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Making Better Neighbors

August 30, 2000

Judith Zwolak

Bonnie Lippincott doesn't believe that good fences make good neighbors. From her house just off Broadway, Lippincott lives in close proximity to three fraternity houses, Alpha Tau Omega, Kappa Sigma and Zeta Psi. The fraternity brothers regularly borrow tools, ladders and paintbrushes from Bonnie and her husband, Bob.

In turn, the Lippincotts say they feel they can call on the students to help them move a heavy piece of furniture or even to help paint some old chairs. While others may refer to the fraternity brothers in less-than-complimentary terms, Lippincott gives the fraternity brothers a different label.

"They're good neighbors," she says. When they moved into the neighborhood six years ago, the Lippincotts might not have been so kind in her description of her young neighbors. Noise from parties held long into the night and trash strewn about the fraternity houses' lawns left a black mark on the neighborhood.

"The progress that has been made is amazing," Lippincott says. "The noise and trash problems have really toned down." Although fraternity houses continue to hold parties and garbage may pile up on the lawn after a particularly grand shindig at a fraternity or an apartment building, the situation has improved in the past few years, she says.

The improvements are largely due to an aggressive initiative Tulane began three years ago to foster better relationships between the university, its students and their neighbors and to beautify the area that borders campus, says Dan Nadler, associate dean of students and director of student programs. Nadler is also chair of Tulane's Neighbor Relations Committee, which is composed of Tulane staff and students as well as neighborhood representatives.

"The key to this initiative is forming relationships between students and neighbors," Nadler says. "It may be more difficult for a neighbor to contact a student directly to address a complaint, but it's more meaningful in the long run than calling Tulane and having us call them."

To support this type of relationship, the student affairs division has taken steps to curb late-night parties and to encourage students to keep their yards clean and consider the needs of their neighbors. This year, the division will institute even stricter penalties for violating neighbor relations codes. Individual students, as well as their fraternities, will be held responsible for any disturbances or violations.

"We're going to sit down with every student living in a fraternity house and go over our expectations of how they should behave as a good neighbor," Nadler says. Nadler also encourages interested area residents to join the Neighbor Relations Committee, which meets semi-annually to address neighborhood concerns.

A particularly active member of the committee is Stephen Sontheimer, a neighbor of the Lippincotts on Dunleith Court and a graduate of Tulane in 1964. Sontheimer agrees that Tulane should encourage students to show more concern for the families who live near campus. The quiet neighborhood with its historic architecture deserves respect from the students who call it home.

"My concern is the quality of life in one of the premier neighborhoods in the city," Sontheimer says. Besides noise and trash problems, which he says aren't limited to fraternities, Sontheimer decries the physical condition of many of the fraternity houses.

"I'm very concerned about issues of safety and fire code violations," he says. To become a member of the Neighbor Relations Committee, contact Dan Nadler at 865-5141 or nadler@tulane.edu.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu