Sunday, October 16, 2011

The “Davis Neighbors Night Out” Program Preaches to the Choir & Neglects the Main Problem (85)


What follows is a copy of a letter I sent to City and UCD officials who organize the “Neigbhors Night Out” event.

To: Davis Neighbors Night Out Organizers (DNNO): Stacey Winton, City of Davis; Michele Reynolds, City of Davis Police Department; Gary Sandy, UC Davis

From: John Lofland, 523 E Street, Davis, CA 95616

Re: DNNO Falling Short

Dear DNNO Organizers:

I write to identify a key way in which Davis Neighbors Night Out falls short and to suggest a remedial line of action.

As a concept and a reality at a general level, DNNO is fine.

 But, I think the program is significantly deficient in not directly addressing one of its claimed major concerns: uncivil student rental houses in our neighborhoods, the aspect clearly articulated in the attached Davis Enterprise story (image 1).

In my personal experience extending over the life of DNNO, this social grouping is not reached by DNNO. At least, residents of such student rentals do not appear in appreciable numbers at DNNO gatherings.

Some students do attend, certainly. But, they are not, from the data I have seen and in my direct observation, the students who reside in uncivil student rental houses. In this way the program is a form of merely “preaching to the choir.”

 In fact, many students in these rental houses appear uninterested in the DNNO message and some even seem to view the DNNO neighborliness focus with contempt.

Therefore, revised strategies for targeting uncivil student rental houses seem necessary.

One revision might include more direct and forceful efforts clearly to state to students their obligations to be orderly and civil in their new roles as residents of neighborhoods.

The Davis Enterprise of September 21 of this year published a document derived from Good Neighbor Initiative material titled “Be a Good Neighbor” (images 2, 3 & 4). I think it captures with nice precision what should be expected of students living as a group in a rented house.

The messages in that document should be brought to the doors of uncivil (and all) student rental houses directly and in ways that make it difficult for them not to pay attention.

Given that many such student renters do want to hear these messages of civility and neighborliness, this is a tall order. I wish I had inventive suggestions on how to proceed at this level, but I do not. I can only hope that I have helped identify the problem and have suggested a general direction in which to move.

A larger point: Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of all this is that the residents of uncivil student rental houses commonly change every year. A new group brings a new surge of incivility. Like Sisyphus, we are condemned to rolling an immense bolder up a hill only to watch it roll back down again.

Many thanks for your attention to the concerns I have expressed.