Is Framingham becoming a college town?
Framingham State University’s growth is impacting the community
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“We are in an advantageous geographic location, with all these life sciences and information technology companies right in our backyard,” the university’s president said.
The university also collaborates with local cultural institutions, such as the Danforth Museum of Art, and the Framingham History Center, and began offering English as a second language classes this fall in the historic Jonathan Maynard Building, its newest community education center, just across the Route 9 footbridge from campus and next to the historic village green.
Framingham State also offers professional development for local teachers, seniors, and residents through various lectures, workshops, and source materials through its Lifelong Learning Series, President’s Distinguished Lecture Series, and the NASA-supported Christa McAuliffe Center.
“As far as community engagement goes, the campus is thriving,” Magazu said.
However, as the campus population has risen, so has a spate of sexual assaults, alleged drunken-driving crashes, vehicle break-ins, and pedestrian incidents along Route 9.
Last December, Brooke Uttley, a 22-year-old Framingham State student from Haverhill, was driving back to campus in her Honda Civic when she hit a telephone pole at a high rate of speed, according to police reports. The impact killed another student in the car, 20-year-old Ashley M. Donahue of Bridgewater, and left Uttley and three other students injured. Uttley was arraigned in March on motor vehicle homicide and drunken driving charges.
“We are always preaching to students to behave in a safe manner, and to know about the dangers of alcohol,” Magazu said. “We do have students on campus who are 21 years old and legal to drink, and we just hope they do it in responsible way.”
The campus also experienced a tense September after four students reported to campus police that they had been sexually assaulted by acquaintances in dormitories.
Within two weeks, the university banned two students in connection with several of the alleged assaults on campus, where two-thirds of the students are women.
The Middlesex district attorney’s office is investigating the allegations.
University police have also warned students about a man soliciting kisses from females, as well as a peeping Tom who took pictures of a student in her dormitory shower.
The area has also seen multiple car break-ins, with the perpetrators suspected to be Framingham State students, said a Police Department spokesman, Lieutenant Ron Brandolini.
He said that in the past two years, there have been 27 pedestrian accidents on Route 9 between Prospect and Temple streets, a 1.5-mile stretch that encompasses the university. However, Brandolini said it was unknown how many involved students, and Magazu said he had not heard of any serious accidents with links to Framingham State.
“I am not aware of any accidents with serious injuries to students in that area,” Magazu said.
Local business owners said they were not surprised at the pedestrian accidents alongside the busy divided roadway, and worry about their young neighbors living on campus.
Joseph Zhang, who has owned Samba Steak and Sushi House since 2006, said he feels nervous seeing students cross Route 9 late at night.
“I see it happen every weekend — they’re trying to cross the street in the middle of the night on Route 9, with people driving up to 60 miles per hour, and no one can see them,” Zhang said. “When they’re drunk, and walking on the street — I just don’t want something serious to happen.”
Other restaurant owners say they are trying to remedy the situation. Madden said O’Connell’s has started paying for a bus to shuttle customers between the student center and the pub.
“It just keeps going in circles, every 10 minutes from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.,” Madden said, noting that she thought the service would be helpful.
“It’s more or less for safety,” Madden said. “It promotes not drinking and driving.”
Madden said it also provides an alternative for students without cars, who otherwise have to walk to reach her restaurant and get back to the campus, with the shortest path along Route 9.
University officials had no comment on O’Connell’s shuttle, but acknowledged that they are aware of its operation.
The university also began providing free bus transportation this fall to retail plazas like Shoppers World, collaborating with the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority, Magazu said.
“We also have Zipcar on campus now,” Magazu said. “We provide a nice group of options for students who don’t have cars to go to local shopping destinations and other areas around town.” Continued...