Diana Schreiner could have saved some Harvard professors a lot of money.
As a resident in a neighborhood near the University of Toledo for 25 years, she knows what it's like to live around college-aged kids.
She's familiar with the public urination, the beer cans on the front lawn, the loud parties. Last year, some students even overturned a resident's car for no apparent reason.
Her informal findings confirm those in a report by the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study, which shows that neighbors living within a mile of college campuses are 135 percent more likely to suffer public disturbances due to binge drinking.
The study, which will hit news stands today in the July issue of the international journal Social Science & Medicine, says that college neighbors reported a lower quality of life resulting from increased incidents of vandalism, noise, litter, drunkenness, and assault.
“It's appalling that the negative impact of binge drinking is reaching well beyond the college campus into nearby neighborhoods,” said Dr. Henry Wechsler, director of the College Alcohol Study.
Binge drinkers were defined in the study as men who had five or more - and women who had four or more - drinks in a row at least once in the two weeks prior to completing the survey.
An unrelated study last year found that 58 percent of BGSU students had engaged in binge drinking. The numbers at UT were close to 37 percent, and the national average was 45 percent.
The Harvard report surveyed more than 4,660 households and is part of a larger series of studies funded by a $1.5 million grant.
Local residents like Cora Hammond have no trouble identifying with the findings. “The one main thing is the noise,” said the resident of Byrne Hill Estates, just west of UT. “After we're sleeping, they're up making noise. The guys howl and the girls scream when they get the liquor in them.”
To combat the problem, Dr. Wechsler suggests limiting the number of bars and liquor stores in areas near campuses, policing them more actively, and limiting marketing practices aimed at college students that offer large amounts of alcohol at low prices.
And ultimately, colleges need to work in tandem with neighbors to deal with the problem, he said.
UT has about 5,000 off-campus students living within a mile of its main campus. A housing crunch at the university and landlords' packing more students into nearby rental properties have increased the tensions between some residents and students.
To help ease relations, the university has a joint police unit that it operates with the city to patrol nearby neighborhoods. In addition, college officials last year began actively enforcing the student code of conduct in off-campus areas, sanctioning about 150 people, said Lori Zientara Edgeworth, UT director of student conduct.
Bowling Green State University also applies its code of conduct away from campus, and officials hope to work with landlords to include some items in leases to crack down on rowdiness associated with rental properties, said Jill Carr, associate dean of students.
Barbara Arnold, like many neighbors around BGSU, acknowledges that it's a minority of students who cause problems, but that doesn't make them any less distressing. “It's something that has disrupted our lives considerably,” said Mrs. Arnold, who has lived just west of BGSU for 14 years. “When the only interaction [neighbors] have with university students is with someone who just peed on their front porch, it's wrong.”
To do something about it, she got involved in the city's Citizens on Patrol program, which pairs residents with students who work with police to patrol neighborhoods when the college nightlife is at its height.
Dr. Nick Russo also acknowledges the pitfalls of living among college students. But as a high school teacher who likes to “schmooze” with his UT student neighbors - bringing them homemade Italian cookies on occasion - he also sees it as an opportunity. “In the long run, what we're doing is creating better citizens,” he said.
Things have improved in recent years, and when all is said and done, his neighborhood, Bancroft Hills, is a place he always hopes to call home. “I want to stay here. I'm not going to move,” he said. “This is my neighborhood.”