When you hear the city of Orange vs. Chapman these days, it’s usually about neighborhood complaints about those loud, drunken, rebel-rousing party students living off campus. But for the school administration, there’s another big issue on the horizon:
Chapman’s expansion plans.
And finding a way to get the city of Orange to go along with it.
It began in May 2015 after Chapman proposed Chapman University Specific Plan Amendment No. 7, per the city’s request, that detailed the university’s timeline for the future.
The plan included dozens of proposals regarding building, making renovations, and expansion of student population. It was that “population expansion” that had city officials seeing red —- and not the Chapman cardinal shade. Jack Raubolt, vice president of community relations at Chapman, was hired mainly to ease tensions between Orange and Chapman that have risen in the past year.
“What came out of it was ‘Chapman wants to expand.’ That wasn’t exactly correct,” said Raubolt.
When Chapman proposed the new specific plan, Councilman Mike Alvarez saw Orange’s overwhelming discontent with the plan and decided to take a stand against Chapman.
“I was the one that stepped up. When it came time to voting for something that the university wanted, it was the first time in my twelve years that I voted against the university,” said Alvarez.
Chapman has now suspended the plan in an effort to satisfy aggravated neighbors and councilmen alike. One effort Chapman has made was the creation of the Neighborhood Advisory Committee. A committee headed by Raubolt, created in order to solve the issues between Chapman and the people of Orange by directly involving residents in the resolution of their differences. Despite loud complaints at city council meetings, Raubolt believes this new committee is making good progress.
Councilman Alvarez is less optimistic. He doesn’t see the committee accomplishing much at all:
“That’s how they were going to solve things, by using a bunch of public relations people? And I’m still waiting for the answer. It’s been six months,” said Alvarez.
Raubolt and Alvarez are just one example of differing perspectives that are deepening the communication gap between the university and the city. When asked about the issue, students and faculty constantly say Chapman has brought countless benefits to Orange that outweigh the problems neighbors have with unruly students. Orange resident, Adam Duberstein, said otherwise at the March 8th Orange City Council Meeting.
“Any equity that Chapman University has built has been erased by actions and behaviors of many of its students,” said Duberstein.
Another issue is the extreme behavior on each side. When a new party ordinance was passed at the March 8th City Council meeting the issue became more publicized than it has ever been. Freshman biology major, Sydney Engelhardt, heard about the ordinance and immediately thought the worst.
“No more parties,” said Engelhardt.
On the other side, at the March 9th meeting of Orange City Council, Mayor of Orange, Teresa Smith, told a story of three separate instances of Chapman students drunkenly entering homes in her neighborhood. She ended the story with advice for her fellow townspeople on how to protect themselves from incidents like this.
“Residents I’ll remind you to keep your back doors locked and front doors locked and one guy came in through the doggy door. So you might want to put a chair for the doggies,” said Smith.
Students complain that at no point during the story did Mayor Smith say the phrase ‘isolated incidents.’ Smith told her residents to lock their doors without any qualifier as to the fact that not all Chapman students are the ones who will drunkenly wander into homes. Smith made it sound as though every weekend if you don’t lock your doors you’re going to wake up to a hung over frat guy in your living room.
This issue was ignited even further by the new changes made to the party ordinance in Orange. Councilman Mike Whitaker and Councilwoman Nicholas claim that the new ordinance is the exact ordinance that was in place before with only three minor amendments. Chapman students hardly agree with the word minor.
The three amendments include the following: Anyone attending a loud or unruly party can now be ticketed, the reset date for party offenses is now June 30th, and neighbors will be reimbursed for attorney fees after they to file a civil nuisance suit for party-like behavior.
Councilman Whitaker and Councilwoman Nichols may think these changes are not a big deal, but many Chapman students feel personally targeted by the June 30th reset date for repeated noise offences. The old ordinance stated that those who received noise complaints would only be repeat offenders if another complaint was filed within ten days. Now however, the first offense does not reset until the next June 30th, which to many seems to be conveniently placed at the end of Chapman’s school year when many leases are expiring and students are leaving anyway. To students this is a low blow and quite possibly the end of parties, but to the council and city residents, June 30th is just an arbitrary date.
One potential reason for the recent uproar on this issue is that Mayor Smith, Councilman Alvarez, and Councilman Mark Murphy are all up for re-election in June. Pete Weitzner, broadcast journalism professor and long ime Orange resident, believes officials responded to a hot issue like this conflict so aggressively because it is a good way to rally townspeople and secure votes.
“These are local elections so it boils down to an issue or two, so I think there perspective is, I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the Chapman issue right now,” said Weitzner.
Meanwhile, Chapman’s expansion plans remain on hold until the two sides can get closer together.