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Middlebury College students’ behavior irks neighbors

MIDDLEBURY — More than a dozen Middlebury residents have raised concerns about a pattern of raucous behavior by Middlebury College students that they say keeps them up at night and lowers their quality of life.
The residents, in a meeting with Middlebury College administrators Wednesday morning, said this past weekend’s homecoming celebrations at the school — and particularly at off-campus homes of students — exacerbated an ongoing problem.
Residents complained of students urinating on their lawns, littering their properties with beer cans and bottles, yelling at all hours of the night, tearing down street signs and not being respectful of the community.
“I think there’s been a real decline in the relationship and respect to the citizens,” South Street resident Krista Conley said of the college’s students. “What’s the consequence when five guys line up and urinate on my lawn, discussing various body parts of women while they do that?”
Conley reiterated after the meeting that this particular incident took place a decade ago in a different neighborhood. And she said that on South Street there has been positive improvement in relations between students and neighbors. 
The college on Tuesday apologized for the behavior of students during homecoming.
“Those events bring many alumni back to campus and contribute to a climate of exuberance that on this occasion crossed the line into some very inappropriate behavior,” said Vice President of Communications Bill Burger in a statement. “We are in touch with the Middlebury Police Department and with a number of our neighbors, particularly on Weybridge Street, about reports of unfortunate events that took place.”
Residents said they have called campus security to handle off-campus disturbances, with little success, but thanked the Middlebury Police Department for promptly responding to complaints.
Middlebury police Chief Tom Hanley, who came to Wednesday’s meeting, urged residents to call police if their quality of life is hampered by noise. He noted that police can’t act until a resident lodges a complaint.
“We cannot make a noise ordinance complaint,” Hanley said. “All we can do is substantiate complaints.”
Hanley said his officers reserve the right to use what he called the “nuclear option” by citing students into court for breaking the law, but added that this does not change the culture of poor off-campus behavior.
Guntram Herb, a professor at the college who lives in on Weybridge Street, said he has confronted students who were being loud outside his home in the middle of the night. He said he used to be able to reason with students, but now they brush him off.
“Initially that worked; now they don’t respond,” Herb said.
Herb also runs a bed and breakfast called A Room in the Village with his wife, Patricia LeBon Herb. He said he is worried that out-of-control students are hurting his business.
Dean of Students Katy Smith Abbott said students face a range of punishments from a warning to expulsion for their behavior on or off campus. She said she couldn’t recall an instance where Middlebury has expelled a student for disciplinary reasons in the last decade.
Associate Dean of Students Doug Adams said the college expects students to behave whether they are on or off campus, but said that ultimately, it’s up to students to make that choice.
“Our outreach, versus what students actually do, is a choice,” Adams said. “They’re adults, so if they decide not to do that, it becomes their decision.”
Smith Abott said the college will host another meeting for residents unable to make the meeting Wednesday, though they hadn’t set a time and place as of Wednesday afternoon. She also collected contacted information from the residents present, with the hope of forming a community organization to address town-gown relations on a regular basis.
Adams said approximately 100 students, or 4 percent of the student body, live off campus. The college permits only a handful of students to live off campus, and uses a lottery to choose. Adams said students with a disciplinary history with the college may be disqualified from living off campus.
Editor’s note: This story was updated after its initial posting to more fully reflect Krista Conley’s comments at the meeting and to add the fact that Gutram Herb owns the bed and breakfast with his wife, Patricia LeBon Herb.

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