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San Marcos makes pitch for student behavior


San Antonio Express-News (08/29/2002)

By Roger Croteau

SAN MARCOS — SAN MARCOS — Incoming freshmen at Southwest Texas State University are getting a quick civics lesson on how to be a good neighbor, courtesy of the San Marcos Police Department.

All new students at the school are being shown a 15-minute slide show designed to get across the message that they are expected to be good citizens and neighbors during their stay in San Marcos.

“We have a continuous problem in our community caused by students being students,” said San Marcos Police Chief Steve Griffith. “For many of them, this is their first taste of freedom.”

As a result, loud, alcohol-fueled parties are common in San Marcos neighborhoods, causing tension between students and the community, city and university officials say.

The slide show is part of a new program called“SWT and San Marcos: A Great Place to Learn, A Great Place to Live,” which also includes brochures, and print and television ads. It is the final component in a three-part program to curb loud student parties.

Another aspect is a task force that operates every weekend to control parties and build cases against those who supply alcohol to minors.

Finally, two new ordinances passed by the City Council six months ago make party hosts and landlords responsible for problems at their homes.

Landlords can be fined if their tenants generate repeated noise complaints, and party hosts can face charges for the misbehavior of their guests, including cars blocking streets and litter left behind.

“The students need to realize that San Marcos is more than a university and a river,” Griffith said. “We have homes, schools and churches, where residents want to maintain a quality of life.”

The slide show uses a soft-sell approach, never spelling out specifics of how students who party too loud will be dealt with.

Instead, it uses a collection of photographs of the town meant to convey the message that the students are now a part of a larger community, along with some with general statements, such as “respect the river” and “stay in control.”

“It is a nice addition to what we are already doing on campus,” said SWT Dean of Students John Garrison. “Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what impact it has. It has been well received by the freshmen.

“It is subtle,” Garrison said. “It makes its point without slapping you in the face with it. Students don’t respond well to in-your-face threats.”

The slide show was put together by San Marcos Police Cmdr. Carl Deal, who said he wanted to steer clear of building an “adversarial relationship” with the 5,000 freshmen who arrive on campus every year.

“The students need to feel like they have ownership and citizenship here,” Deal said. “The message is that when you come here as a citizen you have responsibilities. The reaction has been positive and they totally get it.”