Monday, August 25, 2008

Panther Pride

It is almost funny.
The gold and black sign reads,

Panther Pride
In Our Neighborhood
Respect All

The lawn is weedy. The shrubs are untrimmed. One day there was the remains of a Bud Lite twelve-pack at the porch steps. Today there is a four-foot-high pile of broken furniture at the curb.

If UWM president Carlos Santiago has any Panther pride, it is preserved by avoiding the two blocks immediately south of campus on Farwell Avenue.

Maryland Avenue is even worse.

Of course, there is no direct evidence that students are responsible for the discarded beer and liquor bottles, broken furniture, and vandalized street signs. (Yes, all this has been observed on a single walk within two blocks of UWM.)

It is possible that the residences of the owner-occupied properties are vandalizing the properties of the absentee landlords because they think it makes their places look better. It is possible that roving bands of malicious alcoholic homeless men are attacking the East Side in a jealous rage against the fate that has scorned their desire to be scholars and gentlemen with diplomas from our city’s august university.

It is not probable.

It is probable that the bottles, furniture, and sundry debris that routinely adorn the neighborhood are the product of irresponsible transient students and negligent absentee landlords. (Note: there are numerous conscientious absentee landlords. Mine, for example, is an exceedingly considerate gentleman with a fine discriminating taste in selecting tenants.)

There has been some improvement in UWM neighborhood relations. The efforts of former alderman Michael D’Amato have borne fruit. Students and neighborhood liaison officials patrol the East Side. There has been a decrease of large groups of rowdy students returning from closing the North Avenue bars. The university now has the COAST program, Community Outreach and Assistance for Student Tenants. COAST publishes a newsletter that contains articles about student tenant rights and responsibilities. COAST leaders have made visits to all residents to address concerns. Numerous other efforts have been made, to be sure.

Nevertheless, UWM is still far from being a good neighbor. Chapters 17 and 18 governing student behavior still do not address off-campus civil infractions. The rubbish of prideful Panthers has never abated. Just this morning, on my relatively quiet block, tickets were issued for a noisy party. Four o’clock this morning. And the fall semester has not started.

More needs to be done.

The community outreach efforts should be augmented by having off-campus misbehavior addressed by University discipline. Fair due process will insure that students’ rights are preserved.

University growth should not proceed unchecked. The parking on the East Side is not limitless. Therefore, the number of commuter students should be limited. Limited university growth is also in the best interest of students. It is easy for the university to accept tuition. It is difficult to provide the right classes at the right time over four years for an unlimited number of students. Easy enrollment is one factor leading to the five-year bachelor degree.

Future university housing should be selected with regard to larger community concerns. The propensity of students to toss their trash just anywhere certainly does not bode well for housing along Milwaukee’s developing riverfront. Housing that is in a developed urban area can be monitored and regulated for all concerned. The location at 1755 N. Farwell would mean that more than one Milwaukee alderman would be concerned with regulating university matters.

Milwaukee’s East Side is a wonderful place to live and UWM is a great asset to all of Milwaukee. Nevertheless, preserving and improving urban life requires vigilance and the cultivation of civility. We need to work for the day when all Milwaukee can have a bit of Panther pride.

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