Bad students, mad residents

Published on June 30, 2011 by

They’re at it again: Students behaving badly at Sacred Heart University.

About 20 members of the North End Association in Bridgeport called a meeting with several Bridgeport City Council members to voice their complaints about the rowdy kids.

Grievances ran the gamut from all-night parties to unsafe driving, crowded parking, smashed mailboxes, drunken behavior, beer can and fast-food dumps on lawns and the customary urination in public.

Officials at SHU are trying to get the situation under control.

Sacred Heart University President John J. Petillo, Ph.D., said that in addition to the neighborhood patrols that SHU provides, this fall they will begin “a council of off-campus students as a means to educate them on the rights and responsibilities of living in this community and to encourage them to become more active citizens in the city of Bridgeport.”

According to Larry Wielk, SHU’s dean of students, the council will work with the university in response to neighborhood issues as well as represent the students.

“I get involved with neighbors in the North End, sorting out issues with Sacred Heart,” said Michelle Lyons, a Democratic member of the Bridgeport City Council representing District 134. “In this case, it was students not handling themselves in a professional manner. There are multiple parking issues, loud parties all night and vandalism. We are working with the new president, who is meeting with us more regularly than the old one. There were about 20 people at the meeting, and there would have been more but there was a zoning meeting going on at same time.”

The main college campus and some of the student housing is located in Fairfield, but many students also live in Bridgeport across upper Park Avenue in dorms and private rental housing.

In the past, police have considered setting up speed traps and drunk-driving checkpoints, but according to police, neither the Bridgeport nor the Fairfield departments were aware that residents were up in arms over the student problem this graduation season.

“This is the first I’ve heard about it,” said Detective Keith Bryant of the Bridgeport Police Department. “Nobody from the North End Association or City Council reached out to me.”

Fairfield police were left out of the loop as well.

“I haven’t seen anything in my reports about it,” said police Sgt. Suzanne Lussier. “I wonder who they are reporting this to because they are not reporting it to the police.”

Residents of the North End Association have regularly complained to university officials, hoping they would step up in the management of their students after hours.

“While recognizing the many hours of community service SHU students provide each year in Bridgeport, we also recognize the very small minority of students who have behaved in an irresponsible manner,” said Petillo. “It is of paramount importance to Sacred Heart University that our students show respect for the neighborhood and community in which they live. It is also critical to us that our neighbors respect our students and their rights as citizens in this community.”

But North End residents don’t think that they are to blame.

“I heard there are, at times, loud parties in the (parking) lot late (at night) in both dorms, and off-campus students can be loud,” said Thomas Errichetti, head of North End Association. “Most of the problem is in rental housing on Old Town Road, Madison, Ekert and Park Avenue in Bridgeport. I thought we’d worked that out that Sacred Heart security would have guys in the lot at night instead of just inside. I followed up with the dean of students, but I’m still waiting. There is vandalism in the neighborhoods during these parties, but I don’t know about specific incidents. I’m trying to coordinate between the university and the 60 members in the neighborhood association.”

After one infamous Sept. 11 party, four students who hosted the soiree were ordered to perform 25 hours of community service in addition to being suspended from school for a week, prohibited from attending school activities for the remainder of the semester and put on probation for one year.

Some North End residents had wanted all 150 of the students involved to be arrested so that their parents would know what was going on.

“We have and will continue to work closely with individual neighbors, the North End Association, City Council and the Bridgeport Police Department to resolve problems,” said Petillo.

In the meantime, neighbors continue to grit their teeth and wait.