Ordinance requires schools to release contact information of off-campus students

by Beacon Staff • September 28, 2005

The law, known as the University Accountability Ordinance (UAO), was passed last December after three months of deliberation, and put into effect in February, said the bill's co-sponsor, City Councilor Michael Ross.,"The Boston City Council has passed a law that requires schools to provide the Boston Police Department (BPD) with a list of which zip codes off-campus students live in and an estimate of how many reside in each area.

The law, known as the University Accountability Ordinance (UAO), was passed last December after three months of deliberation, and put into effect in February, said the bill's co-sponsor, City Councilor Michael Ross.

The UAO was proposed in response to the unruly celebrations that followed the Red Sox pennant victory last October, which resulted in the accidental death of Emerson student Victoria Snelgrove. The law will allow officers to locate and break up loud parties held by college students in non-dormitory apartments and houses, police said.

"It is helpful to the city to know where certain resources are needed," Ross said. City officials are still compiling the zip code data, he said.

Initially, the UAO required colleges to release students' names and addresses to the BPD. When councilors met with student government presidents from area institutions, such as Northeastern University, Boston College and Boston University last fall, the students voiced concern that the ordinance would violate their right to privacy.

Councilors then altered the bill to require colleges to collect, but not release, this information.

Ross said the purpose of the law, in part, is to pressure city colleges to create more on-campus housing.

"It was not the main reason for creating the ordinance, but it speaks of the city's plans," Ross said. "We want more dorms in order to preserve the Boston housing market while still dealing with a healthy influx of student living."

Vice President of Public Affairs David Rosen said that the UAO was not the main reason behind Emerson's new dormitory acquisitions. He said the city council's goals for student housing, however, are similar to the goals of the college.

"The city and the college are on the same page because we want to take the pressure off the housing market," Rosen said.

Currently, Emerson can house 1,205 of its approximately 2,600 undergraduate students in its residence halls, Rosen said. With the completion of the Piano Row facilities next fall, 560 new beds will be created. This will mean an increase of 100 beds after the west side residence halls are sold.

In addition to Piano Row, the Paramount Center on Washington Street will include a residence hall, which will house 250 students when it opens in 2008, Rosen said. After the creation of these new dorms, Emerson will have housing for more than half of its students, Rosen said.

"We believe the residential halls create a better experience for students," Rosen said. "We aim to create more co-curricular activities and learning communities that center around and take place in the residence halls."

While Rosen acknowledged the challenges of housing students in an urban setting, he said, "The eventual goal is to provide housing for 75 to 80 percent of students."

This would be accomplished through acquiring or building other dormitories in addition to the Piano Row and Paramount Center, but there are no official plans to acquire a specific property at this time, Rosen said.

Possible purchases include the Colonial Theatre located next to the Walker Building. Emerson currently owns the lease to the facility, but no official statement has been made regarding the future status of the theater.

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