How to handle your college student neighbors

The Matrix Approach

by Bob Crow

With forty percent of Calvin students living off-campus, I am often asked by neighbors of our students how to best address concerns they (neighbors) have with students. Here are five quick tips which I simply call the “matrix approach,” as one or more of them can and should be employed depending upon the situation.

  • 1. Get to know your neighbors

    First and foremost, get to know the students. Overwhelmingly, I am confident to say, we have wonderful students at Calvin. They often are very interested in their neighborhood, the condition of their house, and want to be a part of the solution versus being a part of the problem. Often this is their first attempt at living on their own.  So, naturally, they will make mistakes. They are “neighborhood novices”. As such, they need training and advice. Students that I talk with long for neighbors to get to know them and to treat them as adults, at least emerging adults. And when people are known by their neighbors, they will automatically care more about what neighbors think and prefer ways to serve them and contribute to the neighborhood as opposed to living in isolation, without regard for each other. So, get to know them by name, and speak with students directly when you have concerns (e.g., cars being parked irresponsibly, too much noise at night, condition of the house/yard, etc.).

  • 2. Call the landlord

    Landlords need to be aware of the impact their property is having in neighborhoods. It is not right for them to be absent from helping to make sure their tenants and the condition of their property is appropriate. Call them, early and often. If you are being disturbed, call them late at night if you have to. They need to be a part of making sure their property is what it would be if the landlord herself were living right next door.

  • 3. Involve the neighborhood association

    Call the local neighborhood association to get advice on how to deal with problem houses and to solicit their help in applying appropriate pressure to tenants and landlords. These associations have a built-in concern: they want the best for their neighborhood. Therefore, if the concern is habitual noise or parking problems, too many tenants or poor condition of the house, they are eager to get involved and address any problems that arise. Most neighborhood associations are listed in the phone book; some have email addresses and websites or even specific locations to visit and meet with staff. I can assure you, they will be swift to help you address any concerns with their neighborhood.

  • 4. Contact the university

    John Witte, Dean of Students, works with Calvin’s off-campus students. His office phone number is (616) 526-6546. If your concern is about Calvin university students in the community, please call his office. He will do whatever he can to make contact with the students and work with them on responsible living choices in the neighborhood. Calvin university cares about our students, and about the Grand Rapids community.

  • 5. Call the police

    Don’t hesitate to call the police, should the need arise. Students are legal adults and as such, are quite capable of being held accountable if their actions are a disruption to the neighborhood. If they are in violation of the law (noise, parking, speeding, underage possession/consumption of alcohol, etc.) feel free to contact the police.