Judgments impose order in the Courts

Kathleen Dooley

When University students talk about the Courts, they aren’t referring to basketball — and everybody knows it. The infamous Bryn Mawr apartment complex, home to many upperclassmen, has become synonymous with large parties held a few blocks away from a Lower Merion Township police station. The relationship between the management of the complex, the administration and student tenants has become estranged in recent weeks.

“Students say [the Courts] isn’t maintained properly and we are sensitive to that,” said Paul Pugh, dean of students. “But acting on an ‘Animal House’ mentality can’t be defended.”

Pugh continued, saying “parties are out of hand, alcohol is being provided to minors, kegs are against the lease and causing damage to the floors and people are living in the apartments who aren’t on the lease,” Pugh said, listing some of the complaints voiced against students at the Courts.

The tensions have prompted debate over whether the Courts will still lease to University students during the next academic year. According to general manager Lynn Angelo, Marks & Co. Inc., which owns the Courts, will indeed lease to University students next year; however, there will be some significant changes.

Recently, both Marks & Co. and Pugh sent out letters to residents of the Courts. The letter that was distributed by Marks & Co. discussed an Oct. 30 meeting between the University, the police and representatives of the Courts. During this meeting, three agreements aimed at lowering the amount of student disruption were imposed.

The first part of the letter prohibited beer kegs from the Courts. “If police are called because of a disturbance and beer kegs are found in or about the premises, Bryn Mawr Court will immediately begin eviction proceedings,” the letter states.

According to Pugh, kegs were leaking and spilling, causing irreparable damage to the floors of the apartments.

The letter also re-emphasized that police will bring charges against anyone for underage drinking. Penalties for this can result in the suspension of one’s driver’s license and will be reported to one’s insurance company.

In its third agreement, the letter stated that all police reports will be forwarded to the University, which can suspend or expel students based on the seriousness of the crime or misdemeanor.

“Marks & Co.’s latest letter takes a stern approach,” Pugh said. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t party and have fun … but it does mean that you have to obey the laws.”

“I just feel that the people there have lost respect for one another,” Angelo said, citing instances of excessive noise, vandalism and large parties among student residents.

This year, the Courts is renting all of its occupied apartments to Villanova students. According to Angelo, the complex has been renting to students for at least 10 years.

During this time period, however, students have been illegally trying to find ways to fit more than the maximum allowed numbers into the apartments. Zoning ordinances prevent more than three people from leasing an apartment. However, both Pugh and Angelo stated more than three students are living in many of the apartments, thus illegally violating their leases.

According to Pugh, complaints regarding the University students at the Courts extend well beyond Marks and Co. “It’s not just the managers that are complaining,” he said. “I’ve heard from the police, the commissioner of jurisdiction, the Shipley School and the zoning official from Lower Merion … they didn’t complain about the same exact instances, but there obviously are problems.”

The Shipley School, a private day school neighboring the Courts, has voiced complaints regarding students parking on its property, buses transporting students to parties there and trash being left on its property.

Recently, students caused great damage to an un-rented apartment when they broke into it and held a party, Pugh said.

Students caught damaging property can face fines or legal records, which, the dean said, can impact finding jobs and gaining admittance to graduate and professional schools.

Last May, three graduates were arrested by the Lower Merion police after burning furniture at the Courts during a commencement celebration. They were subsequently brought up on felony charges.

Student residents, however, claim the administration and management are blowing a few disruptive instances out of proportion.

“The Courts are the answer to the lack of frat houses on campus,” junior Matt Wierzchowski, who resides in the complex, said. “That letter totally falsified the truth. [Student behavior] has been anything but mob-like … the only neighbors we would harass would be ourselves.”

Wierzchowski stated that the number of student visitors to the Courts has declined significantly. “It hasn’t been anything like it used to be … when we were freshman, the Courts were off the hook,” he said. “No police … there were hundreds of people in the court area. Now, nobody is in the court; police line the street. People are afraid to go there.”

Wierzchowski said he will not live in the complex again next year due to the quality of his current apartment and the constant presence of the police.

“To be honest, I am frustrated with all the stress the police put on us,” he said. “I don’t appreciate seeing police outside all the time … they are always outside the Courts.”

He continued, “They patrol the area and if they see kids hanging around, then they will come and check things out. They pretty much walk in and tell all the kids in the court area to go home.”