For several years east side community residents have been meeting with top UWM officials in an effort to address the escalating student behavior problems associated with the University's rapid and uncontrolled growth. While the University’s administration has repeatedly promised to work with the neighborhoods, its record increases in enrollment have undermined those commitments. As a result, neighborhood problems have intensified and the quality of life in the residential areas has deteriorated:
*The neighborhoods adjacent to the University are the only ones in the city that have experienced an increase in absentee landlords.
*Vandalism and violent student behavior have increased as the number of student party houses has soared.
*As families have been moved out in response to aberrant and unacceptable student behavior, stable residential neighborhoods have become transient and assaults and vandalism have increased.
*Property destruction by students who have no commitment to the neighborhood has increased and in some areas the housing stock has deteriorated.
In meetings with leaders of four neighborhood organizations and state elected officials two years ago, Chancellor Carlos Santiago and Provost Rita Cheng stated unequivocally that UWM recognized the problem of being a landlocked campus with increasing enrollment. Even before its recent record enrollment increases, UWM with 331 students per acre was far denser than any other University of Wisconsin campus. Its closest rival was UW Lacrosse at only 76 students per acre. Santiago and Cheng promised that enrollment increases would be modest and come only from increased retention.
Today’s MJ Sentinel article suggests that the University's top administrators have not kept their promise to the community.
UWM has experienced record enrollment increases in at least the last two years and led the entire UW system this year.
The University has not negotiated with its eastside neighbors in good faith and has ignored the neighborhood’s concerns.
It is apparent that the University's leadership thinks it can pacify east side residents and elected officials with promises and police patrols (which divert anti-crime resources from more problematic areas of Milwaukee), while exacerbating the problem by recruiting more and more students to its landlocked east side campus.
The University's failure to keep its promises to the residents of the east side residential neighborhoods cannot be tolerated.
If UWM wants, as it claims, to be a neighborhood partner, it needs to cap its east side enrollment, abandon plans to purchase Columbia Hospital and convert it to a dorm, and support the community's effort to expand Chapter 17, the University disciplinary code so that it covers off campus behavior.
A failure by the University’s leadership to respond responsibly to these legitimate neighborhood concerns will lead to increased tensions between UWM and the neighborhood residents whose taxes support it.