Syracuse University opens Office of Off-Campus Student Services to assist students who live in the University’s outer neighborhoods
Syracuse University opens Office of Off-Campus Student Services to assist students who live in the University’s outer neighborhoodsJuly 15, 2002Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
On July 1, Syracuse University officially opened its new Office of Off-Campus Student Services. The office, located at 754 Ostrom Ave., is dedicated to providing information, resource referrals and educational programs for the nearly 10,000 SU and ESF students who live in off-campus housing in the University’s outer neighborhoods.
The creation of the new office stems both from a need for a central place to offer students assistance and a need to address concerns about student safety, says Laura M. Madelone, former assistant director of judicial affairs, who began her role as director of the new office on July 1.
“The Office of Off-Campus Student Services will benefit students by providing services and educational programs that support their independence, growth and citizenship development while promoting positive connections with the broader community,” says Barry L. Wells, senior vice president and dean of student affairs. “We expect that this new office will immediately be a valuable resource for our off-campus student population and a benefit for the surrounding community.”
The office is part of the Division of Student Affairs but will work collaboratively with the University’s Office of Government and Community Relations and the Department of Public Safety (DPS). The office will also work with the Syracuse City Code Enforcement Office and the Syracuse Fire Department on code enforcement issues.
“I am very pleased to see the establishment of this new office, which will enhance the University’s efforts to students who reside off campus by providing information, support and educational programs,” says Beth Rougeux, the
University’s executive director of government and community relations. “The Office of Government and Community Relations will work closely with this new office to continue to improve the quality of life for all who reside in the surrounding neighborhoods.”
“We at DPS are looking forward to acting as a positive team with OOCSS to proactively reach out to students who reside in or otherwise visit off-campus neighborhoods through direct interactions, services, prevention programs and multi-departmental partnerships,” says DPS Chief Marlene Hall. “Our goal in working with Laura and the rest of the OOCSS transitional team is to not only decrease the potential of our students being victims of crime, but also to work with them to improve their overall quality of life.”
The office will fill a void on campus, Madelone says. An office that assisted off-campus students with apartment listings and roommate matches, Alteracts, existed at the University in the late 1980s and early 1990s under the auspices of the Student Government Association. The office was dismantled in 1997 due to budgetary problems. Soon after, events during the 1998-99 academic year underscored the need for some kind of program to assist and educate off-campus student residents.
The Labor Day storm of September 1998, which happened just two weeks into the academic year, knocked out power and left the city in a state of emergency. The University faced the challenge of tracking down off-campus student residents to make sure that they were safe. In May 1999, in the final few days of that academic year, a student riot dubbed “Livingstock” raised serious concerns and questions about student behavior and students’ responsibilities as neighbors.
“With all of that in mind, we created the SU in the Community Program,” says Madelone.
Established by the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Government and Community Relations in the fall of 1999, the SU in the Community Program was aimed at helping students make the transition to off-campus living. Through welcoming packets, a “Taste of Westcott” cultural fair and a housing fair, students were acquainted with what the neighborhood has to offer. A handbook, was created to offer tips on finding a place to live, leases, landlord/tenant relations, how to obtain services, roommate conflict resolution, safety and living in the community. A companion video was also created. The video was shown in Dellplain, Shaw and Watson halls last spring and will be available at the office on a sign-out basis, Madelone says.
With the establishment of the Office of Off-Campus Student Services, the SU in the Community program now has a physical home. The office will be staffed by Madelone; graduate assistant Patricia Stasco, a student in the law/master’s of public administration degree program in the College of Law and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; an office coordinator; and intern Bradley Troy, a graduate student in the School of Education.
The new office is supported by funds from the newly established co-curricular fee. The fee, $120 annually assessed to full-time undergraduate students, has been established effective in the 2002-03 academic year to enhance the co-curricular, out-of-class experience for students by expanding the resources available to respond to student requests and identified needs. The office was designated for a co-curricular fee allocation because of its relevance to safety and security. Members of the office’s “transition team” will eventually serve on the office’s advisory board once the transition is complete.
Madelone estimates that nearly 10,000 students live in off-campus housing. That number includes 4,000 undergraduate students, 4,000 graduate students, 1,200 SUNY ESF students and 800 students that live in Greek-affiliated housing. Madelone serves on the Syracuse Area College Community Coalition, where she deals with a number of town/gown issues. She says that the office will work diligently to foster positive student and institutional interactions with the community. Future plans include a “block captain” system, where the “captain” can act as a liaison between the neighborhood block and the office; the organization of an off-campus student association; and the compilation of a recipe book that includes offerings from faculty and staff members. Staff members will also work to educate students on local events and how they can become involved in community life. Madelone also says that she plans to model the house at 754 Ostrom Ave. to be an example for students, as well as make it welcoming. “I want it to look like a home,” she says.
Volunteers from the office will be walking through the University’s east neighborhoods to distribute welcome information packets to students during the weekend of Aug. 25-26. For more information on the Office of Off-Campus Student Services, call 443-5489 or visit the Web at http://students.syr.edu/offcampusliving/