A half dozen McDaniel College students patiently sat through an hour and a half city council meeting Monday night, including a tedious , waiting for their turn to be heard.
When they finally had a chance to speak, they told the council that something needs to be done to improve relations between city residents and .
"Students are under the impression that they are looked badly upon by town residents," McDaniel College junior Noah Patton told the council. "It makes us feel unwelcome in the city of Westminster, I don’t think that that’s the way it should be."
At a recent meeting, several city residents complained to the council and police chief that at all hours of the night.
Patton, who recently completed an internship in the city's planning and zoning department, said that there is some frustration on campus as the disrespectful behavior of a few students has been generalized to include all students.
"We cannot control what individual students do," Patton said. "The bigger problem is generalizing McDaniel students as a whole. Unless some understanding can be made, these issues will further alienate students from the city of Westminster, which I don’t think we want to happen."
Patton said he conducted a survey of 200 McDaniel students last year, the results of which caught the attention of the council members. According to Patton, 20 percent of the students he interviewed said that they shop at downtown area businesses and only 8 percent said they spend time in downtown Westminster.
The negative feelings, Patton said, go beyond just nuisance partying by students. He acknowledged that there are instances of students behaving disrespectfully, but said that in general, many McDaniel students feel unwelcomed by city residents.
"We as McDaniel students should acknowledge that we are residents of the city but we should also be accepted by the town as well," Patton said. "There is a really horrible negative feedback loop on this issue, it's to the benefit of us all if this negative goes away and we can have a full community."
Among other suggestions to improve relations, Patton suggested creating a student commission that would work with the city council and McDaniel administration to build the bridge between the students and town. He also suggested increasing transportation options from the college to locations in Westminster.
Council member Tony Chiavacci said that the strained relationship isn't uncommon in small towns with a college.
"I went to Frostburg and there was the same kind of negative feeling between students and townies," Chiavacci said. "This isn’t something new, but I love your ideas of 'let’s try to find some solutions' instead of 'let’s just all complain about it.' There are economic and cultural benefits to the town, and benefits for you to have a better collegiate experience, if we can improve relations."
Councilman Wack said he agrees that only good can come from a stronger relationship with McDaniel students.
"You (college students) definitely needed to be heard because there has been a lot of negative publicity," Wack said. "But we up here (city council) never had any illusions that the small number of people causing problems in any way represented the majority of McDaniel students. We know they’re a small group of bad actors."
"We’ve had a very productive relationship with the college administration, to add you guys to the mix can only be a good thing," Wack said.