understand that, and we don't make excuses for ourselves," student body President Tony Caravano told Councilor Thomas Crowder. "But the city takes a few problems and generalizes about them ... and then cracks down on everybody."
The sit-down came as the council starts to consider the recommendations of the Neighborhood Preservation and Housing Task Force, created a year ago in response to the outcry of Avent West community leaders, a crie de coeur that also sparked Crowder's election in the fall.
Crowder assured Caravano, Guic and Co. that, nothwithstanding "stuff said during the campaign" about him, he's "not Satan" and does remember being young once. Lots of students plainly don't think so, witness the report in NCSU's student newspaper on Tuesday, headlined "Task Force Recommendations Raise Red Flags for Students." Ryan Mayer, a junior engineering major, told the Technician: "We have the rest of our lives to be straight-laced, but now all these stuck-up businessmen and politicians want to repress us in the prime of our lives." Joel Doss, a senior buisness major, agreed: "These people, who used to party themselves, have forgotten what it's like to be a young adult."
Not so, Crowder answered. His most recent reminder: A party on his own block that featured a student urinating on the lawn, right under a streetlight, at 3:30 in the morning. Which he saw on this third trip, he said, the one that caused him to call the cops himself.
War stories told, Crowder agreed to meet monthly with students and help them find out whether police charges under the nuisance ordinance track neighbors' complaints or come from profile-driven sweeps of student neighborhoods. Caravano said he's asked for police logs to see when complaints were called in. Meanwhile, the student government association is gathering students' stories online, planning to compare them to the data.
Caravano said students also are gathering data about landlords, planning to publish a guide to who's good and who isn't to help guide student choices. There's no mystery why students want to live in houses, he says. Campus housing is in short supply anyway, but then there's the overnight guests policy: No overnights at all for guests of the opposite sex, and permission needed for same-sex guests. Wolf Creek and other new apartment complexes have sprung up the past couple of years for students, he acknowledged. But early reviews say: One, they're shoddy, and two, they're expensive.
Houses--with the current rule allowing up to four unrelated tenants--are typically $100 a month cheaper, or more, per student.
Students want better housing choices, Caravano said. They'd also like to see the city invest in the long-promised improvement of Hillsborough Street, including some help for their plans to establish a non-alcoholic club for the under-21 crowd. Right now, it's all pizza, all the time. "While the city may feel like the university has become an island unto itself," Caravano told Crowder, "it seems to us like the city has just left the university to fend for itself."