September 23, 2012

Editorial: More respect all around


---- — The return of students is pegged as a perennial problem in Plattsburgh, as it is in many college communities. But with a little more respect — from both students and the community — the start of each semester could be cause for celebration instead of concern.

For a number of Plattsburgh residents, especially those who live in the Center City, the start of a school year inspires trepidation, even dread. To them, students mean noise, damage and vandalism. They know they will be awakened by loud voices as young people walk home from downtown. They know they may have to deal with vomit on their sidewalks and lawns or with damaged landscaping or missing items. Downtown business owners will have to clean up messy streets and sidewalks in the morning.

Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desmond Racicot said the main crimes they handle are noise violations, open containers of alcohol and criminal mischief.

It’s obvious what is at the root of these issues: alcohol and drugs combined with young minds. It is a recipe for trouble.

City Police, CVPH Medical Center and Plattsburgh State had to deal with a horrible situation on opening weekend of college this year: a freshman who was on the verge of death after taking drugs she had brought to school.

The teen was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. “We thought she was going to die,” Racicot said. Luckily, she pulled through, though she has a long recovery ahead of her. It shows how serious the danger is.

But it is grossly unfair to judge all students by the actions of a small proportion of the 6,530 attending Plattsburgh State and the 2,200 at Clinton Community College. Most students are dedicated to their studies and respectful of the community. Most party in moderation and get to and from downtown and parties without causing disruptions or trouble.

This semester seems to have gotten off to a better start than most. The college, city and some concerned residents — most notably Nancy Monette — have worked together for several years now to remind students that they are living among year-round residents who are much like their families at home.

New signs this year welcomed the students back and reminded them: “Please respect your community. Pass it on.” Neighbors of college housing hosted receptions so they and students could get to know each other. Police and college officials made their usual rounds of knocking on doors with introductions and warnings. Greek organizations on campus helped spread the word.

Maybe it is all starting to work. Racicot said complaints numbers are down slightly so far this year. It’s early, but it’s a start.

Of course, the education has to begin all over each semester as a new batch of freshmen arrive. But it is worth the effort.

The community should value what college students bring here: money spent in local businesses, help with community-service efforts, cultural diversity, talent and a general liveliness that enhances the atmosphere.