Just because students move off campus doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible for their actions and the consequences of their actions.
This was proven when Erie police said they are going to increase patrols around Mercyhurst College after an incident occurred off campus at 312 E. 38th St. The incident involved damage to a police officer’s motorcycle. It was allegedly pushed over by a Mercyhurst student.
In response to the incident that happened off campus, Chief of Police/Director of Public Safety Robert Kuhn said, “Don’t do it. Bad move. There’s not much else to say.”
Associate Vice President for Student Life Laura Zirkle discussed how the decision to live off campus affects students. She said the student conduct code applies whether a student lives on campus or off campus—it is a general conduct code.
“It’s about how we expect our students to comport themselves,” she said.
Senior Ryan Tracy, when asked about the off-campus conduct code, said, “It seems that Mercyhurst is just trying to impose their power in any way shape or form, and I think that’s ridiculous. Once you are off the campus grounds, legally they shouldn’t be able to impose anything against students.”
Director of Residence Life Alice Agnew commented on the off-campus mindset. “My perception is that students think if they move off campus they aren’t accountable. There are things you are responsible for: You represent Mercyhurst regardless of where you live,” Agnew said.
Zirkle explained that there are two common complaints from the neighbors of off-campus college students.
“The first is the large parties that are really disruptive, with people coming and going all night long. There have also been complaints of students urinating in yards, pulling down Halloween and Christmas decorations and smashing pumpkins. The second major complaint is that students don’t keep the house up–they don’t mow the lawn, they park their cars on the lawn–and it makes the neighborhood look worse,” Zirkle said.
There are also other disadvantages to living off campus, according to Zirkle.
“When a student moves off campus, they are much less engaged and there is a greater isolation factor. The student also gives up some other luxuries, such as having Police and Safety and maintenance, both of which are more student-oriented. Police and Safety will definitely have a quicker response time than the Erie police because of the smaller size of the area they cover,” she said.
Agnew added that it may look like a large payment at first, but living on campus is better economically because it evens out in the end. “The big amount covers phone, cable, internet and safety aspects—you might have to follow rules, but Police and Safety is right there with a quicker response time,” Agnew said.
“A student becomes a member of the Erie community when they move off campus, and they lose a lot of that safety and immediate response,” Zirkle said.
She added that there are many students who, after moving off campus, change their minds and move back on campus, and that living on campus is “quintessential to the college experience.”
“The college experience is about experiencing college, and this includes residence life, activities and hanging out with friends,” Zirkle said.
She also said there are “a lot more serious consequences” when living off campus. Instead of dealing with the college and Police and Safety, the Erie police would have to be brought in, and their punishments would almost always be harsher than what the college would give.
“I recommend that students do their homework—check out the place and the landlord beforehand. Get a copy of the off-campus book that is available in the Residence Life office, and be a smart consumer,” Zirkle said.
The Off Campus Living Guide is a booklet available to all students considering the idea of living off campus. It contains procedures such as paperwork for Mercyhurst, leases, deposits and insurance. It also discusses how to be connected with your roommates and neighbors. There is a list of Mercyhurst and Erie phone numbers, as well. These numbers include different offices on campus, hospitals and utilities.