A piece in the Hartford Courant, profiling the rising tension between Mansfield residents and students living in off-campus housing, gained the attention of UConn students last week. Residents expressed concern over off-campus parties and student activities, arguing the neighborhood environment of Mansfield has been lost in recent years. While it is the duty of students to be respectful of their community, UConn’s enormous economic benefit to Mansfield and the lack of options for students regarding on-campus housing cannot be overlooked by residents.
Students at UConn Storrs often choose to live in off-campus housing as upperclassmen. While Mansfield residents may believe this to be solely related to the desire to live a life free of university oversight, often it is due to the lower cost of living off campus.
For the 2017-2018 year, the least expensive housing option for Storrs students will be $6,838 for two semesters, before the addition of a several thousand-dollar meal plan. Off campus housing options are often more affordable. Though residents may only notice students using their off campus housing for social events, this is by no means the norm.
A group of concerned residents, the Mansfield Neighborhood Preservation Group, aims to inform the public of ongoing concerns and gain the ear of UConn’s administration to encourage action. The group’s concern, as cited in the article, is for both residents and students.
Mansfield residents are correct in arguing that UConn should provide more on-campus housing. But, with the fiscal condition of the state and university this is, at best, a long- term solution to the current situation. Students will continue living in Mansfield residential areas. Therefore, finding common ground is vital for moving forward.
It is understandable residents, especially those who have lived in Mansfield for decades, would find the change in balance between UConn and locals troubling. However, labeling all students living in off-campus housing as ‘concerning’ paints the UConn population with a broad brush.
UConn should enforce policies to ensure students act like responsible adults, even when living in off-campus properties. Furthermore, Mansfield and UConn police should and do continue to enforce local laws and regulations, with alumni noting a substantial decrease in the “party school” atmosphere UConn was famous for in previous decades.
However, drawing divisions between Mansfield residents and UConn students will not solve this problem. A sense of community and unity in neighborhood life and aesthetics can only be achieved through close connections. If UConn students and residents hold a bitter and cynical view of each other, it seems unlikely any progress will be made.