St. James, Westminster leaders form united front

Ever since Westminster College went to a smoke-free campus, students from the school have used the nearby property of St. James United Methodist Church as a convenient place to light up, resulting often in a cigarette-butt-littered parking lot.

This week, leaders from both the church and the school met to discuss the problem and what can be done about it.

“I guess the main concerns were that students had been smoking on our property and it was making a mess,” said St. James’ Rev. Arnold Parks.

According to Westminster Director of Public Relations Rob Crouse, the meeting — which included Amanda Stevens, the school’s wellness program director — resulted in an agreement that campus security would include the church in its sweeps to prevent students from gathering there, while plant operations was pledged to help ensure the spot is kept free of debris.

“When we have smoking violators, they will send them over to pick up cigarette butts,” Crouse said, noting a group of student volunteers also had recently cleaned the area up. “One of the church members works with the SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) house on campus, and the fraternity wants to adopt the spot.

“The end outcome is Westminster officials and church officials decided to work more closely together.”

Parks agreed that it “was a very good meeting.”

“Westminster would like to be a good neighbor to us, and likewise, St. James would like to be a good neighbor to Westminster,” he said. “I think we came away with a workable solution.

“I think the main thing that came out (of the meeting) is that this is not going to be solved overnight, but as long as we can work together on it ... in due time the problem will be solved.”

Parks said the group also came to the conclusion that as it was a student-driven problem, Westminster students also should be involved in helping to develop a solution.

“We plan to have another meeting where it’s not only Westminster staff and St. James staff, but also students,” he said, noting that meeting is planned for sometime in mid-November.

The meeting also led to another way to strengthen the bond between the neighboring institutions: St. James now is planning to host a Thanksgiving feast for Westminster College students remaining on campus over the holiday.

“We know how many students there are that don’t go home or leave campus — many of them international students,” Parks said. “We thought if we could host a Thanksgiving dinner for them, that would be a way of opening our doors to the Westminster community.”

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