Outreach group formed on Hill

by Beacon Staff • October 3, 2007

In an effort to encourage a more proactive relationship with student residents after last year's fallout with Suffolk University over a proposed dormitory, the Beacon Hill Civic Association created a committee to work with administrative officials at Emerson and other neighboring institutions to better assimilate students into the community, said Robert Whitney, the committee's chairman.

The University Relations Committee was created last month after the BHCA overhauled the Suffolk University Dorm Committee. The new committee will help orient students and other new residents on Beacon Hill and not just address grievances, Whitney said.

"We're not just dealing with problems, we're trying to being proactive," Whitney said.

Suffolk was the first institution the committee contacted and the BHCA is still expanding their relationship with other colleges. The committee's first public meeting will likely be held in the next two weeks, Whitney said, and will be announced on its Web site at bhcivic.org.

"Students can get a bad rep in this neighborhood," he said. "I don't think it's that they don't want to be good neighbors, they just need a little help."

The committee will provide an official forum for residents who expressed concerns over noisy students, trash control and student hygiene when Suffolk attempted to build a dormitory tower in the neighborhood last year, Whitney said.

According to statistics provided by the City of Boston from spring 2007, the neighborhood was home to 242 Suffolk students and 82 Emerson students, along with students hailing from 12 nearby schools.

A total of 2,600 Emerson graduate and undergraduate students lived off-campus last year, said Elin Riggs, coordinator of Emerson's Off-Campus Student Services department.

Molly Milinazzo, a junior TV/video major who has lived on Beacon Hill since September, said she doesn't think Emerson students are causing the problems.

"The only time I really saw a problem with too much trash was when everyone was moving in," Milinazzo said. "And, in my building anyway, Suffolk kids do seem to be more of a problem than Emerson kids. It's like they were babied when they lived in the dorms and now they don't know how to treat an apartment. Both the parties I know of that got broken up by police for noise violations were thrown by Suffolk students."

But Besser said Suffolk's students were not alone in breaching the community's civic and social standards.

"The problem wasn't just Suffolk," said Suzanne Besser, executive director of the BHCA, explaining why the Suffolk committee had been expanded to include other schools. "It was all students."