BY ROBERT BALLARD
It is nothing new to remind people to be thoughtful of their friends. Many of downtown Charleston’s college students appear to have missed this lesson before moving to the nation’s best-mannered city.
Children reared in the suburbs probably do not know how to live in a high-density city. If you have been brought up on a quarter acre lot the first eighteen years of your life, you might not understand the meaning of noise, even if your house is now 15 feet away from your neighbor’s.
The peninsula presently contains some 20,000 students enrolled in seven institutions. Of the 200 cities in South Carolina, only 19 have populations of more than 20,000. Socialization is important. If you want to live in a center-city land area, you better know how to be polite.
First, students must learn about where they live, such as the name and boundaries of a neighborhood. Charleston is divided into a dozen historic areas from Charles Towne to Wagner Terrace. All college orientations should include a walk-through of nearby neighborhoods.
Second, students should know how basic services are provided by governmental bodies. Do freshmen know that the City of Charleston collects garbage and trash once a week and sweeps streets once each month?
The County of Charleston is responsible for recycling, but collects it biweekly. Details are important, and should be spelled out by landlords to tenants, and by colleges to all students each semester. If one has grown up depending on parents, it is hard to understand livability details in your freshman year, and hard to recall processes after a summer break.
Apartment safety considerations are also the responsibility of landlords, particularly those related to fire and police protection. Students smoke, as well as drink. They must live in dwellings in compliance with applicable fire and housing codes. Landlords should instruct tenants not to place interior furniture on a front porch accessible to an arsonist. Lessors need to ensure installation of adequate smoke alarms and make certain that they are operational. Exit windows should work, and fire extinguishers should be provided. Tenants are also to be given instructions on how to use them. Better still, landlords can ask our city fire department to offer professional instruction.
Students must know how to report emergencies, and they should understand how to secure locks. Crime prevention is not high science, rather it is common sense.
Educational institutions may also assist by teaching undergraduates how to read city and state road signs, particularly the DO NOT PARK ones.
Scheduled monthly street sweeping was begun two years ago for downtown neighborhoods in order to improve storm water drainage. It is successful only if cars do not block curbs on the day of sweeping. Where the colleges fit in is in passing the word to all students — not just at freshman orientation, but during all four years of attendance. If colleges can advise a student when to register or how to drop a course, they can also make certain that an off-campus undergraduate knows when to move a car for street sweeping.
Neighborhoods, colleges and landlords can work together in student moving, both in and out. The College of Charleston has now vastly improved incoming dormitory movement by dividing arrival days, areas and times. This single spread of traffic pressure is a neighborhood windfall. At the same time, the greatest upheaval for off-campus dwellings is still waste control. A sizable volume of incoming waste is recyclable, and a considerable volume of outgoing waste is reusable.
Diversion is the key to lessening city curbside labors, while increasing positive re-use of furniture and white goods. Students are willing players, but they do not know how to do this without details from landowners, and reinforcement from colleges. Such details should be part of college orientation and should be incorporated into each standard lease agreement.
The agreement would best be worded to remind lessees not only to clean sinks and ovens, but to arrange for cardboard and white good recycling, as well.
In past years, many landlords have been lazy. It was often presumed that it was easier to gut an apartment, while letting our city services clean up the dirty work. The obverse proved to be true. All parties save money if landlords educate dwellers to properly divert waste and recycle everything possible.
This is not high science. Rather, it is common sense, and thoughtfulness.
These town and gown issues have been addressed over and over for the past 20 years. Livability Court does not need extra business. Higher education is a group effort.
Let’s all pitch in.
Robert Ballard is past president of the Radcliffeborough Neighborhood Association.
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