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Springfield College rebuilds fences in townhouse backyards — one year after removing them

Shawn McFarland

Nearly one year after their original removal, fences are going back up in the townhouse backyards.

The new fences, which are of a similar build as the original ones, were installed over Spring Break. Seniors were informed of the changes via email on Mar. 8.

The original removal of the fences was temporary, and while there was never a set date for when they would go back up, Vice President of Student Affairs Shannon Finning explained that the school has been monitoring the situation since the fall.

Finning, Chief of Police Karen Leary, Dean of Students Sue Nowlan and Director of Housing and Residence Life Robert Ynez met with townhouse residents several times in the first semester to discuss the changes. After those – and a survey Finning sent out which was filled out by just over 40% of the townhouse residents, the school discovered that the residents felt they had a ‘lack of control.’

With the fences down, anyone in theory could wander into the backyard at any time. For some residents, this was a startling reality.

“Because it’s open, and it’s people that they don’t know, they don’t feel like it’s space that they can use, or want to us,” Finning said. “That’s really part of a drive of being in the townhouses. There’s been a sense of loss.”

She added that this isn’t necessarily the final step for the townhouses, and that it’s a fluid operation that – as we’ve seen with the fences alone – are prone to change. The fences originally came down last spring to help address safety following two serious, one of which being a non-Springfield student falling from a townhouse window. For now, however, Finning and her task force feel that this is the best option.

“I wouldn’t have actually come up with the idea, but as our task force looked at it, it made the most sense as a starting place,” she said.

Finning acknowledged that with the fences going back up, there will be more accountability placed on Townhouse residents to keep their living space clean, and to know who’s going in-and-out of the backyards.

“There was more willingness to take responsibility and talk to each other, to say ‘hey not cool that you’re just leaving your door open and letting everyone back here.’ The reason we wanted the gates up was so we had more control,” Finning said. “They had to be in agreement, because they now are responsible for without question; pickup of the backyards, trash cleanup. We’ll hold them accountable for that.”

This isn’t necessarily the final changes the school will make with the townhouses. Historically, the senior living grounds have been a lightning rod for controversy. From the banning of underage drinking in 2011, the enforcement of wrist bands for minors and now ‘fencegate,’ the townhouses are subject to change more than any residence hall. Finning added that she’s been toying with the idea of using some sort of vegetation to separate the Townhouse backyards and Stagg Field, as well as finding a way to remove the giant ledge on the side closest to the field, too.

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