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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

City Councilors concerned with university’s actions

Published: September 12, 2008
Section: Front Page

Brandeis-Waltham relations were strained this week when the university requested a lodging license for the Ridgewood Residence Halls at last Monday’s Waltham City Council meeting.

Councilors expressed anger that Brandeis came to request a lodging license for Ridgewood a year after construction began. Ward 9 councilor Richard Logan wondered why the university had not come to request a permit earlier.

“It was rather presumptuous, as if we didn’t have a choice” Logan said. “It takes the city for granted.”

Lodging house licenses are required for all university dormitories. “Permits have to be renewed every year,” Logan explained, “there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have been aware.”

He added Brandeis ought to “pay more attention to how they handle relations with the community.”

Councilor at Large Kathleen McMenimen explained that the timing of the license request “angered us.”

“The rub in this whole issue was that they started construction and then came after the fact,” she said.

Even so, Mcmenimen believed it “better for everybody all around,” if Brandeis is able to house more students on campus.

The university’s request for a lodging license will be sent to the Licenses and Franchises Committee, of which Logan is the chairman. The committee will meet Monday to deal with the request. Vice President of Campus Operations Mark Collins will be present at that meeting to answer the committee’s questions.

Project Manager Deborah Elliott, who was present at last Monday’s meeting, did not respond to requests for comment.

“We’re going to the meeting Monday and hopefully answer any questions that the council has. We look forward to meeting with them,” Collins remarked. He declined to elaborate further.

Along with aggravation caused by the timing of the lodging license request, according to the Daily News Tribune, Councilor at Large Paul Brasco used the opportunity to express anger regarding the behavior of off-campus students. Brasco complained of trash from parties on Dartmouth Street.

Logan, whose ward includes Dartmouth Street, complained of an “Animal House mentality.” “Every couple years,” he said, “a group comes in that has no respect for the people around them.”

Of Brasco’s and Logan’s comments, McMenimen said, the lodging license request “created a firestorm. That request then swirled and took on a different flavor.”

While McMeniment praised President Jehuda Reinharz for being “very proactive…to benefit students, alums, and trustees while still accommodating the neighborhood,” she added, “any community such as Waltham that houses a higher education facility has a mixed blessing,” McMenimen said.“We have done a lot to build up relations with the city of Waltham and Brandeis students,” said Assistant Director for Off-Campus Housing Nicole Fadavi.

Officials from Residence Life recently met with the Waltham Police Department, the city’s health department, city councilors, and the mayor’s office to discuss students living in the community, Fadavi explained.

Students living off-campus, Fadavi said, received a “joint letter from the mayor and the police department” as well as a letter from Residence Life about “being neighborly.”

“We’re trying to be proactive,” Fadavi remarked. “We’re trying to keep relations and communication open with the city.”

Part of that collaboration between the university and the city has included visits from Waltham Police to various off-campus residences. The visit by police was not welcome for some students.

Dartmouth Street resident Leah Boudreau ’09, whose residence was visited by two Waltham Police officers last weekend, explained in an e-mail, “They cautioned us against having noisy parties and they also said that local residents complain that Brandeis students are messy and responsible for a lot of garbage that is left out on the curbs and littered in yards.”

Police also collected Boudreau’s name and number and those of her roommates.

Boudreau continued, “I know it was just some pre-emptive damage control, and I recognize that some students will not exactly make model neighbors, but it was not a very pleasant way to be welcomed to the community.”