By Daniel Langhorne

A  panel  of  public officials  at the first State of Old Towne Orange Forum focused much of the discussion on how Chapman University and the city are addressing the impact of college students living in the neighborhood.

Mayor Tita Smith, City Manager Rick Otto, recently-appointed Police Chief Tom Kisela, and Jack Raubolt, vice president of community relations for Chapman University, participated in the panel on April 20 at the Orange Public Library.

Old Towne residents and students have debated over the past few months the need for changes to the party ordinance, including the unprecedented citation of any person who “contributes to the loud or unruly gathering.” The arrest of two Chapman students in connection with the April 17 theft of Tim the turkey from Orange High School’s farm has added gasoline to the fire of this conflict.

Unwilling party participant

Patti Williams, Orange High’s agriculture teacher, wrote in an op-ed published in Chapman’s campus newspaper, The Panther, that the turkey was taken to a house for entertainment and “sustained several injuries from the torture he received while at this house.”

The suspects, Steve Koressel and Brent Melbye, members of Chapman’s undefeated lacrosse team, have since been released from the Orange County Jail and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office had not filed charges as of deadline.

Raubolt said Chapman strongly condemns any illegal actions by its students, and that its Office of Public Safety launched an investigation after learning about the theft. The following day Randy Burba, chief of public safety, provided Orange police with the names of the students involved.

Chapman has started code of conduct proceedings, but the outcome will not be disclosed because of federal regulations, Raubolt said.

“The acts of these students puts us in a bad light, and we understand that,” he said.

UPDATE: Mary Platt, a Chapman spokeswoman, told the Sentry on May 11 that Koressell and Melbye were reinstated to the team 

"[I]n the absence of facts from the investigation or a finalized police report, which could take weeks, the coach determined that a two-week suspension from the team, during which they missed the championship playoffs, would have to be sufficient for now," she said.

The two players received other "athletic sanction" that Platt couldn't discuss because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

​"Chapman’s position has always been that every student deserves due process and an examination of the facts as determined by the investigation, and in this case the investigation is in the hands of law authorities: the OPD and D.A.’s office," she said.

Chapman's lacrosse team was scheduled to play Georgia Institute of Technology on May 12 at home.

A lasting impression

Smith began by reminding the audience that Orange is one of the oldest cities in Orange County. She and other preservationists fought to stop the demolition of old homes by seeking the placement of the Old Towne Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. It is California’s largest historic district.

While some students and community members have floated the notion that Orange has become a college town, Smith rejected that argument, saying that Orange was established long before Chapman.

She ultimately tried to end her address on a positive note by drawing attention to the assets Chapman brings to Old Towne, including the recently completed Musco Center for the Arts. “We are proud and grateful for what Chapman adds to the vibrancy of Orange,” Smith said.

However, there are still many in the community who believe Chapman has not sufficiently mitigated the effects of increased traffic,  noise, parking  and  off-campus housing. The Neighborhood Advisory Committee has been drafting recommendations for Chapman and the city on tackling these problems.

Parking problems persistIn his update on the long-anticipated parking structure to be built at Chapman Avenue and Lemon Street, Otto said that he expects construction to start in late 2016 or early 2017. The Orange County Transportation Authority will oversee construction of the 611-space structure.

Otto said he hears about the need for additional parking in Old Towne every day, and has encouraged his staff to find creative solutions, even if they add only one or two spaces.

To offset the loss of the public parking  lot  during  the  parking structure’s construction, Chapman has offered 150 spaces to be available for use by the community at its parking structure on North Cypress Street and a parking lot on West Palm Avenue, Otto said.

Tim the turkey, seen here in better days, was allegedly abducted from Orange High School’s agricultural department by Chapman University students. The theft and subsequent abuse of the bird inflamed the community and put a face on the lack of respect a small portion of the student population has for the city that surrounds the campus. Photo Courtesy of Patti Williams

UPDATED: Chapman neighbor relations tops discussion

at Old Towne Orange Forum