The school year at Lindenwood University-Belleville is ending similar to what happened in the beginning of the year when residents living near the school filed complaints with the city about the growing number of students in their neighborhood.
But a school leader sharply counters that the latest complaints are unfounded.
Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner, who lives on West A Street next to Lindenwood-owned homes, said a sign put in the backyard of one of the student homes contained a threatening message telling him and his girlfriend, Dianne Rogge, to “move.” The sign was posted after firefighters gave the students a written warning late Tuesday night for using pallet wood in a backyard fire pit instead of seasoned logs. Rogge reported the fire to the city about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Angela Wingo-Rust, the dean of students for Lindenwood, said the sign only expressed the students’ frustration with Buettner and Rogge constantly filing complaints when there was no reason to make a complaint.
Never miss a local story.
The content of the sign was in no way, by no means threatening to Dianne, Mike or anyone else. It was clearly an expression of frustration on the part of students who feel targeted by this couple. The content itself was not offensive.
Angela Wingo-Rust, dean of students for Lindenwood University-Belleville
The message was spray-painted on a sheet of wood and it read, “Mind ur own business ps. move!!” It was set up in the backyard of the students’ home and placed so it faced Buettner’s and Rogge’s home one building over.
Police Capt. John Moody said he received a call from Buettner, who requested an investigation, but Moody said he told Buettner that the sign’s message “did not rise to a threatening manner” and that the residents’ right to freedom of speech allows them to express their opinion.
“I’m here to enforce the laws if in fact they are violated and protect those who have not violated the law as well. That’s my role,” Moody said.
I take it as a threat. If I don’t move, what are they going to do? So that’s a threat to me.
Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner
Here’s Wingo-Rust’s comment on the sign:
“The content of the sign was in no way, by no means threatening to Dianne, Mike or anyone else. It was clearly an expression of frustration on the part of students who feel targeted by this couple.
“The content itself was not offensive,” she said.
She said the sign was taken away from the home because school policy does not allow students to put up political fliers or any signs on college property. She said the sign is not any different than the political campaign sign staked in Rogge’s and Buettner’s front yard.
In contrast, this is Buettner’s comment on the sign:
“I take it as a threat,” he said. “If I don’t move, what are they going to do? So that’s a threat to me.”
And Rogge said, “To me, that’s not freedom of speech … that’s a threat.”
Rogge said the dispute over the sign on Lindenwood property was different than a sign dispute she had with city officials in 2013. She put a sign in her building at 1924-26 W. Main St. that said, “No TIF for us, Tks B’ville” and was ordered to remove it. To settle a federal lawsuit with Rogge, the city paid her $30,000, which included attorney fees. Rogge said that sign was protected under the First Amendment.
Firefighters previously had been called to the Lindenwood home at 2007 W. A St. on March 16 and April 4 about backyard fires, and each time the fires were deemed to be legal, Fire Chief Tom Pour said. Pour said the students were treated the same as anyone else in the city would be treated.
“The students and the parents of the students are growing exceptionally tired of what they’re terming to be harassment from these two neighbors,” Wingo-Rust said.
“I am happy to report that our students again were abiding bynot only Lindenwood’s code of conduct as well as the city ordinances that are in place that we consistently encourage them to follow. When there is errant behavior, we as an administration take that very seriously.”
“But we do support our students’ rights to live in these communities peacefully and to be able to be 18- to 22-year-old young adults,” Wingo-Rust said. “We are 100 percent behind our students. Our students are working to be good neighbors in the community.”
She said the report to the city alleged there was a large party of people drinking, but she states there were only six people in the yard sitting by a fire and they were not drinking.
Two of the students who live in the home declined to comment to a News-Democrat reporter and referred questions to the administration.
On Wednesday night, both Rogge and Buettner spoke before the city’s Public Health and Housing Committee about their complaints with Lindenwood.
“I would think that if any of you other aldermen would experience this, you would want something done. I take offense to it,” said Buettner, who lives at 2015 W. A St. “March and April have been nothing but hell on that street. You guys aren’t living it. We are.”
Ward 2 Alderwoman Jane Pusa, who also lives on West A Street near Lindenwood students, told the committee that she doesn’t have any problems at her home, where she has lived her entire life.
“We don’t have loud parties. We don’t have any of that,” she said.
Ward 1 Alderman Ken Kinsella, chairman of the Public Health and Housing Committee, asked Buettner, “Would you please give some examination to this, ‘Are you just really mad at Lindenwood?”
“Whether somebody’s burning a pallet or burning logs, as long as they’re not making a bunch of noise, I don’t even know why you let that bother you so much,” Kinsella said. “I think you need to examine this a little bit, and think that, ‘Are you getting so aggravated at Lindenwood that you’re letting little things bother you?’”
For Lindenwood students, the spring semester ends May 13 and graduation is May 15.
A town hall meeting about Lindenwood is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 8 in the Union Elementary School cafeteria at 20 S. 27th St.
After aldermen heard complaints in five consecutive City Council meetings from residents last fall about Lindenwood, the council required Lindenwood to hold the annual community meeting “well before” a new school year begins. The requirement was one of the conditions aldermen attached to their approval of special-use permits for more than 50 Lindenwood homes and apartments.
At a glance
- A town hall meeting about Lindenwood is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 8 in the Union Elementary School cafeteria at 20 S. 27th St.