Education

Lindenwood leader vows to address complaints raised by residents

Lindenwood University has town hall meeting for residents

Lindenwood University-Belleville leaders met Tuesday night with residents who live near the West Main Street campus and heard complaints about public safety, noisy parties and trash left by students.
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Lindenwood University-Belleville leaders met Tuesday night with residents who live near the West Main Street campus and heard complaints about public safety, noisy parties and trash left by students.

Lindenwood University-Belleville leaders met Tuesday night with residents who live near the West Main Street campus and heard complaints about public safety, noisy parties and trash left by students.

Thomas Trice, who was named interim dean of students in April, said he understands the complaints and vowed to review all of them.

The issues raised Tuesday echo the types of concerns raised nearly two years ago.

Trice, who has more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, told the crowd of about 70 people, “We are producing some tremendous scholars.” But he acknowledged the college students are not always going to be “perfect.”

He urged residents to give him their contact information. “Let’s sit down and talk,” he said as the meeting ended.

Several of the people who spoke during the town hall raised concerns about living next to Lindenwood students.

When Belleville aldermen approved Lindenwood’s housing plan in 2015, they told school leaders to have an annual town hall meeting for residents because some residents who live near the college had raised complaints about the students moving into homes in neighborhoods around the campus. Lindenwood has purchased more than 50 homes and apartments in the area for student housing, and the school received special-use permits from the city for the homes.

Last year’s town hall meeting drew a crowd of about 200 people. About 30 people spoke, and most of them praised the school for taking over the old Belleville West High School campus, while some questions were raised about security.

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Thomas Trice, of Lindenwood University, addresses the group that gathered for the community engagement meeting at Lindenwood University-Belleville, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Zia Nizami znizami@bnd.com

“I understand being in your home, that’s your place of peace and rest, and that’s the place you want your kids to grow up,” Trice said Tuesday. “You will get 110 percent from myself and the staff to actually try to rectify any problems that we can rectify within reason, and with your assistance.”

Ward 2 Alderwoman Jane Pusa, who lives on West A Street near the campus, said about 200 fliers were distributed to tell area residents about the town hall meeting.

She said most of the people contacted are pleased with Lindenwood’s growth. “We like everything they do,” she said many residents tell her.

Pusa’s colleague in Ward 2, Alderman Mike Buettner, also lives on West A Street near the campus. Buettner spoke at the town hall and listed complaints about the students.

Buettner said some of the students will move their bedrooms into the basement of a Lindenwood home and that they shouldn’t do that because they could be trapped in a fire.

“We want these kids to be safe,” Buettner said.

Trice said he would investigate the home Buettner described.

Buettner also said he had to call the police when there were loud parties this spring near his home. “It is a quality of life issue,” he said.

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Mike Buettner asks a question during the community engagement meeting at Lindenwood University-Belleville, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Zia Nizami znizami@bnd.com

Dale Wentz, who lives on South 27th Street, said the noise and trash are problems. He is also frustrated that school officials don’t respond to complaints.

“You guys need to learn how to return a phone call,” Wentz said.

Trice said he wants school officials to take all calls from neighboring residents. “I can assure you that will change,” he said.

Trice said Lindenwood is working on programming to help the students interact with nearby residents.

He said this effort “is going to further educate our citizens of our campus about how to be good neighboring citizens, not just students but how they should be treating their neighbors.”

“We know that our kids are not perfect,” Trice said. “We understand that. I’m not perfect. But I judge people on their heart. I judge people about what they are inside. And that’s the standard that I hold the kids to.”

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