Residents of Harrisonburg host meeting about JMU Student Behavior

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 7:45 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - On Tuesday evening, some residents of Harrisonburg’s Old Town neighborhood and beyond hosted a community meeting at the Lucy Simms Continuing Education Center to address issues related to claims of excessive partying and rude behavior from James Madison University students living in off-campus houses in the neighborhood.

Harrisonburg City leaders, police, and representatives from JMU, including its police chief, attended the meeting, along with several students. Landlords were reportedly invited as well.

“The biggest hope is that we’re gonna build bridges between JMU, our city, and our neighborhoods. That neighborhoods feel respected, neighborhoods feel heard in terms of the concerns that we have with behaviors that are non-conducive to neighborhoods,” said Kathy Whitten, who helped organize the meeting.

Whitten said that she hopes the meeting will help build a better rapport between students and the full-time residents who share their neighborhoods.

“We want them as neighbors too and we feel like maybe there are opportunities to build bridges there. Where people who have students living in their neighborhood, go across the street or next door and introduce yourself, meet these people,” she said. “Often times after you’ve looked somebody in the eye and understand ‘oh they have kids, oh they have jobs’ they are less likely to do things that interfere with regular hour lives.”

Whitten said she and her neighbors also hope to see property owners and landlords take more responsibility for the actions of students renting their properties.

On Tuesday night, people shared stories of disruption on their streets because of frat houses and college students. One woman who lives on Paul Street said she is constantly seeing people urinating on her lawn, and finding trash, even condoms on her property.

Others spoke about loud music and people, traffic, and encounters with drunk individuals.

Harrisonburg Police Chief Kelley Warner stressed that people need to be calling HPD every time an incident happens so things are properly documented.

“By collecting data, getting your names and phone numbers is going to help us resolve this issue because I need more facts,” Chief Warner said.

City and university officials were there to listen to concerns and what neighbors think are possible solutions. Some said this won’t be fixed by next week, but they want to solve the problem.

Some people mentioned the possibility of more neighborhood policing, not allowing parties in residential areas, stricter repercussions for repeat violators at the university level, and getting landlords involved.

Whitten said she wants to continue to have meetings like this, especially since new students are always coming into town.