Commons crackdown draws complaints

Commons crackdown draws complaints

Campus Commons after a quiet weekend. According to staff, security measures have been revamped.

Brianne Fleming, Staff Writer

The Campus Commons apartment complex has been known as a place where UPJ students can expect to have a good time off-campus. However, some residents say security guards and stricter rules have become a bit too harsh for fun.

Pitt-Johnstown sophomore Christine Vargonis became a Campus Commons resident this fall.

Vargonis said, in terms of security measures so far this semester, the guards seem more adamant about enforcing the rules.

“Hopefully (the guards) will calm down as time goes on,” Vargonis said. “But, toward the end of last year, the Commons was way out of hand. So, in the aspect of controlling that, they have definitely done a good job.”

Vargonis said the security guards seem to build friendships with some of the residents.

“When things get heated, it is probably hard for them (the guards) to stay calm as well,” she said. “And I’m sure it’s even harder for them to tell people they can’t have fun.”

After hearing complaint after complaint about residents and building damages, Campus Commons Office Manager Patty Jones said she feels the stronger rules and consistent enforcement are necessary.

When looking for a new guard, Jones said she wanted to hire someone who would be stern and responsible on the job.

“I was looking for someone who would take the initiative to keep the property from being destroyed,” she said, “and preserve the safety of the tenants.”

Jones said the guards were told to control wild parties and the number of guests who are allowed into the two apartment buildings. According to the Campus Commons Operating Policy Packet, which is given to new residents, each tenant is allowed to have one guest.

“So many students from campus come over (to the Commons),” she said. “Hopefully, we can get through to the tenants that we want unwanted guests out and a cleaner, safer environment.”

Jones said the security guards already have had complaints due to implementing the rules on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“Drinking is a responsibility,” Jones said. “If they (the residents) aren’t responsible, I have to step in and enforce the rules. I don’t like to, but they need to know their limits and not destroy things.”

Jones said the tenants are ultimately responsible for the conditions.

“I’d like to see everyone work together to keep the environment safe and clean,” Jones said.

Pitt-Johnstown senior and three-year Campus Commons resident Alex Barnhart said she and her roommates have learned from previous years what appropriate behavior is expected of the tenants.

“Our lease states we are allowed to have guests, but the guards aren’t allowing anyone in,” she said. “If another person’s guest is being irresponsible, it doesn’t mean we should all be punished for it.”

Barnhart said residents expect to be able to have their freedom and have fun within reason, but the guards aren’t allowing them to do so.

“Security’s job is to keep us under control and to keep us safe,” Barnhart said, “not to prevent us from having guests over who follow the rules.”

As long as the residents are following the requirements of their lease and keeping things under control, the security guards should be willing to compromise, Barnhart said.

“There’s a difference between unwanted guests and people who are our invited guests and don’t cause trouble,” she said.

Security guards Josh Hillman, Clinton Sabo and Kurt Zelek said they have been trying their best to let the tenants have fun but are determined to enforce the rules.

Josh Hillman, who has worked as a Campus Commons security guard since last fall, said there is no happy medium when it comes to pleasing all the tenants and monitoring unwanted guests.

“The tenants want people to come over, but too many uninvited people show, and they can’t control their guests,” Hillman said. “A lot of people (who are trying to get in) just drop a room number and weren’t invited.”

They have been doing their best to keep track of the guests in each apartment by writing down the rooms that are full and are not allowed additional guests, he said.

Hillman said he thinks it would be wise to have the tenants sign their guests in on paper, considering that there are sometimes groups of 30 to 50 people arriving from campus at a time.

“It would be easier to keep track and pinpoint who is doing what,” he said. “Tenants would have to be held responsible for their guests (if they are signed in).”

Hillman said being a security guard is one of the most stressful jobs he has ever had.

“We know that there are people who are underage here, so, we are actually being pretty lenient,” he said. “If everyone would just stay in the rooms they are supposed to be in, things would be a lot better.”

Sabo said, when a party becomes too wild, someone is always asked to leave.

“When the crowds are too out of control, we have to break up the entire party, not just kick out a couple people,” Sabo said. “That causes an uproar.”

New security guard Kurt Zelek said guests who are asked to leave the property normally listen.

“It’s the tenants who have caused the most problems,” he said. “But, I have had people throw rocks at me when I caught them sneaking in.”

Hillman said he would like campus students to understand that the Campus Commons is no longer the party spot.

“People cannot come here uninvited, trying to find a party,” he said. “This year, we’re enforcing the rules.”