Drunk Vandalism Creates Tension Between Students and Residents
Kyle Florence

Drinking-related vandalism by students in the communities adjacent to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus has skyrocketed.

“We’ve talked with campus security, but they can’t really handle things that are happening off campus,” said Cindy Nebel, president of The Old Main Neighborhood Association. “The Stevens Point Police Department has began to make rounds more often, but these type of things happen so quickly. No one usually gets caught.”

As the first and only neighborhood association in Stevens Point, The Old Main Neighborhood Association, is devoted to enhancing the quality of life for all those who live in the campus community. According to Nebel, this goal is frequently hindered by drinking-related vandalism.

“You can’t really sleep well at night when you hear someone yell, and you’re not sure if someone is up to no good, or if someone is in some sort of serious trouble,” Nebel said.

In a recent anonymous survey put out by the association, residents were asked to outline in detail past issues that they’ve had with drunk passersby. “One time I found a person drunk on my couch. He had urinated on himself and the couch,” said one individual.

“No one in the neighborhood can have anything in their front yard or porch they value,” said another.

“I once found a drunk woman in our four-year-old daughter’s room at 6 a.m. on a Sunday holding our daughter,” said a third.

Notably, out of the 22 households which took part, nearly half made clear that they had legitimate concerns about the safety of their neighborhood due to groups of students drinking and partying.

For Diane Ramsey-Lalk, a Stevens Point resident who lives near the UWSP campus, destruction of property is an almost weekly occurrence. Ironically, the white picket fence, which Ramsey-Lalk erected to keep drunk students out of her yard, has in recent years become a target for vandalism.

“I had to put the fence up because they used to come into my yard, take all my flowerpots and bust them in the street,” Ramsey-Lalk said. “They were vandalizing it as it was being built six years ago, and they’ve never stopped.”

Despite this and other similar accounts, opinions continue to vary between residents and students. Matt Sallinen, a UWSP senior who lives on the notoriously rambunctious College Avenue, believes that instances such as these are unavoidable.

“I feel like it happens, but I don’t necessarily feel like it’s a major issue,” Sallinen said. “I could see where actual residents would be upset with the noise and litter and stuff, but if you live in a college town, it’s something you should expect.”

Nebel acknowledges this point of view. However, she feels that it does not excuse regularly occurring acts of theft and vandalism.

“I often hear people say things like, ‘Maybe you should get a better job so you can move somewhere else,’ or ‘You should expect this living near a college campus,’ but this type of behavior should never have to be expected by anyone, under any circumstance. There’s a lot of people that choose to live here, and now things have gotten to the point where it creates a barrier between our community and the university,” Nebel said.

Likewise, for residents like Diane Ramsey-Lalk, relocating simply is not an option.

“I’ve lived here 12 years, and I would’ve never bought this house if I would’ve known what I was getting myself into. Unfortunately, I’m a senior citizen—I can’t just pack up and move again,” Ramsey-Lalk said.

Ultimately, both parties agree that communication will likely be a key factor in determining future relations between students and residents.

“I like the idea of living next to students, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be some level of mutual respect,” Nebel said. “We would just like people in general to keep their eyes open, be aware and speak up if they see someone doing something wrong.”

Sallinen shared a similar outlook, urging residents to speak up if they are unhappy with neighboring students.

“Talk to us—we’re students, but we’re also your neighbors. If you want something done, or have an issue with something we’re doing, come to us rather than immediately rushing to the police,” Sallinen said.