Eighteen months after the lacrosse scandal erupted, off-campus disturbances appear to have undergone a cooling-off period.
The Office of Judicial Affairs released a report last month that showed a significant drop in off-campus judicial actions for the 2006-2007 academic year compared to 2005-2006. Charges that found students "responsible" for violations fell from 140 to only 51, and the percentage of charges that were alcohol policy infractions also declined.
Christine Pesetski, assistant dean for off-campus and mediation services, said the decline was facilitated by constructive action taken by the University.
"I would say that the purchase of the 13 homes off East Campus is a contributing factor," she said.
Some of the houses-which the University acquired in spring 2006 in the Trinity Park and Trinity Heights neighborhoods-had been known for their yearly occupation by sometimes-disruptive students.
Pesetski said the lacrosse incident combined with aggressive tactics used by the state's Alcohol Law Enforcement team at the outset of the 2005-2006 academic year made students more cautious with their off-campus activities. In a letter addressed to "members of the University and Durham communities" issued this August, she outlined the reasons for the decline. In the letter, Pesetski also praised students for their "increased mindfulness of the ramifications of their off-campus behavior."
Like Pesetski, Mayor Bill Bell acknowledged that students have been showing greater discretion.
"I have to accept the numbers at face value," he said.
Though Pesetski credited "the Durham Police Department's visible enforcement of alcohol laws" in her letter, Bell said he was not aware of any changes made in DPD's enforcement since the party at the lacrosse house in March 2006.
"I really think the students have to be given credit for policing themselves," Bell said.
Some students, including off-campus residents, agreed that the decline in off-campus activity was a noticeable phenomenon. They said they believed the University's purchase of the houses had changed the neighborhood environment around East Campus-by slashing the number of students living in the area.
Other students said the lacrosse incident and its aftermath changed their outlook on off-campus parties.
"In general it made people more aware of what the consequences can be," senior Liz Bramble said.
Some said off-campus partying continues to exist but that students have adopted new approaches and many parties have shifted to apartment complexes or other locations.
"I wouldn't say that it is necessarily happening less, but that people are being more careful," Bramble said.
John Schelp, president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association, said he did not believe the decline marked any dramatic change.
"The relationship with students has always been positive," he said.
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