Good Neighbors?

Good Neighbors?

Relationship between Colby and the community marked by tensions, community service, mutual economic interests

By David McKay Wilson '76


 
Keegan Albaugh '07J first met Waterville youths at the South End Teen Center in a civic engagement class called Children and Adolescents in Schools and Society, in which Colby students were required to work with local adolescents to both learn about the real lives of children and to get involved in the community.

Albaugh felt so connected there that he stayed on at the Teen Center and for two years (until leaving Waterville in December) served as its paid teen coordinator weekday afternoons, organizing activities that range from homework help to cooking.

He also interviewed Colby students and Waterville residents for a sociology research paper, finding that those who had interactions with each other ended up with positive impressions.

"I feel that both communities have a lot to offer each other,— Albaugh said, over lunch at Foss dining hall with friends. "I've definitely taken advantage of that opportunity. I love Waterville.—

But that sentiment was not shared by all sitting around the table at Foss. Several students lamented the crackdown on underage drinking by police in Waterville and the surrounding communities.

Waterville Police Chief John Morris says his get-tough measures are necessary to ensure peace in Waterville's neighborhoods and to enforce the state's ban on drinking by minors. Morris means business. Under Colby regulations, campus security officers bring intoxicated students to the College's health center, where, if blood alcohol tests reveal severe intoxication, they are sent by ambulance to the local emergency room. Waterville police respond to such ambulance calls, and they later issue citations to underage students if hospital blood tests show they've been drinking. Sometimes the citations have been issued in the emergency room.

"If we get there and there is alcohol and they are under twenty-one, we can't ignore it,— Morris said. "It's our responsibility to uphold the law.—
While the Colby administration has generally good relations with the local police, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jim Terhune says their involvement in such cases doesn't sit right with him.

"I personally don't like the feel of police hanging around a situation that's medical in nature,— he said. "If a student happens to be in a situation when they are underage and are intoxicated, that's the breaks. But I don't like the sense that maybe the police are looking for excuses to give Colby students tickets.—

This September was particularly troublesome for Colby students.

Winslow police busted an off-campus party several miles out in the countryside after tailing a taxicab with underage Colby students. Twenty-eight students were cited, with their arrests big news in the Waterville Sentinel. A $5,000 federal grant to combat underage drinking paid for the police overtime as the Winslow police worked until 4 a.m. processing the arrests.

Among those attending the party was Tammy Lewin '07, who was 21 at the time. Nevertheless, she was detained for two hours that morning while police used Breathalyzers to determine if the minors had been drinking. If so, in Maine that's enough to charge underage drinkers with unlawful possession of alcohol. "Students feel like they are targeted by the police,— Lewin said.

In early September, before classes began, police raided an off-campus house on Sheldon Place in downtown Waterville where some underage students had been drinking. The three Colby students who rented the house were handcuffed and taken by cruiser to police headquarters to be charged with furnishing a place for minors to drink.

To avoid a night in jail, they agreed to strict bail conditions. The students, who were 21 at the time, promised to abstain from drinking and to not possess alcohol. They also gave up their right to privacy, agreeing to let the police search their house at any time to make sure they were complying with these conditions, with a violation bringing certain jail time.

During the five-week period before their case came to trial, the police twice visited the house at 10 p.m. to search for alcohol, the students said. They found none.

"It might sound a little draconian, and I recognize that, but it has brought peace to the community,— says Morris.

Attorney Michaela Murphy '78, who defended the Sheldon Place students, went to Superior Court in Augusta for a review of the bail conditions after the house was searched a second time. That resulted in a plea deal in which the students received a deferred disposition, which means the charges will be dismissed if they carry out 200 hours of community service—that's five 40-hour weeks—and don't commit another crime.

"We said enough was enough,— said Murphy, whose son attends Colby and husband works there. "But students also have to understand the consequences if they break the law.—

Such policies have put a new twist on the college experience, as was evidenced one autumn night as a slew of Colby students swathed in togas gathered at a house on the outskirts of Waterville while the Leonid meteor showers streaked through the quiet night sky.

This was a Colby party, circa 2006. The students drank Sunday River microbrew from a keg. They played a drinking game called Beirut with pingpong balls lobbed into cups of beer. They bent down under the "Ice Luge— to guzzle vodka poured down a channel cut in a block of ice. In an allusion to 1978 hit movie Animal House, the students chanted "Toga! Toga!— and danced to "Shout.—

It may sound like the kind of party Colby alumni experienced back in the day at houses on Fraternity Row or at off-campus houses in downtown Waterville.
 
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Comments

  • On March 7, 2009, Rich Garrett wrote:
    My mother lived in Waterville from 1923-1944. She graduated from Colby. Her Father worked at he LockWood Mill. My Aunt worked at the Hathaway Shirt factory for years,. The history was interesting and well written. I have a picture of the1940 Freshman Colby College Orientation Class if the author or anyoneelse would like a copy.